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Celebrate the 4th during Let Freedom Ring

2017 Let Freedom Ring Parade Marshals Marvin Miller and Gene McGee pose in front of the the bell tower they helped build more than 50 years ago. Photo supplied
2017 Let Freedom Ring Parade Marshals Marvin Miller and Gene McGee pose in front of the the bell tower they helped build more than 50 years ago. Photo supplied

Mt. Morris is pulling out all the stops to celebrate “Red, White and YOU” over this weekend through the Fourth of July.

Events include music, art, fireworks, food, and family entertainment beginning June 28 with the coronation of the 2017 Let Freedom Ring Queen Rebecca Hough.

“We have a lot planned and now all we need is for the weather to cooperate,” said longtime LFR Committee Member Jan Hough. “This will be a great opportunity for families to have some fun and celebrate the Fourth.” 

She said a daughter and granddaughter of the late Sandy Sandstrom, one of the festival’s organizers for many years, will be attending this year’s festival.

Mt. Morris residents Gene McGee and Marv Miller will be the marshals for the Grand Parade. 

These men were members of the group that constructed the bell tower that holds the Official Illinois State Freedom Bell on the historic Mt. Morris Campus on Wesley Avenue. 

At the April 29, 1966 special Let Freedom Ring, Inc. meeting the committee voted to construct a bell tower and place it 30 feet north of and even with the band shell.  

With Sandstrom as vice-chairman of the Illinois Bell Ringing Committee, and Mt. Morris being a major participant of the reinstatement of ringing bells on July 4th, a larger bell had been purchased.  

Now a tower to house the bell needed to be constructed.  

A bell tower fund raising campaign was begun with the school children from elementary to high school and on May 12, 1966 a door-to-door campaign was put into place. 

Mt. Morris resident and artist Eric Mann designed the iconic tower and by June 9, 1966 construction was underway.  

Volunteers and local tradesman built the tower and Howard Fox, senior forester for Sinnissippi Forest in Oregon fabricated the yoke from slippery elm, the same material and dimensions from which the yoke of the Liberty Bell was made.

Miller, McGee, and Bill Hazelton, California, are the only living members of the group who worked on the bell tower. Others included “Babe” Tracy.  

By June 30, 1966 the tower constructed from cement, steel and with a wooden shake roof was being completed. 

Miller remembered that the crews who worked on the construction would work their normal jobs and then go put in many volunteer hours to get the job done.  

“We will honor these men as official parade marshals at the Patriotic Program on July 4th and during the Grand Parade,” Hough said. “Thank you, Marv, Gene, and Bill for being a major part of what we celebrate today at the bell tower and ringing of the Official Illinois State Freedom Bell.” 

Festival events will take place on the campus July 1, 2 and 4 starting with a Craft and Vendor Fair that will run Saturday, July 1, Sunday, July 2, and Tuesday, July 4.  

A variety of silent auction items will be viewable in the old Felker building and other activities including food vendors and entertainment will take place on the campus and town square throughout the weekend and on July 4.

Kids activities, a kiddie parade, and kiddie waterfights will take place on Saturday, July 2. 

At 3 p.m. magician and family entertainer Jim Austin will take the stage at the band shell, followed by a car show and cruise-in at the Kable News parking lot.  

Beer gardens will be on North and South Wesley Avenue.  

The annual Mounder Alumni Party will be at the Mt. Morris Moose on Monday evening.  

The annual July 4th festivities will start with the breakfast at the firehouse, the Lois Nelson Memorial Walk, noon Patriotic Program, 2 p.m. Grand Parade, and Kable Concert Band concert at the D.L. Rahn Junior High before the grand finale fireworks at dark.

Festival highlights include the following events. 

Music

The Kable Concert Band will perform two “star-spangled” patriotic concerts.  

The first will be on Tuesday, July 4 prior to the fireworks behind the David L. Rahn Junior High, and the second on Wednesday, July 5at the Reckmeyer Band Shell in downtown Mt. Morris. 

