Freedom Fair and JBLM Fest offer weekend of patriotic fun

Staff writerJuly 1, 2014 

  • Freedom Fair

    When: 10 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Friday (July 4)

    Where: Ruston Way waterfront between McCarver Street and the Lobster Shop, Tacoma

    Admission: Free, donation requested

    Information: 253-507-9357, freedomfair.com.

    Freedom Fest

    When: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday (July 4)

    Where: Cowan and Memorial stadiums at Joint Base Lewis-McChord

    Admission and parking: Free

    Information: jblmmwr.com/freedomfest/

    Gig Harbor Wings & Wheels

    When: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday

    Where: Tacoma Narrows Airport

    Admission: Adults $15, seniors and military $10, ages 6 to 17 $5, ages 5 and younger free

    Information: 253-507-9357, freedomfair.com.

Make room for the boom. Freedom Fair will fill the land and air on Tacoma's waterfront Friday (July 4).

With aerial acrobatics during the day, fireworks at night and nonstop entertainment, festival-goers can celebrate the stars and stripes all day long.

“It’s the most spectacular event in the South Sound, bar none,” said Gary Grape, festival director for the nonprofit Tacoma Events Commission, which puts on Freedom Fair.

For a second year, the air show will not have any military participation, but organizers are making up for it with more civilian displays, said air show director Doug Fratoni.

The air show will include appearances by:

- Ace Maker T-33 Shooting Star, piloted by Greg Colyer.

- Jacquie B in the Extra 300.

- Vicky Benzing Aerosports flying a Stearman.

- Sukhoi SU-29 flown by Renny Price.

- T-6 Texan flown by Bud Granley.

- A World War II era Lockheed PV-2 bomber.

- A Learjet 24 piloted by Clay Lacey.

The show runs from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.

Live entertainment will run all day on five stages; more than 30 acts will play a range of music, from rock to blues. Among the performers are singers Tony La Stella and Maia Santell, the Blues Brothers Revue, The Cody Rentas Band, and Just Dirt.

The South Sound Blues Association will hold its Back to Beale Street Blues Competition on the Duke’s Chowder House Stage, and Emily Randolph, a recent contestant on NBC’s “The Voice,” will perform with Oaklawn. The winner will go on to compete in Memphis in 2015.

Food and drink will be provided by Ruston Way restaurants and food booths. Arts and crafts vendors and a kids area will keep visitors of all ages busy. The main kids zone is at Marine Park and will feature bouncy toys and its own food court.

The annual car show has been moved to a parking lot next to the Lobster Shop. The Smoke-n-Thunder JetCar that will race at Gig Harbor Wings & Wheels on Sunday will be parked next to Duke’s Chowder House.

The popular Freedom Fair tradition of pole vaulting will be back for its 19th year. The competition features athletes trying to achieve personal bests. Aerial acrobats of the wheeled variety will ride their BMX bikes at the RAM Bighorn stage.

The finale of Freedom Fair, the fireworks show, begins at 10:10 p.m. Shells ranging up to the size of basketballs will be launched from the fireworks barge, anchored in the bay in front of Katie Downs and aligned on Alder Way. The finale of the show will feature fireworks in a rainbow of colors. The display will be synchronized to a patriotic and classic-themed soundtrack broadcast from sound systems at the festival and on Click 98.9 FM and KLAY AM 1180.

The volunteer-driven organization that puts on Freedom Fair is once again asking for donations to fund the festival.

Getting there

With more than 100,000 people packed into Ruston Way, getting in and out requires advance planning.

Pedestrian access to Ruston Way:

*McCarver Street in Old Town Tacoma. This is where the Freedom Fair Express Bus will drop off passengers.

