Freedom Fest in South Jacksonville in Limbo

By Benjamin Cox on August 12, 2021 at 10:08am

Freedom Fest in South Jacksonville currently is in limbo. The village’s budget committee met for three hours last night, with one third of that time being spent on the festival.

Trustees were given a paper budget that was gone over by village intern Clay Johnson. Trustee Paula Belobradjic-Stewart was concerned about all the different events and pieces surrounding the festival, scheduled to begin several days ahead of the ultimate event on Saturday, September 11th.

Belobradjic-Stewart voiced concerns about all that needs to be done between now and the festival and the costs to the village’s tourism fund: “There is a lot of moving parts and the more you add, the harder it gets to orchestrate all of it. My suggestion would be to let’s see how we can make it work. We are a month out, but it going to have to (and it’s just my opinion)…going to have to be scaled back. You’re talking about an $85,000 budget right now and I don’t even know if that includes everything [we need].”

Belobradjic-Stewart went on to remark that she believed the budget was bigger than any of the Concert In the Cornfield. Treasurer Tiffanee Peters said that approximately $8,000 had already been spent on advertising for the event.

Trustee Stacy Pinkerton and Belobradjic-Stewart also brought up the recent uptick in COVID-19 transmission in the county. Pinkerton along with Police Chief Eric Hansell said they would be reaching out to entities, including the Morgan County Health Department on what if any restrictions to the event would have to be made. Between questions concerning the budget of the event, a simple lack of volunteers, and the current high rates of transmission the board came to a consensus in that they may make a decision on the scale of the Freedom Fest later this week, with a possibility the event may be canceled all together.

Streets and Sewers Superintendent John Green told the committee that it was time to move on the project if they wanted his department to have time to prepare things for the event. Chief Hansell and Fire Chief Rich Evans, Jr. said they would continue to ask their department for volunteers to help work the event.

When asked for comment after the meeting, various trustees said they would rather make comment after a majority decision is made later this week.