Freedom Fest Guide: Parking, fireworks info, schedule, weather forecastBy MARK ROGERS,
Organizers are planning for up to 5,000 people in downtown Columbia for Freedom Fest Saturday, and they shared information about street closures, parking, where to see fireworks and other logistics during a final meeting Friday.
Columbia police and city officials met with representatives from the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, Marion County Constables, Marion General Hospital, AAA Ambulance Service and Columbia Gearheads.
Main Street will be closed off to allow parking for the up to 200 classic vehicles that will be displayed as well as a portion of Second Street east of Main Street. Overflow cars will be parked at the Gardner Shopping Center.
Several street closures will alter traffic through Columbia beginning Friday night when the eastbound lane of Second Street located west of Main Street (the area in front of the Salvation Army and Webb Forestry) will be closed to allow participants in the barbecue cook-off to begin setup.
Second Street will be closed completely from City Hall to the Colonial Funeral Home on Saturday morning to allow the more than 90 vendors expected to set up their booths.
Church Street will remain open throughout the event to allow traffic to flow through town.
As classic vehicles arrive, Main Street will be closed from Church Street to Courthouse Square, most likely around noon. This is to allow traffic to area businesses in the morning.
Officials ask people not to park on Main Street in these areas or the lot between Ann’s Embroidery and Tower Loan as vendors will be setting up in that area. Some parking will be available at the former Round Table site on Church Street. Other parking will be available in lots off High School Avenue, such as First Southern Bank and First United Methodist Church. First Baptist Church also has a large lot in the area and the lot behind City Hall will also be available. Bluff Street Park will also be open and overflow parking can take place there. Several parking signs will be posted.
Marion General Hospital will provide a medical station downtown and AAA Ambulance Service will have a crew downtown. The Columbia Police Department and Marion County Sheriff’s Office will have officers present around the festival and on the roads.
The fireworks at dusk will be shot from the old Pioneer Aerospace slab.
Mayor Justin McKenzie said the best places to view the fireworks are from the Pearl River Interpretive Plaza behind City Hall and from the vacant lot near Citizens Bank on Main Street.
Officials will also be keeping an eye on the weather as thunderstorms could be in the forecast during the day. As of lunchtime Friday, the National Weather Service had the following forecast for Columbia:
During the day Saturday: “Showers and thunderstorms, mainly after 2 p.m. High near 90. Heat index values as high as 98. Calm wind becoming southeast around 5 mph in the afternoon. Chance of precipitation is 80%. New rainfall amounts between a quarter and half of an inch possible.”
Saturday night: “Showers and thunderstorms, mainly before 7 p.m. Low around 71. South wind around 5 mph becoming calm. Chance of precipitation is 80%. New rainfall amounts between a tenth and quarter of an inch, except higher amounts possible in thunderstorms.”
2 p.m. Opening ceremony, welcome by emcee Carlton Thornhill. Prayer by the Rev. Terry Montgomery, National Anthem by Crystal Browning, remarks by Mayor Justin McKenzie.
2:30 p.m. Patriotic Showcase with Crystal Browning, Jeff Blackard, Lisa Disbrow and Brooklyn McKenzie. Unveiling of the tornado flag.
3 p.m. Tribute to first responders
3:30 Purple Demolition Dancers
4 p.m. Watermelon eating/seed spitting contest
4:30 p.m. Hunter Riley in concert
5 p.m. Pops concert by members of the Marion County Civic Theater
5:45 p.m. Line dancing on Main Street
6 p.m. Bullet Proof performs
9 p.m. Fireworks
At Second Street Bean/Artwistic Revolution
2 p.m. until 4 p.m. No Strings Attached
4 p.m. until 6 p.m. various solo artists
Art show from 2 p.m. until 9 p.m.
Children’s Area (at City Hall)
Music and games throughout the day
Great Columbia Rubber Duck Race at the Pearl River Interpretive Plaza every half hour
Food and cool snacks with Disney Characters
BBQ cook-off on Second Street
100s of classic cars, trucks and motorcycles on Main Street
More than 80 booths and vendors