At the height of summer comes a special time when Americans join together to celebrate our nation’s freedom and to pause and reflect on the sacrifices military personnel and their families make every day. Always held July 4th, the Spirit of America Festival attracts thousands of families to Point Mallard Park in Decatur for some free star-spangled fun, awards, music, and games. Festival organizers are pleased to announce this year’s festival has been named a top 20 event in the southeastern United States.
This year’s Spirit of America Festival has been named a Top 20 event for July by the Southeast Tourism Society (STS), a non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion and development of tourism to its 12 member states of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. Through a nomination process, STS chooses the Top 20 events in the Southeast for each month of the year and publishes the list of winners quarterly. The Top 20 Events publication is distributed to over 1,600 newspapers, magazines, radio stations, TV stations, AAA publications and others.
Decatur’s free Independence Day celebration kicks off at 4 p.m. with the Children’s Bike Parade where patriotic decorated bikes, tricycles, wagons, strollers, and four wheels make their way from the TC Almon Center to the Honda Children’s Area. There is no fee to participate in the Bike Parade; however, registration is required beginning at 3 p.m. First, second, and third place prizes will be presented during an awards ceremony beginning at 5 p.m. on the Children’s Stage.
Other activities include entertainment from Bill Crosby, karate demonstrations, face painting, balloon crafting, and inflatables in the children’s area, a hula hoop contest for children 5 to 12 years old, the Ping Pong Ball Drop for children up to 12 years old, and a Money in the Hay contest for children up to 8 years old.
Live music will also fire up the crowd in between the star-spangled activities. Slated to perform on the Auxiliary Stage are bluegrass band Grassy Divide at 4 p.m. followed by vocalist Taylor McLain from 5 to 6:30 p.m.
At 7 p.m., the Children’s Area closes and festival goers can make their way to the Spirit of America Stage for the Spirit of America Award Show, a presentation of awards recognizing outstanding service and sacrifice for country and fellow man, and the Miss Point Mallard Pageant, a preliminary for the Miss America Pageant.
More than just a fireworks celebration on the 4th of July, an awards program was developed to pay honor to the true meaning of the day. Named in honor of America’s most decorated soldier and Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Audie Murphy, the Audie Murphy Patriotism Award is presented to an outstanding American patriot or an outstanding group of individuals who best exemplify the true “Spirit of America.” This year’s Audie Murphy Patriotism award is presented posthumously to Lieutenant Colonel Elliott Cecil Chandler, for his heroic actions and leadership abilities during the Korean War.
The Barrett C. Shelton Sr., Freedom Award was established in 1980 in honor of local newspaper publisher Barrett C. Shelton, Sr., one of the founders of the Spirit of America Festival. The award is presented to honor an Alabamian for outstanding service to his community. The Spirit of America Festival Committee presents the Shelton Freedom Award posthumously to the family of Earl Claxton Warren, who bravely served his country and is known as “the Teenager at Pointe du Hoc” and later made significant contributions to his community and state.
Added in 1994, the Humanitarian Award is presented to an individual, group or organization whose efforts have significantly contributed to the betterment of life, health and welfare of mankind and state. This year’s recipient is Miss Anna Laura Bryan, Miss Alabama 2012 and a top 12 finalist in the Miss America pageant, for her platform work with P.A.W.S. for Autism: People and Animals Working Side by Side.
In 2011, the Spirit of America Festival Board of Directors introduced a new award named in honor of its first recipients, the CSM John and Brenda Perry Award for Support for Military Families to recognize the significant contributions, suffering and deprivation that military families endure, all in the support of their family members who serve in our nation’s Armed Forces. The award is to be presented to that person, group or organization that has significantly supported military families. This year’s recipient is the Patriot Guard Riders, a group who understands the theme of the 2013 festival, “Freedom Is Not Free”, and whose motto is “Standing for those who stood for us.” The Patriot Guard Riders is a diverse amalgamation of riders from across the United States with one thing in common besides motorcycles. Members have an unwavering respect for those who risk their lives for America’s freedom and security.
Following the crowning of the new Miss Point Mallard, the celebration culminates at 10 p.m. with a spectacular fireworks display. Freedom Is Not Free is the theme of the 2013 Spirit of America Fireworks display, one of the largest free fireworks exhibitions in the region. The fireworks display begins at 10 p.m. and a live simulcast will be offered by the Festival’s media partner, Clear Channel Communications and can be heard on WDRM 102.1 and 100.3 The River.
Two additional activities leading up to the festival are the Little Miss Point Mallard Pageant at the TC Almon Recreation Center on July 2nd and the Miss Point Mallard Outstanding Teen Pageant on July 3rd on the Spirit of America Stage. Both pageants begin at 7 p.m.
All activities take place in Point Mallard Park located at 2901 Point Mallard Drive in Decatur unless otherwise noted. Admission to the festival is free; however, some children’s activities require the purchase of tickets for a nominal fee.
For more information, including a schedule of events, visit www.spiritofamericafestival.com and click on “Schedule” or visit its Facebook page.