Champaign County hosts Freedom Celebration

As students on campus and Champaign residents celebrated the Fourth of July, Champaign County hosted its 65th Annual Champaign County Freedom Celebration on Friday.

The Freedom Celebration took place on Kirby Avenue between First and Oak streets. Activities began at 7 p.m. with a crowd of people filling in at Lot 31, located on First Street between Kirby Avenue and Stadium Drive.

The lot hosted activities for the various age groups that attended the event.

Participants had their choice of snacks and food, as multiple food vendors joined in on the festivities, including the Piato To Go food truck, a kettle corn tent and a Hawaiian Shaved Ice food truck, whose line stretched half way down the lot. 

Multiple bounce houses had been set up for children, with themes such as Scooby-Doo, Justice League, the Disney-Pixar film “Cars” and more.

Glow sticks and other glow accessories, such as headbands, necklaces and wands were also sold at tents, lighting up the lot with a variety of colors as the sun set.

Participants enjoyed a set played by Captain Rat and the Blind Rivets, who performed a ‘50s and ‘60s rock ‘n’ roll set on the white main stage, draped with an American flag. 

“Ready for some fireworks?” said Timmy Ray, guitarist for the band. “Let’s rock out people!”

The band performed until five minutes before the fireworks, which began at 9:15. After the band performed their last song, announcements were made and the singing of the “The Star-Spangled Banner” took place on the stage.

By this time, Lot 31 had been completely filled and people began to fill up Lot 36, located across the street from Memorial Stadium. The audience was then told to count down from 10. After the audience reached one, the first fireworks were launched.

The crowd began cheering and clapping as the first fireworks occurred. The firework display was a “carefully choreographed and synchronized” show put on by Melrose Pyrotechnics that was accompanied by a playlist of songs to go along with the fireworks.

Some of the songs included: Ray Charles and Alicia Key’s “America the Beautiful,” Celine Dion’s “God Bless America,” Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA,” The Wanted’s “Glad You Came,” Katy Perry’s “Firework” and more.

“I really think the songs added to the display and the atmosphere of the entire show,” said Ben Rakes, a recent University graduate. “They played great songs that really made it feel like the Fourth of July.”

The fireworks boomed until 9:45, with a series of big, gold fireworks ending the finale.  As the display ended, attendees cheered, clapped and “wooed” loudly before leaving the lot.

“Coming here was a good way to spend a little part of my Fourth of July,” said Rob Put, junior in Engineering. “It was cool to just relax and see some fireworks with a couple of good friends.”

Christine can be reached at [email protected]