A vision of Senior Pastor Gary Sears in 1996, “The Freedom Celebration Picnic,” as it was called 13 years ago, convened on a farm less than a mile from Mount Olive Church, located on Harrison Pike. It was full of fun and fellowship.
“It was an outreach ministry from the church,” he said. “With the goal to meet new people and provide a fun-filled day for them, we asked our church families to invite a family to attend.”
A stage was built on the farmland, hours after the horses were moved to another field. Food was provided by members of the church as a potluck affair and all the entertainment was provided by local residents.
“In the early days, it was sort of like anyone with talent and who wanted to sing could take the stage. It provided a variety of music.”
A $20 bag of fireworks set off by the youth pastor excited the crowd of nearly 300 guests.
“One of the rockets went the wrong direction, squirreling through the crowd which made things pretty exciting,” said Sears.
After a few years, the church realized the need for a larger place to accommodate the growing number of people attending the annual celebration. Because of this and the notification they couldn’t block Harrison Pike with traffic because it is a state road, they relocated the event to Tri-State Exhibition Center.
“We soon recognized it was bigger than the church and it needed to be combined as a city and county effort. Moving the event to Tri-State allowed more members of the community to attend and allowed us to add more attractions, vendors and feature talent that appeals to all age levels,” Sears said.
Although they relocated to a new location, with more than 12,000 attending last year, the philosophy, which was to continue providing a good time of sharing together with community families as an outreach ministry, stayed the same.
“So many times churches ask people to give something. We want Freedom Celebration to be used to give back to the people,” he said.
According to Pastor Sears, the event would not be possible without the assistance of sponsors and volunteers.
“Larry Hill has helped make our fireworks show bigger and better each year,” he said. “The folks who sponsor the main stage each year have been a great help.”
Sears said his prayer is for people to realize through the family event the freedom Americans have.
“Sometimes we take for granted the great freedom we have as Americans and as Christians. God has given us freedom so we do not have to depend on drugs or anything else to have freedom and joy.”
Everyone is invited to the free event on Sunday. The gates open at 4:30 p.m. Opening ceremonies begin at 6 p.m. on the O’Charley’s main stage with a greeting by Sears. The fireworks extravaganza, sponsored by Larry Hill Ford, will illuminate the sky with an array of star bursts and patriotic booms celebrating the nation’s independence at dark.
According to Freedom Celebration coordinator Zandra Whaley, the synchronized fireworks to music will be Cleveland’s biggest fireworks show to date.
For more information, visit websites: www.mtolivefreedomcelebration.com and www.mtolivefreedomcelebraton.net or call 479-3381.
4:30 p.m. Gates Open/Vendors/Air Toys
O'Charley’s of Cleveland Main Stage
6:00 p.m. Opening Ceremonies
6:15 p.m. Mallory Ledford
6:35 p.m. 2 x 2 Quartet
7:10 p.m. Bartlee Norton
7:40 .p.m. Mount Olive Youth Drama/Band
8:05 p.m. STEELFITZ
8:50 p.m. Tim Chastain & Eight Days After
9:30 p.m. Closing Remarks
9:35 p.m. Fireworks spectacular sponsored by Larry Hill Ford
OK KIDZ Stage
6:00 p.m. Mount Olive His Word Studios present
“Tell The World”
6:30 p.m. Endunamoo Strength Team
7:00 p.m. “Tell The World”
7:30 p.m. Endunamoo Strength Team
8:00 p.m. “Tell The World”