By Michael Pineda
There was a common thread that ran through Nick Rice’s phone calls Thursday morning.
“Have you recovered yet,” was a question the Yukon Parks and Rec Special Events Coordinator fielded several times.
Given the heat and crowd that came with the 2022 Freedom Fest, it was a fair question.
Rice along with other members of Parks and Rec in addition to city staff put in some long hot hours to help make the two-day event another success. Rice estimated over 125 employees from parks and rec and other city departments helped pull Freedom Fest off.
“Everyone in charge came together to knock it out of the park,” Rice said.
Public works, park maintenance and the police and fire departments each had up to 12 members at the festival along with 125 staff members from parks and rec. Rice said there was some learning on the job for his department.
“The biggest thing was parks and rec has a lot of new staff that had not worked Freedom Fest before,” he said. “We had new energy from new people.”
This year, participation in the car show was listed at 100 cars which was an increase over last year. There were up to six other cars that did not register and just showed up to hang out. Rice said the Cherry Bomb Triathlon also enjoyed a significant increase in registration with 60 competitors. City spokesperson Jenna Roberson said there is no official tabulation for attendance but felt secure in saying thousands were in attendance over the two-day event.
“It was quite a scorcher,” she said. “Sunday night was beautiful. We were really thankful for that. But it was one of the toastier Freedom Fests that we have had.
“It seems like we had a really good turnout this year in spite of the heat.”
In addition to being thankful for the turnout, the city was also thankful for the response to Monday night’s fireworks, which were cut short due to a malfunction.
“With everything that happened the evening of the 4th, having to end the fireworks show early, most people were concerned the missing girl was found,” Roberson said. “I think that shows a lot about the Yukon community.”
Prior to the firework displays, there was live entertainment. The Irv Wagner Band performed for the veteran’s tribute Sunday night and the Oklahoma City Philharmonic performed Monday night. Roberson described the music was top notch.
“A highlight of this year was having the governor come and present a trophy at the hot dog contest,” Roberson said. “We thank him for stopping by. It did add to the atmosphere, people were excited and it added something really special to that.”
Thursday afternoon, Yukon Parks and Rec was still breaking down from the event including light displays.
“We are still organizing a lot of our stuff,” Rice said.
There was no rest for the weary as parks staff shifted back into its weekly programming that includes Concert in the Park Thursday and Friday Fun Day.
In looking back at the event, Roberson said it was good to see events such as the car show building back up after a participation decrease due to COVID.
“It’s really nice to have a normal Freedom Fest,” she said.
Freedom Fest contest results
Hot Dog Contest
- Vincent Guittierez, nine hot dogs
- Chris Ruiz, eight hot dogs
- Javier De La Funte, seven hot dogs
- Diann and Cassidy Burris, Patrick and Sponge Bob
- Rasmussen Family, Sea Serpents
- Lani and Liv Whetzel, Mermaid
- John Fiely, 64 Chevy Van
- Bill Williams, 55 Chevy Pickup
- Steve and Jerri Rose, 66 Buick Skylark
Cherry Bomb Triathlon
- Blake Israel
- Caleb Blose
- McKay Banks
1. Emery Palmer
- Miriam Greiner
- Kallie Wright
- Mason Duvall
- Parley Banks
- Dahlin Nugren
- Kayden Wright
- Chloe Shirk
- Oakleigh Thompson
- Salyer Stayton
- Carver Manwaring
- Joseph Blackwell
- Maddie Brace
- Lydia Greiner
- Julia Banks
4 & Under. Country Roads Take Me Home (entry #5)2. America, Land of the Free; Mount Rushmore (entry # 8)3. Emmy’s Dump Truck of Freedom (entry #4)
5-8. American Spidey (entry #27)2. Freedom Cruiser (entry #30)3. Freedom Firecracker (entry #29)
9-12. Miss Independent (entry # 41)2. Independence Rocks (entry # 42)Group1. Encore Twirlers (entry # 51)2. Patriotic Puppies (entry #52)3. Patriotic Train (entry # 57)