The annual Clovis Freedom Fest celebration has grown and blossomed into one of the largest fireworks shows in the Central Valley.
A large part of that is thanks to the Clovis Kiwanis Club, a service organization that has run the event for the last 20 years.
“We took the Freedom Fest celebration over from the Clovis Chamber of Commerce in 1998,” said Eddie DeLeon of the Clovis Kiwanis Club and Co-Chair of Freedom Fest. “They gave it up in ‘96, the show went dark in 1997, we took it over in 1998. We have organized, contracted and done the entire show ourselves as a service club since 1998.”
However, the event wasn’t always as big of a hit as it is today. After the Chamber relinquished its duties from hosting it, the Kiwanians stepped into some unfamiliar territory – and that created some challenges.
“The very first year we sat around a conference table and said, ‘What do we do?,’ said DeLeon. “Well, we have to find a fireworks company, food vendors, facilities, etc. So, we literally just sat around, wrote down notes, brainstormed and came up with what it’s going to take.”
After struggling in attendance numbers and revenue the first three years, the annual Fourth of July celebration returned to former glory in Year 4.
“I’m going to tell you that in the first three years, we didn’t make a dime. I’m not saying we didn’t know how to run it, but we needed to make changes,” said DeLeon. “By the fourth year, it was a major fundraiser for us because we fine-tuned it and knew exactly how to operate it.”
Two decades later, the Fourth of July fireworks celebration is the largest local display of pyrotechnics. Last year’s display featured a 25-minute show with 4,600 rounds of fireworks that drew a crowd of over 10,000.
In addition to the fireworks show, Freedom Fest brings in food vendors and live music. Concession items this year include hamburgers, hot dogs, corn dogs, french fries, and tri-tip sandwiches. The club is also working on getting a taco truck to come out. Dessert vendors will also be on hand selling shaved ice treats, cotton candy and kettle corn.
The entertainment lineup, on the other hand, has not been finalized yet.
“Entertainment has been part of the show since Day 1,” said DeLeon. “We have a band that comes out and plays for us. The music starts at 6 p.m. and stops at 9 p.m. Typically, we aim for classic rock, country, not-too-hard, not-too-soft music. It’s always a local group that donates their services to us.”
Thanks to community sponsors, Clovis Kiwanis Club raised $26,500 to make Freedom Fest possible.
The year’s celebration is scheduled for July 4 at Clovis High’s Lamonica Stadium. Gates open at 5 p.m. with the fireworks show set for 9 p.m. General admission is $5, and children 5 and under get in free.