Day of fun, day of ‘focus’

Rachael Scarborough King
Star Staff Writer
Published: July 5, 2006

OXFORD – Leyden Findley has attended Oxford’s annual Freedom Festival with his family for all his 10 years. But Tuesday’s event was a first for his duckling, Squawker.

Squawker was the only non-canine entered in the pet show at the city’s Independence Day celebration, Freedomfest. The all-day event, which starts at 8:30 a.m. and features a parade, magic show and swim races, drew families from throughout the region commemorating the nation’s birth. The day culminated with fireworks at 9 p.m.

Jane Batey, a member of the Oxford Arts Council, said the event has been going on for 25 years, and the fireworks show for even longer.

“It gives everybody an opportunity to come out and socialize on this very important day,” Batey said. “That’s what it’s all about, is being with family and friends and remembering how important our country is … to all of us.”

Batey said Oxford usually tries to schedule its event on the Fourth: “We just like to do it that way.”

Many attendees said they thought it was important to have activities on July 4.

“I think it’s great having it on the Fourth, because it is the holiday and a lot of people are not having to work today,” said Ronald Grant of Oxford.

He added that he sees the advantage of having events in different cities on different days.

“If everybody has it on the same day, you’re going to dilute the crowd,” he said.

The morning’s activities were geared toward the little ones, many of whom were decked out in red, white and blue. So were the littlest ones in sight, six-week-old puppies Angel and Princess, belonging to Lauren and Landon Findley, 8. The dogs won the titles of “Pretty Puppy” and “Sleeping Beauty” in the show.

Lauren and Landon’s brother, Leyden, kept his duckling leashed to a baby stroller. Last year, he said, he brought a goat, and next year he has plans for a turkey or maybe even an alligator.

Leyden said his favorite part of the festival was “just being here with my duck and walking it and seeing all the animals.”

Brent Haynes of Munford said his three daughters were very excited about the event.

“All week that’s all we heard about,” Haynes said. “We’re going to stay out here until it gets too hot, (then) we’ll probably rest until the fireworks.

Most of all, participants said the festival was important because it helps them and their children remember the meaning of Independence Day.

“Focus, I guess that’s the right word, (it helps us) focus because otherwise it just slips by,” Batey of the Oxford Arts Council said.

“It’s a patriotic event; sometimes I think we lose sight of that in view of the celebration and the fireworks,” Grant, from Oxford, said. “It’s certainly a day when we need to think of our servicemen.”

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