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The Daily Herald
5 July 2005
In our view: Freedom Festival a knockout
On stage, music artists Debbie Reynolds, Mandy Moore, Lucy Lawless and the country band Lonestar brought a sense of clean-cut decency to the celebration, proving that entertainers need not sacrifice high standards for popularity.
That about sums up America's Freedom Festival at Provo for 2005.
Everything good we've come to expect was present again this year, but somehow it all seemed a little larger, more impressive. And that's saying something. This has been one of the premier patriotic events in America for decades.
The Grand Parade was heavily attended yesterday. Roughly a quarter-million people thronged Provo's streets, where a positive sense of community prevailed despite the crowds and traffic. People were so thick that Freedom Festival executive director Taylor MacDonald said organizers may want to consider extending the parade route next year to accommodate the growing audience.
Other events were equally successful, from the Children's Parade to the Balloon Fest, Festival Days and the traditional Freedom Awards Gala that honored the contributions of outstanding individuals. There was the baby contest, the speech contest, the softball tournament, the golf tournaments, the concerts, the devotional services and more.
But perhaps most remarkable was this year's Stadium of Fire, which, in its 25th year, returned to its roots in a big way as an inspiring, fun and especially nonpartisan event. It appealed to all. Gone was the loaded rhetoric of Sean Hannity, the declarations about weapons of mass destruction, the pro-war posture, the unabashed promotion of one political party. Gone, too, was the unfortunate image of Oliver North, whose actions in the Iran-Contra affair during the Reagan administration undermined the rule of law and tainted the honor of the nation. Between the two of them, last year's Stadium of Fire became a partisan political rally that left a bad taste in the mouths of many.
That should not be. The Fourth of July is about those things we have in common as Americans, not the things that divide us. It's a celebration for all, without regard to political stances, or views about the current war, or whether the president is doing a good job. Politics simply do not belong.
What does belong is what organizers this year accomplished simply, powerfully and memorably, with the help of a few celebrities and soldiers, the Hope of America children's chorus and a million firecrackers.
Who could not have been moved by the unusual recitation by Lou Gossett Jr. of the Pledge of Allegiance? What has become an empty ritual for all too many school children and adults was given new force in Gossett's gritty baritone.
Who was not touched by the intimate exchange between members of the U.S. armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and their families here in Utah Valley, linked by satellite in a worldwide communications network and broadcast around the globe to our men and women in uniform?
And as the jet fighters made their pass over the stadium, who was not thrilled by the sudden appearance on the big screen of the commander's face in the cockpit? The salute he snapped to the audience and to his country had an almost physical force that will be long remembered.
On stage, music artists Debbie Reynolds, Mandy Moore, Lucy Lawless and the country band Lonestar brought a sense of clean-cut decency to the celebration, proving that entertainers need not sacrifice high standards for popularity. Virtually stealing the show in the closing moments were The Osmonds -- Second Generation, who accompanied a spectacular video review of 25 years of Stadium of Fire. It's a good-looking bunch of guys to carry on a wonderful family tradition. The Osmonds deserve the respect of the whole community for their commitment to quality and decency in entertainment. And especially, on the 25th anniversary of Stadium of Fire, we salute Alan Osmond, the creator and creative fire behind the event.
Stadium of Fire Musical Director Kurt Bestor was at his best as he directed his orchestra in a series of musical selections celebrating the diverse fabric of the nation. And then there were the fireworks, the Red White and Blue Guys, comedian Fred Willard and the human cannon ball.
All in all, it was stirring. It was fun. It unified the community. And it reminded us of what is important in this great experiment in freedom called America.