*North Alder Way (via North 36th Street)

*North Ferdinand Street

*From the town of Ruston via Ruston Way

Freedom Fair Express Bus: Park free at the Tacoma Dome Station (buses stop along Puyallup Avenue between East G and East McKinley streets) or at Tacoma Community College (corner of South 12th and Mildred streets) and take the express buses to the main entrance of Freedom Fair (McCarver and North 30th streets) for $5 roundtrip. Bus service begins at 10 a.m. and will take festivalgoers to the waterfront until 8 p.m. Return trips to the parking areas are suspended at 8 p.m. and then begin again at the end of the fireworks display. Return trips run for about an hour after the conclusion of Freedom Fair. Tickets can be purchased online or in person.

On-site parking: Public parking and disability parking on Ruston Way is on a first-come, first-served basis for $20 per car. Enter via North Ferdinand Street.

Other tips:

Dogs are not banned, just highly discouraged. Crowds are thick and people are spread out on grassy areas. Weather and pavement might be hot. Scoop and leash laws will be enforced.

Organizers would prefer that ice chests and barbecue equipment be left at home.

Personal fireworks are prohibited at Freedom Fair. Possession of fireworks anywhere in the city of Tacoma, even a sparkler, can result in a $257 fine and the fireworks will be confiscated and destroyed, said Tacoma Police spokeswoman Loretta Cool. No warnings will be given.

Alcohol is prohibited at Freedom Fair, with the exception of designated beer gardens. Possession of alcohol will result in a $100 fine, Cool said. Bags and other containers are subject to search by law enforcement. Police officers will be heavily patrolling Freedom Fair, Cool said. Disorderly conduct could result in removal from the event or arrest.

FreedomFest at JBLM features Kristian Bush

Red, white and blue – and camouflage – are the thematic colors of FreedomFest. The event gives the public the chance to celebrate the Fourth with the men and women of the armed forces at Joint Base Lewis McChord on Friday (July 4).

The free event will feature Kristian Bush (half of the platinum-selling duo Sugarland), an abbreviated version of Freedom Fair’s air show, food, displays and, of course, fireworks.

Singer/songwriter Bush is on the road with his “Put Your Soul In It” tour, backed by a five-piece band. He will perform at 6:30 p.m. Bush started his career with folk rock duo Billy Pilgrim in the early 1990s. In 2004 he moved into the country music scene with Sugarland. The duo (with Jennifer Nettles) has had five No. 1 singles, over 22 million in sales and won numerous awards.

Other entertainment includes Richard Allen and the Louisiana Experience, Po’okela Street Band and military bands.

Aerial demonstrations will run from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and include all of the same planes/pilots from the air show at Freedom Fair.

Other activities include military demonstrations, a car show, and carnival rides. Food vendors will be present.

The day concludes with fireworks.

Gig Harbor Wings & Wheels

Gig Harbor Wings & Wheels returns to the Tacoma Narrows Airport for its fourth year on Sunday. Formerly just called Wings & Wheels, the one-day event has been renamed to reflect its geography, said organizer Doug Fratoni.

But whatever it’s called, it’s still an unusual combination of aviation and auto show.

“Most car shows are just car shows. This is a car show with airplanes flying,” Fratoni said.

The show features bi-plane and helicopter rides, live music and the Smoke-n-Thunder JetCar making a 300 mph run down the airport’s runway. About 150 classic hot rod and specialty cars will be on display.

The same planes that will have performed at Freedom Fair’s air show will fly during a three-hour window and do aerial demonstrations. Limited aerobatics have been approved, Fratoni said.

Unlike at Freedom Fair and FreedomFest, the public can get personal with the flying machines. Aircraft will be on static display when not flying. “They can come out and meet the pilots and see the planes up close,” Fratoni said

A local radio-controlled aircraft club also will demonstrate its planes at the show.

Food vendors, military displays and entertainment will be going on throughout the day including Full Metal Racket, a rock off-shoot of the 133rd Army National Guard Band out of Camp Murray, performing at 11 a.m.

On-site parking is available only if purchased online in advance. Day-of-event ticket purchasers should use a shuttle bus from off-site parking at St. Anthony's Medical Building parking lot (4700 Point Fosdick Drive NW, Gig Harbor). Buses will run to the event every 15 minutes.

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