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30th Annual Freedom Fest Parade A 'Success' Despite Rain

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Gray skies couldn't keep the red, white, and blue from filling downtown Cedar Rapids for the city's 30th Annual Freedom Festival Parade Saturday.

Despite a little rain, more than 90 entrants walked, biked, danced, and somersaulted through the 90-minute parade to cheers of thousands of onlookers.

Josie Takes, the Events and Programs director, said 10,000 people typically turn out for the event, and she was thrilled with Saturday's success.

"I thought with the rain, we weren't going to get a good turnout," she said. "But you can see everyone has come together... It's phenomenal."

Though the parade serves as a family-friendly way to celebrate the Fourth of July and national independence, it also serves a very local purpose.

By drawing residents downtown and showcasing local organizations and businesses, the festivities aid the ongoing downtown revitalization efforts.

"It brings so many people downtown. A lot of businesses get viewed at this time so I think... it's a great thing for the revival of downtown Cedar Rapids," Takes said.

Cedar Rapids Noon Lions Club Chairman Terry Durham agreed, saying the freedom festival should hold as many events downtown as possible.

"It's been five years since we had six feet of water where we're standing now," Durham said as he worked a fundraising booth selling ice cream. "The revitalization of downtown and getting people used to getting downtown... I think it's very important."

For Leslie and Mike Buscher, it was a chance to enjoy the parade while also bringing out two of their therapy dogs in training: Luke and Daisy Duke.

As Leslie Buscher sat along 3rd Ave. SE clutching 5-month-old Daisy's pink leash, kids and adults alike stopped to pet the friendly dogs.

"I think it's just great for the kids to come out here. I'm a big proponent of all these activities," Buscher said, remarking that the only deterrent is finding parking.

Buscher said they moved from Olin a few years ago and are enjoying the fact that Cedar Rapids holds so many community events.

"I'm glad the rain held off," said the One on One Dog Therapy consultant. "We almost didn't come. Nobody wants to pet a wet dog."

When the parade wrapped up, everyone crowded onto Greene Square Park for food, games, and music. At one tent, parade entrants crowded around to hear the parade winners announced. Among the winners was the Czech Heritage Foundation, which took the prize for the Leonard Pfeifer Best Original Float Award.

The award is named after the "legendary Czech Heritage float creator," Takes explained.

Sitting near the award was Theresa Pfeifer, Leonard's daughter. Theresa explained her brother, Tim, has carried on the float making tradition since her father's death in 2011.

Their winning float featured 3D stars, a confetti cannon, a statue of liberty, an eagle originally painted by Leonard, and photos of six veterans, including Theresa's dad.

"It touches me," she said of the award. "That was his hobby. He loved doing floats."

Nearby, Tiffany Everson herded her three-year-old son and his friend through the winding line for face painting as the two youngsters munched on massive corn dogs.

"We're starting out fresh," the 32-year-old said, explaining this is their first time at the festivities. "I want to make sure my kids really feel connected to Cedar Rapids."

As to whether they'll be back next year?

"Absolutely," Everson said.

List of Parade Awards:

Best Use of American Pride: Sheet Metal Workers International Association Local 263

Leonard Pfeifer Best Original Float Award: Czech Heritage Foundation

Best Animal Unit: Gwen's Pet Grooming

Best Walking Unit: 1st Place: 34th Army Band of Iowa, 2nd Place: Harvest Christian Daycare and Learning Center

Best Decorated Vehicle: 1st Place: Pepsi Beverage Company, 2nd Place: Chrome Divas Female Motorcycle Association

Judges' Choice: Z102.9

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