By TERRY GROOVER
Thousands of people packed into Chisholm Trail Park Wednesday and Thursday for two nights of celebrating America’s birthday.
And what a bash it was.
From free watermelon and ice cream to two nights of spectacular fireworks and patriotic tunes, the events could only be described as phenomenal.
This year’s Freedom Fest had something for everyone.
Both nights brought the feeling of patriotism to the park with Irv Wagner’s concert band on Wednesday and the Oklahoma City Philharmonic on Thursday. Both were returning for traditional performances.
Each of the concerts wasperfectly timed to coincide with the start 20-minute fireworks shows, which thrilled the thousands attending each night.
There is no official count on attendance because the events are free. However, officials have estimated well over 8,000 people were inside the park Thursday, not to mention the thousands who watched from parking lots outside the official area.
Then there was the hotdog-eating contest, which ended in a surprise.
Last year’s champion, Robert Alvarez, appeared headed for a repeat title with 13 hotdogs eaten when out of nowhere, John Timmons of Bethany downed 14. Officials said they believe Timmon’s total was a record for the local contest.
While it was nowhere near the 71 eaten at Coney Island by Joey Chestnut, it was still quite a feat.
This year’s contest also included at least three women among the 10 contestants.
And there was lots of other music. Super Freak performed Thursday prior to the hotdog-eating competition, while the HiFi Hillbilllies performed on Wednesday.
There also were events throughout Thursday that drew thousands to City Park, including a children’s parade, a sand-art contest and the annual Cherry Bomb Triathalon.
Wednesday was highlighted by a salute to Yukon’s veterans. More than 300 veterans received invitations to attend a special ceremony Wednesday evening.
The ceremony’s highlight was a story told by former District Judge Gary E. Miller about former Major League baseball player Rick Monday, who stopped a protestor from setting the American Flag on fire during a 1976 game at Dodger Stadium.
Monday, who still has the flag, also served in the military.
Miller said Monday fought for what the flag stands for.
Yukon Parks and Recreation Director Jan Scott said Friday that Freedom Fest was a huge success.
“I thought it went great,” she said. “Overall, it was a huge success.”