For more than a decade, America’s Freedom Festival at Provo has joined hands with its sister city Orem to help feature some of the more historical parts of celebrating Independence Day and the festival.
The SCERA Center for the Arts and nearby Scera Park are the homes of four free events that offer hands-on, family-friendly opportunities to step back in time and meet history face to face.
At Scera Park from Friday to Monday is the annual Colonial Heritage Festival and the Freedom Vehicles Military Outpost. Inside the SCERA Center in Showhouse II is the ongoing production of the “Cries of Freedom.” Next door in room 101 is the Brent Ashworth American Heritage Museum.
Step back in time and witness the Continental Army and the British Crown forces as they lived and drilled. You may want to walk along the “Kings Highway” and visit a village of day-to-day artisans who make everything from country soap to water-tight buckets and demonstrate everything from tanning hides to blacksmithing to calligraphy and handmade clothing and candles.
Chairwomen Kimberly Parry Gardner and Bre’ Cornell and their crew have dusted off the memories of COVID-19 and are bringing back familiar and new events to the Colonial Heritage Festival.
This year John Hockley, the festival’s friend from Colorado, will be portraying the life of a seaman during the Colonial period. New authentic instruments at the doctor’s tent will provide demonstrations on how inoculations were given more than 300 years ago.
A large authentic print shop is set up in the park so folks can see everything from paper making to book binding and all types of printing in between.
There are also cooking demonstrations from the time period, a Colonial school and games for the children, and for the teenagers and older children a spy ring they can join to help General George Washington and his army.
At the meetinghouse you can sit and rest as you join in a reading of the Declaration of Independence, listen to storytellers, debates and questions and answers with popular Colonial characters about politics of the time.
The public is also welcome to take classes on how to use a lucet, make rope, spin wool and do calligraphy.
“Cries of Freedom” began 25 years ago with a search for paintings and documents from the nation’s founding. Then, through many hours of research and inspiration, it became a combined effort between producers Scott Swain and Bonnie Busco to develop America’s story into a curriculum to be used in the schools across the land. Their efforts were positive but the message was not reaching people with the passion they felt.
A new effort went into the writing of a musical called “Cries of Freedom,” which premiered in 2008 and has been performed yearly (except 2020) as part of America’s Freedom Festival.
“Cries of Freedom” highlights the inspirational stories of people who struggled and sacrificed to fight for their freedom, including Joan of Arc in the 1400s, Pieter Vanderwerf in the late 1500s, and then the Scrooby Separatists, who were under the rule of the King of England. All wanted to be free from tyranny and oppression.
The show continues with the colonists who came to America in search of freedom and our Founding Fathers who met together to sign the Declaration of Independence, a great moment in history.
“Our need to protect our freedoms is still ongoing today,” Busco said. “In ‘Cries of Freedom,’ tribute is paid to all those who have gone before and who continue to fight for precious liberties and rights.”
The passion of the musical is best expressed by some of the cast members:
“Being part of ‘Cries of Freedom’ has been a heaven-sent blessing for me and my family,” said one participant. “We recognize that freedom is the key to happiness and peace.”
Another participant said, “This show inspired me to become interested in our history, and I felt a connection to the heroes of the past and myself. This show speaks to you in such a powerful way that it is undeniable that this country is protected and blessed by God above.”
“Cries of Freedom” runs from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Monday in Showhouse II at the SCERA Center for the Arts.
As usual, the traditional live swearing-in ceremony for new citizen candidates will be held at 2:30 p.m. Friday at Showhouse II under the direction of Homeland Security.
Next to “Cries of Freedom” inside the SCERA Center for the Arts in room 101, local collector and historian Brent Ashworth will once again set up his American History Museum.
Ashworth has gathered a large collection of relics from the nation’s past. Colonial artifacts, Civil War antiquities, rare sports memorabilia, Mormon relics and more are featured in the museum.
According to Ashworth, the public will have never seen so many rare and invaluable relics and artifacts of the times in one location.
Ashworth will be on hand to discuss and answer questions about his collection.
Orem resident Vernon Stout has amassed one of the largest collections of historic and unique military vehicles in the U.S. beginning with World War I through the present day. He will have them on display along with other wartime artifacts on the north end of Scera Park, Friday and Saturday. They can also be seen in the Grand Parade in Provo on Monday.
According to Stout, the vehicles and their crew will be outfitted and configured as if they had just returned from their various missions throughout history. Visitors will be able to interact with the soldiers and interactive media while they enjoy the educational experience of seeing the vehicles in full battle configuration and hearing about the soldiers’ experiences.
“Our mission at Freedom Vehicles Association is to help America’s youth understand how blessed they are to live in the United States of America, a promised land where God’s hand has enabled this nation to remain free,” Stout said.
The event will host a 1940s-themed dance from 8-11 p.m. Saturday where everyone will have the opportunity to have fun while learning classic dance moves from the World War II era.