Both concerts begin at 8 p.m.

The StingRays will perform at the Mt. Morris Jamboree on Friday, June 30 at 7 p.m. at the band shell.

Mt. Morris band Goin’ Postal will play a free concert on the band shell from 1 to 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 1.

These seasoned musicians play a wide variety of classic rock and country favorites.

Acoustic Axis, a duet featuring local musicians Kevin Remrey and Larry Ubben, will play blues, classic rock and country music on the band shell Saturday during two one-hour sets from 5 to 6 p.m. and later from 8 to 9 p.m. 

Food

The Ogle County Beef Producers will cook their ribeye sandwiches on Sunday, July 2 from 4 to 7 p.m. on the downtown campus.

The Mt. Morris Firemen’s Association will serve its annual pancake breakfast on Tuesday, July 4 from 7 to 11 a.m. at the firehouse.

Donations will be accepted for the all-you-can-eat breakfast.

The firemen are also holding a raffle for a John Deere riding lawn mower.

Proceeds will go toward the purchase of new equipment.

Kiddie Parade

Registration for the Kiddie Parade will begin at 12 p.m. on Sunday, July 2 at Main and Wesley followed by the Kiddie Parade west to the post office.  

Children of all ages are encouraged to enter one of the four categories: Pets, Costumes, Floats, or Bikes & Trikes. 

Prizes will be sponsored by Cimino’s. 

Magic Show 

The Evangelical Free Church program on Sunday, July 2 will be at the historic Reckmeyer Band Shell on the campus. 

Performing will be magician and family entertainer Jim Austin. 

Austin is a popular Chicago magician, juggler, illusionist, and more and will amuse and amaze all everyone in attendance.  

The program starts with free dessert at 3 p.m. followed by Austin’s show.

Cruise-In & Parade  

The annual Jonas Levi Fultz Memorial Cruise-in and Parade will be held in the late afternoon and evening on Sunday, July 2.  

Jonas and Linda Fultz had been producing this event for more than 15 years before his death in 2013, and Linda is carrying on the tradition in Jonas’s memory.  

Cars will start arriving into the Kable News parking lot on West Main Street around 4 p.m. as 3D Sound provides their mix of rock’n roll oldies.  

In years past, a mix of classic cars, street rods and motorcycles have been displayed, some dating back to the 30s.  

At approximately 6:45 p.m. the cars will cruise the parade route through the streets of Mt. Morris and then return to the Kable News parking lot for trophy presentations and a 50-50 drawing.  

Bring your classic car to display or come to enjoy a “ blast from the past,” talk to the owners, and look under the hoods – it’s all free.

Lois Nelson Memorial Walk

Join the Mt. Morris community along with people from across the U.S. for the 15th Annual Lois Nelson Memorial Walk and Fun Run this year as “Pound the Pavement” begins on Tuesday, July 4 at Dillehay Park in Mt. Morris. 

Check in and registration begins at 8 a.m. with the walk and run at 9 a.m. Refreshments will be served at 10:30 a.m. at the park.

This family-friendly and now traditional Fourth of July community event, held to honor the memory of Lois Nelson, is also a fundraiser for Special Olympics and the Let Freedom Ring Festival.

Nelson worked with developmentally disabled adults as her vocation. Pound the Pavement is a scenic walk and fun run that travels approximately four miles around the streets of Mt. Morris, following the route that Nelson walked every day, in any kind of weather.

Patriotic Program

Mt. Morris native Gary Henderson will be the speaker at the Patriotic Program on July 4 at noon at the downtown band shell.

The program will be followed by the ringing of the Official Illinois State Freedom Bell at 1 p.m., synchronized with bell-ringing across the nation.

Fireworks

The festival’s grand finale is fireworks with both aerial and ground displays.

The show begins at dusk on July 4 at the athletic field behind D.L. Rahn Junior High.

Volunteers will be on hand to collect donations to help cover the cost of the fireworks.

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