Patriotism blankets festival

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 8, 2002

Austin really was red, white and blue over the weekend.

Everywhere one went, the American flag colors were displayed. Beginning with the red, white and blue balloon launch at Thursday's Independence Day parade and concluding with the patriotic colors lighting up the sky over Austin Community Park Sunday night, the Freedom Fest in the Heartland embraced patriotism at every turn.

Bob Brinkman and his wife, LaVonne, plus their friend, Kaye Ziegler, were among those people, participating in the Americans Standing Together march Sunday afternoon.

Email newsletter signup

Brinkman brought his mother, Lucille, to Austin Community Park, where the 86-year-old woman joined in the Concert in the Park festivities Sunday night.

"I've never seen patriotism at such a level in Austin as it is this weekend," Bob Brinkman said.

Another citizen reveling in the weekend's fun was Nini Johnson, who became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1968.

The native of Sweden married Dean Johnson, an Austin native, while he was overseas in the U.S. Air Force and the couple emigrated to America in 1961.

"There's no other feeling like Independence Day or Thanksgiving for me. It feels very good to be an American," Johnson said.

While the Mower County Pork Producers and the Mower County ADA served up a Sunday night meal, Duane Germaine, popular KAUS radio personality, emceed the program from the bandshell stage.

Austin Mayor Bonnie Rietz welcomed the crowd to the concert by the Austin Community Band and gave a history lesson on the subject "Freedom is …"

American Legion Post No. 91 and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 1216 presented the colors, while the Legion Post gave a 21-gun salute in honor of America.

Local Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts displayed flags from 88 countries, whose citizens died in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on America.

Gordie Handeland, who played Daddy Warbucks, in the recent Summerset Theater production of "Annie," joined a crew of director Jerry Girton's musical stars on stage.

The grand marshals of the Independence Day parade, America's heroes, were introduced to the crowd. Police, deputies, firefighters, ambulance drivers and others took a boy in front of the audience of appreciative citizens.

Ann Marie Wagner, the newly crowned Miss Austin, showcased her singing talents.

The daughter of Carter and Meg Wagner, Austin, showcased her singing talents for the audience.

then, Brian Koser put the Austin Community Band through its paces for a concert while the audience members relaxed in law chairs or on blankets. The conductor's wife, Pamela, entertained with vocal solos that pleased the audience.

The concert featured

— What else? — patriotic-flavored program, including several John Philip Sousa marches.

When the skies grew dark, emcee Germaine asked the audience to

light a candle for freedom and the flames flickered everywhere.

A fireworks display over the Cedar River in Marcusen Park dazzled all as much as band director Koser's talents with the saxophone on "Wind Beneath My Wings" drew cheers from the audience.

Like Miss Austin, Ann Marie Wagner, said, "Since 9/11, I think there's more patriotism than ever before and I think it's great."

Nobody could argue with her during the Freedom in the Heartland festival in Austin.