Apple Valley Freedom Days holds a special place in the hearts of many.
The annual summer festival, which marks its 51st year, ties together feelings of patriotism and community in celebration of the nation’s birthday.
Public events surrounding the Continental Congress’ official adoption of the Declaration of Independence’s final version on July 4, 1776, started only four days later when the document was read in Philadelphia and followed by the ringing of bells and band music.
The following year, Philadelphia was the site of another celebration on July 4, and the custom spread to other towns and cities.
Congress established Independence Day as a holiday in 1870, and it’s been a reminder of the past in Apple Valley since 1966.
A group of all-volunteer organizers stage the Freedom Days events each year led by longtime chairperson Pat Schesso.
“A love of family is the reason we do this,” she said, “especially in this day and time when we need more family activities, more closeness and more understanding.”
She traces her affinity for community gatherings and parades back to her father, who she said loved them.
Schesso, who has lived in the Apple Valley area for 40 years, says she has watched the community grow from its rural beginnings and dirt roads to full-fledged city status as the keystone of Dakota County.
“I’ve been here a long time,” she said. “I enjoy the area and the people here.”
She said Apple Valley is awesome and provides many great activities for both young and old.
That is what Freedom Days strives to offer, too, as it will turn up the hue on red, white and blue when the annual community festival returns June 27 to July 4.
Apple Valley residents make up the majority of Freedom Days crowds, but Schesso said people come to the events from all over the south metro as well as neighboring states, since many people come to visit family over the long holiday weekend.
While the featured events of a Fourth of July parade, fireworks and carnival are on the slate, the Patriotic Pet Contest is a new addition.
The contest will take place at 6:30 p.m. Monday, July 3, at Johnny Cake Ridge Park East, 5800 140th St. W.
Organized by Dog Day Getaway, the contest will feature pets who have registered by the June 30 deadline to compete for prizes in the categories of Most Patriotic, Oldest Patriot, Most Creative Patriot, Best Trick, and Best Owner and Pet Duo.
A registration form is online at avfreedomdays.com.
All pets are welcome, but they should be leashed, non-aggressive and well socialized.
There are limited spaces available.
For more information, email [email protected]
Schesso said registration for the parade, the Dancin’ & Cruisin’ Classic Car, Truck & Motorcycle Show and the Vendor Fair are still open.
All information about those events is online at avfreedomdays.com.
Profits from the registration fees for the events support Freedom Days activities such as the fireworks, musical entertainment, the carnival and other related expenses.
Classic vehicles of all kinds can register for Dancin’ & Cruisin’ for $15, which includes a dash plaque and a goodie bag for the first 100 registrants.
Vehicles will have a chance to win awards in a wide range of categories. This year’s winners in each category will be invited to participate in the parade.
“The car families and the car guys, they are cool people,” Schesso said. “They put lot of time, effort and money into it.”
The event will also include music, food and chances for people to learn about local businesses and community organizations during the Vendor Fair.
The cost to participate in the fair has dropped to $85 this year.
Schesso said the fair is a great way to market one’s business or organization to a cross section of local residents. She encourages people who are thinking about participating to be as creative as possible in order to maximize their interaction at the event.
People who want to get involved in other aspects of Freedom Days should plan ahead.
Registration is open for the Junior Golf Classic and Fun Run, while would-be participants in the Fishing Derby and Bike Rodeo should start practicing as they can sign up to compete at the event sites.
Schesso said she is looking forward to a performance by Minneapolis-based Saddle Sores, which will play classic country music from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s during Family Fun Night on Sunday, July 2, at Johnny Cake Ridge Park East.
The band’s covers of songs like “You’re The Reason Our Kids Are Ugly,” “Big Iron Skillet” and “Who’s Going To Take Your Garbage Out” often incite people to dance and are multi-generational crowd pleasers with their comedic twists.
The Saddle Sores are composed of Jenny Russ, vocals; Jimmy Kennedy, guitar and vocals; Randy Venaas, bass; Mo Engel, drums, and Clay Williams, pedal steel and guitar.
The band plays at Twin Cities venues like Hell’s Kitchen and the Lake Harriet Bandshell.
More information is at http://saddlesoresband.com.
The Apple Valley American Legion Post 1776 also adds a full schedule of events on the Fourth of July that includes food, music and activities.
“I can’t say enough about the 1776,” Schesso said. “They represent the real heroes who gave us our freedom. They have supported us since the very beginning.”
Volunteers help to make all of the event happen, and there is still time to be part of the success. Help is needed for a wide range of logistics such as event set-up, take-down, parade marshals and much more.
“I love organization and love getting my hands dirty,” Schesso said. “I like doing things for the community.”
More information about volunteering and sponsoring the events and a full schedule of events are online at avfreedomdays.com.
The June 23 edition of the newspaper will include a special section devoted to Freedom Days that will include more information along with a schedule of events.
Contact Tad Johnson at [email protected] or at twitter.com/editorTJ.