Freedom Fest is back with a bang — literally.
The town of Unicoi’s annual Fourth of July celebration, sponsored by Jones and Church Farms, will return to Unicoi County Elementary School on Sunday, July 4, from 5-10 p.m. with food, live music and a fireworks show. The annual event was cancelled last year due to COVID-19.
“The success of the Strawberry Festival this year opened our eyes to the possibility that we might have even more visitors for our Fourth of July celebration,” Mayor Kathy Bullen said. “So we want to make sure to put on a good show and expand our offerings to accommodate a larger celebration.”
The Elizabethton band Powershift will open the event at 5:30 p.m., and the 1980s tribute band The Breakfast Club will take the stage at 7:30 p.m.
“We’re ecstatic to be featuring a larger band this year,” Communications and Programs Director Ashley Shelton said. “The Breakfast Club puts on a high-energy, fun and nostalgic show that I think families are going to love.”
A bigger band isn’t the only expansion the festival has made, though. This year’s event will feature more food options than ever before. The Unicoi Ruritan will be selling barbecue, hot dogs and funnel cake under the pavilion, local church Casa De Dios will have tacos and tamales, the Hungarian Sausage King and the Appalachian Belle food truck will have hamburgers, Italian sausages and Philly cheesesteaks, and Tommy’s Italian Ice will have deep-fried Oreos, funnel cakes and Italian ice.
The Unicoi County Hospital Fireworks Spectacular will begin at 9:30 p.m., and visitors are encouraged to bring blankets and lawn chairs. Patriotic glow necklaces will be on sale at the information booth for $1 each.
Freedom Fest attendees are asked to review the event’s parking maps on the town’s website to minimize traffic congestion.
“Parking was an issue at the Strawberry Festival this year,” Shelton said. “So we wanted to make sure we provided more options for Freedom Fest.”
Mountain Commerce Bank is providing free shuttles from select parking lots beginning at 4 p.m. Parking in shuttled lots costs $5-$10, and will be staffed by local civic, church and youth groups.
“Our downtown village, around the school where the event is held, is mostly residential,” Police Chief Andy Slagle said. “We will be closing some streets and rerouting traffic in that area so it will be easier for visitors to take advantage of the shuttles and avoid the congestion.”
Several local churches downtown will also provide parking, and designated handicapped parking will be available at Unicoi United Methodist Church and in the back parking lot of the elementary school. Most downtown streets will have a traffic hold placed on them for roughly an hour after the fireworks spectacular.
“We took the traffic hold straight out of Bristol Motor Speedway’s playbook,” Slagle said. “Safety is our number one priority and giving the pedestrians a chance to move out of the area prior to releasing the traffic flow is the right thing to do given it’s a nighttime event. We also ask for everyone’s patience after the fireworks as our officers work to get everyone home safely.”
Anyone interested in volunteering at Freedom Fest should call the Tourist Information Center at 423-735-0517 or email email@example.com. Additional information is available on the town’s website, ExploreUnicoi.com.