Wisconsin News

Hundreds of volunteers work around the clock on Freedom Fest prep

LA CROSSE, Wis. - The sixth annual Freedom Fest celebrations are set to kick off Saturday.

The event would not be possible without the help of hundreds of volunteers.

Volunteers started setting up on Wednesday, and between setup and take-down, about 375 volunteers will have logged thousands of hours of hard work, but they said it's all worth it to support a great cause.

Volunteers first have to put together the tile floor.

"(We have to) put down 35,000 square feet of that one square at a time," said Pat Stephens, of the UW-La Crosse Foundation.

Then there's the stage that goes on top, complete with lights and sound, and then comes the chairs.


"Six hundred fifty over here," said one Volunteer. "Nine hundred over there, and two hundred over there."

Come Saturday night, these chairs will be filled with some of the most important guests at the event.

"We have our fallen heroes' families," said Stephens. "Those are the ones that we're honoring during our video show."

This year, the event will honor 175 Wisconsin families who have lost loved ones serving our country since 9/11.

"The entertainment is a very important part, but it's still there focusing on all those families that lost a life," said Don Weber, founder of Freedom Fest. "Getting them up here, getting them all together, meeting other families who have lost someone. It's a whole weekend event."

"I think most of our people feel that this is part of the healing process and Freedom Fest can provide that for them," said Stephens.

The volunteers still have a way to go before setup is complete, but keeping our local heroes in mind makes the thousands of hours of work worth it.

"We wouldn't be having a Freedom Fest, I don't think, unless it were for the sacrifices and the efforts that the vets put forward," said Stephens.

In the past six years the event has raised $400,000 for veterans' causes. The money comes from ticket and food sales.

As of last week, Stephens said, they had sold about 5,300 tickets. He expects the event to draw about 6,200 people this year.

Events start bright and early with a motorcycle rally at 10:30 a.m. Gates open at 3 p.m. with the opening ceremony taking place an hour later. Then there is a great lineup for musical acts for the night including The Remainders, Daughtry and Chicago, a special tribute to our heroes, and rounding out the evening with fireworks.

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