Fort Polk's 'Freedom Fest' draws in more than 15,000 attendees

LEESVILLE, LA (KPLC) - In Leesville, organizers at Fort Polk estimate more than 15,000 people came out for today's annual Freedom Fest. xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /

Special events coordinator, Shelby Waryas says, "Fort Polk has been doing this for about 20 years. And we get a little bigger every year."

From giant inflatable slides to face painting, vendors setup shop to serve the masses.

"They are getting snow cones and the line has been backed up for hours all day," said Jenna Branigan, one of the vendors.

Freedom Fest provides an opportunity for families of Fort Polk soldiers to have a good time.

Rickey Blair says that's why he came, "You know to support the events and enjoy the festivities that are out here."

Organizers say today's event is not only a great morale booster for the troops here, it's also a perfect opportunity to open up Fort Polk to the local community.

Joshua Ross, a Fort Polk soldier says, "This builds rapport with the local community. It allows them to see what we do, it allows us to interact with them and it just helps us get to know each other a little bit better."

The public had an opportunity to check out the various military equipment and vehicles Fort Polk troops use.

And for many attendees, it wasn't their first time.

"We've been coming for about four years, just to sit and listen to the bands," said Savannah Coston.

And officials say more than 15,000 attendees had the same idea.

"We try to do one big event every year for the soldiers that it's like we really appreciate all the hard work you do," said Waryas.

While it's a fun holiday event, it's also an opportunity to reflect on the true meaning of Independence Day.

"It's universal and it's personal. Everyone has their reasons for celebrating, we just coming together to mark the day, mark the moment and pretty much have fun with friends and family and enjoy the freedoms we have," explained Blair.

"It's about freedom which our military fight for everyday and it's about independence and so we just do it altogether," added Waryas.

Not to mention, it's a free event.

The band 'Tyler Bryant and the Shakedown' provided live entertainment along with 'Little Big Town' which headlined the event. Organizers say they booked them after last year's event.

The fireworks finale, which Waryas says is one of the biggest in Central Louisiana lasting 25 minutes, wrapped up the event.

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