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FESTIVAL OF FREEDOM

The FESTIVAL OF FREEDOM has been Cleveland's official 4th of July celebration since 1938. Begun as part of the national convention of the Grottos of the U.S. and Canada, the festival has continued as an event of its own. As part of the Grottos' Mardi Gras on 29 June 1938, entitled "Festival of Beauty and Fire," the first program attracted 250,000. This success prompted a proposal that a similar event be staged in 1939 as the city's official 4th of July celebration. The 1939 festival, organized by the Come-to-Cleveland Committee of the CLEVELAND ADVERTISING CLUB, was called "Festival of Freedom and Fireworks." A cloudburst forced the cancellation of the program, which was rescheduled for Saturday, 8 July 1939, when 33,643 people attended the show at the stadium. That was the only time admission was charged. The 1940 program, the first to be funded by private contributions, received national attention when NBC presented live radio coverage to the nation. Because of its success, the festival group incorporated as a nonprofit organization to make the program an annual event. During the 1940s the festivals included bands, orchestras, ethnic music and dancers, military demonstrations, parades, and the fireworks display. By 1948 the festival had become so popular that the trustees decided to move it to BURKE LAKEFRONT AIRPORT. In 1954 the show moved to EDGEWATER PARK, where it was still located in 1995. The program was administered by the Cleveland Independence Day Assn., a volunteer group from the city's business community. Attendance was estimated at 200,000 annually.