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Desert News

Promoters crank up July 4th spectaculars

By Sara Israelsen
Deseret Morning News

PROVO With more than half of the 50,000 available tickets already sold, producers of this summer's Stadium of Fire anticipate they will sell out ahead of previous years.

Tickets sales are going faster than they have in years past, said Taylor McDonald, executive director of America's Freedom Festival at Provo. Bringing in big-name performers like pop star and actress Mandy Moore, country music band Lonestar, and actors Lou Diamond Phillips, Debbie Reynolds and Lucy Lawless has helped boost sales for the 25th anniversary celebration of the summer spectacular.

"It's not just country, not just rock 'n' roll, not just a certain style," said Alan Osmond, trustee on the festival board and creator of Stadium of Fire, the festival's big summer finale. "There's something for everybody."

However, another patriotic celebration, Freedom Blast, will be in Rice-Eccles Stadium at the University of Utah.

The show will feature American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson, along with sky divers and a BMX stunt team performance. Freedom Blast producers, John and Sheri Whittaker, spent nearly two decades as producers for Stadium of Fire but left the show last year because they said it was getting too political.

After the last year's Independence Day event headlined by Reba McEntire and hosted by conservative political commentator Sean Hannity many grumbled about in-your-face politically conservative viewpoints.

Some took offense at the presence of Oliver North, who has gained a following as a conservative radio commentator but remains politically tainted for his role in the 1987 Iran-Contra scandal.

The Whittakers also worried that Stadium of Fire was eliminating some key aspects of the summer spectacular, like set pieces, which allow fireworks to be arranged to create pictures upon explosion.

To make up for the loss of their producers and others who left, Stadium of Fire organizers brought in specialists from Los Angeles, Charles Gayton and Wayne Baruch, known for their large, outdoor, international celebrations, to take the show in a new direction, said Brad Pelo, festival trustee assigned to oversee Stadium of Fire. But despite the potential for sparks, Osmond said he's not worried about competition. "We wish them all the success they can get," he said. "We would never wish on anybody who wanted to do something somewhere else (anything) negative. All I know is we are a great show this year."
John Whittaker, who worked with Osmond at the beginning of Stadium of Fire, said he too has no hard feelings.

"I have nothing at all negative to say about them," he said. "I want them to succeed. I feel there's enough room for both of us to succeed."