gmhTODAY Summer 2022 | Page 58

Morgan Hill Freedom Fest

Celebrating America ' s Birthday

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Today , about 450 volunteers put together a two-day event that hosted a cumulative total of about 75,000 people . “ Freedom Fest may be one of the city ’ s largest gatherings , but our goal is not to be bigger ,” Stein said . “ We want it to be a local community event .”
“ There ’ s always something new in the parade floats . Every year we have a new theme . We ’ ve done ‘ The Great American Road Trip ,’ ‘ Sing the Songs of America ,’ and this year ’ s theme was ‘ Let Freedom Ring .’
“ We ’ ve had everything , from a Wild West stagecoach pulled by palomino donkeys , to the Chinese Lions , to The Little Gym of Morgan Hill ’ s float filled with Disney princesses , and Morgan Hill ’ s first-ever fire truck [ restored by Jim Xavier , a retired firefighter ].”
The Grand Marshal is a long-standing parade tradition . The role can be filled by an individual or a group . Freedom Fest leaders asked community members to nominate their picks , and then they made a final selection .
According to Stein , “ During the wildfires and the pandemic , we chose essential workers . We ’ ve chosen people who protect and serve our community . The firefighter , the nurse , a grocery worker , teacher , manufacturing worker , or a public safety officer .
“ This year ’ s Grand Marshall was All Animal Rescue & Friends [ AARF ], a nonprofit in Morgan Hill . The focus of AARF is to facilitate lost pet reunification , fostering , and adoption .
“ Our parade has a history of wonderful event announcers like radio personalities Jona Denz Hamilton , Lissa Kreisler and Sam Van Zandt ,” Stein said . Jona returned this year along with Donna Cowan , a Gavilan professor and local real estate broker .
Maureen Hunt recalled that one year , all the chairs were lined up ahead of time along the parade route . She was touched that the townspeople all wanted to be there to watch . “ I just cried . That ’ s what they do at the Rose Parade in Pasadena !”
“ Many of our volunteers stay involved for ten , twenty years or more ,” Hunt said .
“ This is a great organization . I say this from the bottom of my heart . If you are connected with Freedom Fest , you work . No one rests on their laurels . Some of us have been involved over 20 years . It truly is like a family and a labor of love .”
58 SUMMER 2022 gmhTODAY Magazine gmhtoday . com