After a cancellation last year due to COVID-19, Hendersonville’s Freedom Festival will return to Drakes Creek Park this year on July 3.

The annual pre-Independence Day celebration hosted by the Hendersonville Area Chamber of Commerce and presented by Re/Max Choice Properties is the city’s largest event.

Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Kathleen Hawkins says her organization is doing everything it can to plan an event that will be both fun and safe.

“We’ve had several meetings about how to keep people safe,” she said. “We’re working closely with both the Sumner County Health Department and Tristar Hendersonville Medical Center. They’re keeping track of the latest COVID-19 case numbers and giving us guidance on what the latest recommendations are.”

Besides the annual fireworks display, made possible by Re/Max Choice Properties, Volunteer State Bank and the Hendersonville Parks Department, this year will see the return of live entertainment in the form of the Garage Band Revival, a Freedom Festival favorite for several years.

Formed in 2006 by local saxophone player Don Dickerson, the 13-piece R&B and rock and roll band is named for its first rehearsal space – Dickerson’s garage in the Bluegrass Downs subdivision.

Early on, the band members – all of whom have profitable day jobs – decided that the proceeds of their efforts would go to local charitable organizations.

“There’s not one charity that you could name that we haven’t played for at one time or another,” said Dickerson. “All our band members want to do is play some good music and give back to their community.”

The band first entertained at the Freedom Festival in 2008 joined by, among others, lead singer Tommy McRae.

McRae, a Hendersonville High School graduate who went on the become a professional singer and musician before returning to his hometown, shared the band’s mission of giving back to the community.

Dickerson says the two met while Dickerson’s wife and McRae were working at Re/Max Choice Properties.

“We just hit it off immediately,” he said. “His talent, his great smile. I don’t ever remember a negative comment coming from him. There are a lot of people who talk about giving back, but Tommy talked the talk and walked the walk.”

On April 11, McRae lost his battle with multiple myeloma, a form of cancer. He was just 51.

While the loss is deep, Dickerson said the band plans to remember McRae’s immense talent by paying tribute to him on July 3.

“He was the face of the band to a certain extent,” recalled Dickerson. “He was the heart of the band.”

Hawkins said the Chamber Foundation plans to honor McRae as well by naming a special grant for student musicians in the band’s name.

“We wanted to do something special to honor him and recognize how much the band has contributed to the community over the years,” said Hawkins.

“Without the Garage Band Revival, we wouldn’t have an audience, and without an audience we wouldn’t have been able to raise as much money as we have,” she added.

The Freedom Festival is a fundraiser for the Chamber Foundation, a 501c3 arm of the chamber that gives grants to local educators through its Golden Apple grant program.

More than $33,000 was donated to 11 Hendersonville schools from the 2019 event.

Hawkins said the event will be a little different this year with the elimination of the Kids Zone, an area of inflatables for children. In addition, vendor booths and food trucks will be spaced further apart and a new area will be open for viewing the band and fireworks on the baseball field.

As in years past the Chamber will be partnering with WHIN Radio that will broadcast the music that is orchestrated with the fireworks for those who are watching the fireworks outside of the park.

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