With the traditional Fourth of July festivities postponed due to COVID-19, one local man is taking it upon himself to organize an event for the community in Smokey Bear Park.
Andy Piekarski will host a Freedom Festival from noon to 6 p.m. July 4 in Smokey Bear Park with a list of activities for the entire family.
“Almost most importantly, it’s sober fun for the whole family,” he said. “It’s been pretty tough times for everybody. I know a lot of people are anxious with all the stress, and depressed with all the isolation. People just need something to be happy about... I just want something that people can forget all their troubles for a couple hours.”
The event will feature a costume contest, kickball games, yard games, photos with Smokey the Bear and cubs, dodge ball, raffles, cash prizes and more. There is no cost for anything, but Piekarski has found other ways to give back to the community through the Independence Day effort.
Donations will be collected for The Salvation Army, Paws and Claws and Ruby’s Pantry. People who donate to the cause will be entered into different drawings for prizes.
“Even before all of this health crisis... I’ve been trying to think of ways to donate money to some place that is a good cause,” he said.
Instead of donating to something on a global or national level, he turned to his hometown.
“In reality, the best way to do it is locally,” he said, adding it creates “real change in front of your own eyes... I figured if we’re going to get all these people together and we’re gonna have a lot of fun, we can also probably raise a whole bunch of money for really good causes around here.”
Piekarski’s mother, Debbie LePage, said she was proud of her son for taking the lead on organizing the event.
“When Andy decides to do something – even when he was little – he goes in 100 percent, 1,000 percent,” she said. “He’s always loved this town... I think it’s going to be a day for the whole community, hopefully, to come together. Everyone is so wonderful in our town.”
Piekarski is hoping to attract volunteer help with the July 4 events and encouraged anyone interested to contact him on Facebook. His profile can be found under “Jesus Dubs.”
“It’s going to be an amazing time, I know that,” he said. “People can come bring their family, their friends, their kids... and they can enjoy a day in the park.”
Mayor Harley Droba said the city supports Piekarski’s efforts and noted a permit is not needed to host events in Smokey Bear Park.
“You would need a permit to set up in Smokey Bear Park if you want to be the only one utilizing the park for your own event,” he said. “Every citizen has the right to assemble.”