By all accounts Freedom Fest 2019 was a steaming hot success.
Downtown Saturday an assortment of vendors featuring all kinds of food, crafts, entertainment and much more, along with an estimated 5,000 to 7,000 people, endured mid to upper 90 degrees of bright and sunny weather to bring a great time to Columbia.
“Dynamite!” That is what Essie Brown had to say about the event. She said she will be turning 75 in September. “I’m enjoying myself; this is the best I ever saw in Columbia,” she said.
“I think it’s great for Columbia. Never would have seen something like this 10 years ago,” Glyn King said.
Friday night participants for the barbeque cook-off started to arrive and set up. Judging began at noon on Saturday, first with chicken, then ribs and ended with brisket. Darin O’Neal with Smoking O’s won grand champion at the Barbecue Competitors Alliance-sanctioned event. Reserve grand champion was awarded to Keith Sharp with Chillin & Grillin.
Columbia Gearheads started the day with their monthly cruise-in. More than 100 cars were entered. Terry Trippe won the People’s Choice Award for his 1976 Chevrolet C10.
To celebrate Columbia’s 200th birthday, a cake decorating contest was held. Miranda Rogers won first place for her Liberty Bell cake. Tisha Ochenrider received second place, and third place went to Amber Nagy. Following the contest the cakes were sliced and handed out for all to enjoy in the café area of The Church on Main.
Elmer Blanchard with The Church on Main said the air-conditioned café stayed packed with people all day.
A splash pad proved popular in the extreme heat, and a nerf gun war took place on the side of the police station. George the Juggler entertained the crowd with juggling and walking among the crowd high up on stilts.
One of the children’s favorite from Experience Columbia Christmas Celebration, the train, took children on rides through the town. Another favorite, the trolley, took people out to Bluff Street Park to see an outdoor art gallery featuring 17 pieces of art from 17 different artists.
Going into the evening hours, Columbia’s own Elsie took the stage, as the crowd was beginning to grow.
Allison Spears said, “I love it. It’s awesome, a really great time.”
Following Elsie, The Chee-Weez, a band from Covington, La., took the stage. By the time it had finished, the entire intersection of Second Street and Main Street was packed with people standing singing and dancing, enjoying the show.
Once The Chee-Weez finished their set, the Mayor first and then, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, who is running for governor, addressed the crowd.
The Chee-Weez came back on stage to play the national anthem. As they were finishing up the song, fireworks all around the courthouse were set off.
The fireworks were shot from the east, west and south sides of the courthouse highlighting the event to the delight of young and old.
One of the organizers, Jacob Harrison, said, “I thought it was wonderful; it was a great success.”
“I think it turned out great,” Mayor Justin McKenzie said. “We had a great turnout, and I believe everyone had a wonderful time. I love that family friendly events are taking place more and more in Columbia.”
He also thanked everyone who had a hand in planning, preparing and working the event for all of their hard work.
Pictured Above: Crowds watch the fireworks show Saturday night on Main Street during Freedom Fest. An estimated 5,000 to 7,000 people came for the festival that included music and vendors along with a celebration of Columbia’s bicentennial. | Photo by Charlie Smith