Volunteers prepare to honor veterans at Freedom Fest

We’re less than 48 hours away from the opening ceremonies of Freedom Fest.

The annual concert brings in entertainment like this year’s headliners Huey Lewis and the News. Proceeds support causes like veteran’s scholarships and the Hall of Honor at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Veteran’s Memorial Complex where the concert is held.

But to the event’s founder it’s more than a night of good music. Rather, it’s a night to honor the families who those who have lost a loved one in the service.

“It’s really when you see the families and they come up here, how it helps heal, that to me is what this is truly all about, and so it’s a fun time, it’s an exciting time, but it’s a very sober time also,” Freedom Fest founder Don Weber said.

It takes quite an army to put on an event like Freedom Fest. Volunteers have been setting up at Veterans Memorial Field for the past few days, but there is still a lot more to do before showtime.

The 7th annual Freedom Fest is an event honoring Wisconsin’s veterans and their families. What makes this event even more special is the amount of volunteers wanting to donate their time to help out.

For the second weekend in a row, the bleachers of UW-La Crosse’s Veterans Memorial Field will be filled.

“We’re hoping to pass 6,000,” event coordinator Thomas Foster said.

Before those seats can be filled though our community joins forces to make sure the event goes according to plan.

“Those volunteers that we have, they are the heart of this event. If we did not have the 300 people that came to donate their time this event wouldn’t be possible without their help,” Foster said.

Equipment has been arriving all week and volunteers have three days to get it all set-up correctly.

“We were out here with volunteers from the UWL track team. They were the ones that laid all the tile down here. It’s a specialized tile that you can only get from one manufacturer that protects the football field underneath it,” board of directors member Pat Stephens said.

Thursday crews were out setting up the stage, unloading several trucks and setting up around 2,000 chairs.

There is still a lot more that needs to be done before the gates can open.

“You’ve gotta get all your beverages ready, your food ready, you’ve got an ice truck that comes in, everything has to be iced down for that, you’ve gotta do all your sound checks and everything to make (sure) that’s good. Then all the final tables and chairs and everything else that have to go up to accommodate 6,000 people, so it should be a busy few days to get ready,” Stephens said.

“Tomorrow we’re going to make sure that we have all of our ticket systems up and running, all of our gates, we’re also going to be training all of our volunteers tomorrow to make that they are all prepared to deal with the large number of people we’re going to have this year,” Foster said.

Even though there is so much work and so little time, volunteers said it’s all worth it to honor our veterans.

“It is so nice to do this for the veterans. I think that’s what motivates a lot of the volunteers to come. It’s all about the red, white and blue,” Stephens said.

Between Thursday and Saturday all volunteers will take part in orientation meetings to make sure everyone understands what they’ll be doing.

Organizers said if it weren’t for the volunteers, ticket prices would increase dramatically, so those headed out to the show should be thanking those volunteers as well.

Click here fora link to the Freedom Fest schedule of events.