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Morgan Hill Freedom Fest

Celebrating America ' s Birthday by Robin Shepherd Morgan Hill Historical Society

When the United States of America celebrated 100 years of independence on July 4th , 1876 , a small Santa Clara Valley farming community organized its first parade to mark the occasion . The community grew and evolved , becoming the City of Morgan Hill in 1906 . While its status as a city was new , its celebration of Independence Day was already a well-established tradition , and it ’ s been going strong ever since .

For nearly 150 years , the Independence Day celebration has been embraced by Morgan Hill as a symbol not only of community spirit , but the spirit of America . It has matured into the engaging , family-oriented celebration we now call Freedom Fest .
Crane started the Freedom Fest Essay Contest 20 years ago with her husband Bob , and Hal Hendrickson . Morgan Hill students in second through fifth grades submitted essays on a theme . Past examples include “ Favorite National Park ” and “ Letter to a Veteran .”
“ One student wrote about an ancestor who served as a cook in the Civil War ,” Crane said .
According to Freedom Fest President and Parade Chair Matthew Stein ,“ This event has survived wars , economic upheavals , pandemics and more . It ’ s been supported at different times by the City of Morgan Hill , the Morgan Hill Chamber of Commerce , Independence Day Inc ., and currently by Independence Day Celebrations , a local nonprofit .”
“ Today , Freedom Fest is a two-day affair with parade floats , fireworks , vintage cars , singing , dancing , good food , family entertainment and community connection ,” Stein said . “ Each Freedom Fest event has its own , passionate leader and enthusiastic volunteers .”
Karen Crane co-founded the Freedom Fest Patriotic Sing 34 years ago . As an elementary school teacher , Crane made it her mission to teach the songs of our country to students who didn ’ t know them , preserving history . “ Now we ’ ve got a diverse group of about ninety students from Morgan Hill elementary schools . They sing the mainstays like ‘ God Bless America ’ and songs for the branches of military service . Veterans in the audience are invited to stand and be acknowledged .”
Students also performed at the family music festival , parade , and fireworks events and collected donated goods for the Blue Star moms to ship to troops on active duty .
The Freedom Run , which consists of one 5K for all ages and a one-mile kids ’ run , was chaired by Alicia Carlson and Charles Weston . The race has often attracted as many as 700 runners to the streets of Morgan Hill .
Dennis Dal Poggetto has chaired the Family Music Fest Concert and Street Dance for 26 years and counting . A section of Monterey Road was closed so the community could come together to enjoy what dal Poggetto described as time to “ listen and dance to local bands , partake of tasty meals from food trucks , and best of all , catch up with long-time family friends .”
During Freedom Fest , Fireworks on the Green capped off the weekend with choreographed pyrotechnics designed by Jim Acker . Event co-chairs Jeff Dixon and Bruce Williams oversaw family entertainment ranging from live music to an old-fashioned pie-eating contest , at Morgan Hill ’ s Outdoor Sports Complex .
Tom and Jennifer Evans chaired the Cruise and Car Show , typically a sold-out event . Morgan Hill ’ s got more than its fair share of proud classic and antique car owners , and Freedom Fest history would not be complete without stories of the Valle del Sur Car Club in the days when Clarence Metcalf chauffeured dignitaries along the parade route in his spiffy Model A . ( Continued )
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