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Freedom Festival set for Oct. 16

By Todd Defeo

Joanne Consalvo-Mulvaney poses a simple question: Who would be willing to take a job with low pay, lousy housing and long periods of separation from their families?

Then there's the kicker: The risk of death.

"Most people wouldn't take it," Consalvo-Mulvaney says.

But, she adds, that's what soldiers agree to when they join the armed services.

So, Consalvo-Mulvaney, a U.S. Navy veteran, organized the Freedom Festival to honor members of their military and their sacrifices. But the event, to be held Oct. 16 in Heritage Park in McDonough, isn't just a chance to pay tribute to those soldiers who died protecting the United States, it's an opportunity to thank active duty troops and veterans, she said.

"These men and women deserve the best of the best," she said, "This day is going to honor them. Every day in my mind and heart is (a day for) honoring our troops and veterans."

The festival, scheduled from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., will feature a children's Walk of Honor through Heritage Park, musical entertainment, an antique car show and several speakers with military connections. A Ride for Freedom, featuring dozens of motorcycle riders, will start at Rusty's in McDonough and will wind its way through town before ending at Heritage Park just before 11 a.m., when the speakers are slated to begin.

"It's not a carnival; it's not a fair," said Carol Bongers, who retired from the Army after more than 20 years of service and who is helping organize the Freedom Festival. "It's a festival to honor our veterans. The festival is to call attention to the job that our soldiers and veterans are doing and have done."

At the festival, veterans groups will have tables set up and will be offering information. But, there are still some openings for booths, musical acts and patriotic craft booths, Consalvo-Mulvaney said.

Also, ham radio operators are welcome to set up at the festival and make contact with soldiers around the world.

Proceeds from the festival, which will also pay tribute to some other heroes n police and firefighters, will benefit the Veterans' Wall of Honor, Consalvo-Mulvaney said. The monument, honoring soldiers and their sacrifices, is scheduled for a mid-2005 completion.

David George of Freedom International Outreach and David Stroup of Crossroads Church and Harry Norman Realtors helped organize the Freedom Festival.

"We are lucky; we are blessed," Consalvo-Mulvaney said. "The troops who have come before and the troops today paid a big price, a lot of them a hefty price, for us to remain free."