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Longboat Key Tuesday, Jun. 28, 2022 3 months ago

Freedom Fest is a Fourth of July staple for Longboat Key

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The Observer's own Lisa Walsh is this year's grand marshal.
by: Lesley Dwyer Staff Writer

Don your red, white and blue, and don’t forget the dog; Freedom Fest is back, with  Lisa Walsh, a co-founder of the event and former executive editor of the Longboat Observer as Grand Marshal.

Walsh, along with Gail Loefgren, president of the Longboat Key Chamber of Commerce, transformed feelings into actions in 2002 when together they created the Independence Day staple in Longboat Key.

“It was borne out of the patriotism we all felt after the 9/11 attack,” Loefgren said. “Lisa should be very proud of what a simple conversation between two people sitting around a table at the Chamber has turned into. I know I am.”

At the time, Longboat Key didn’t have a town event to mark the Fourth of July. That first year, chamber members grilled hamburgers and hot dogs and the fire chief and town manager, sat in a dunk tank.

Walsh volunteered the Longboat Observer to sponsor and publicize the event, and the town was on-board from the start.

“Freedom Fest would not have been, and would not be, what it is today were it not for the way the town employees, public works and police and fire departments all contribute to the set-up and takedown of the event,” Walsh said.

Freedom Fest also wouldn’t be what it is today without Walsh.

“She is a true patriot, the real deal and someone who can be counted on when needed,” Loefgren said.

In 2013, the Rotary Club of Longboat Key added the Hot Diggity Dog Parade and Contest to the line-up. The Longboat Key Garden Club added a butterfly release that follows the parade.

“The most rewarding thing to me was after the first Freedom Fest parade when I overheard two brothers talking. They were on their bikes. They were so excited,” she said. “The younger of the two told his brother: ‘This has been the best day of my life!’ That did it for me. That melted my heart.”

Freedom Fest runs from 9 to 11 a.m. on Bay Isles Road.

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Lesley Dwyer is the community reporter for Longboat Key and a graduate of the University of South Florida. After earning a bachelor’s degree in professional and technical writing, she freelanced for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Lesley has lived in the Sarasota area for over 25 years.

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