Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Freedom Fest will feature country music's Rodney Atkins


The Fourth of July in Hernando County has always been a make-what-you-can-of-it celebration for residents.

Unlike our urban neighbors to the south, dazzling, big-budget communitywide extravaganzas have never been our style.

That is, until last year, when the Brooksville Ministerial Association staged its inaugural Nature Coast Freedom Fest. Billed as a "family entertainment event," the event featured Christian bands, a fun zone for kids, food and beverage vendors, and, of course, a big fireworks show. According to the promoters, more than 15,000 people showed up.

However, Freedom Fest 2008 wasn't without its share of controversy. The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida and others complained that the decision by the county's Tourist Development Council to contribute $5,000 to help promote an event with religious overtones violated the separation of church and state.

Although the county still supports the event this year, the TDC has done its own advertisements to promote it, with no religious messages, absolving the county of any legal problems.

Joe Santerelli, senior pastor at Hillside Community Baptist Church and president of the Brooksville Ministerial Association, hopes this year's festival, which kicks off at 3:30 p.m. today at Florida Classic Park, will be less of a lightning rod.

"It's about celebrating our freedom and paying tribute to veterans," Santerelli said this week. "Our objective is to provide a family-friendly evening that everyone can enjoy."

With the addition of platinum-selling country artist Rodney Atkins to this year's event, Santerelli hopes to double this year's attendance. Atkins, who has five No. 1 hits to his credit, also has one of the most popular songs on the current country charts. Released late last year, It's America reached the top spot on the Billboard country charts in May.

Also appearing at the event will be Tampa singer Lindsay Taylor, Tennessee family Christian group the Birdsongs, and a speaker with WallBuilders, a national pro-family organization.

The fireworks show, scheduled to begin about 9:45 p.m., will be presented by Pyrotecnico of America.

Logan Neill can be reached at or (352) 848-1435.

If you go

A day in the park

The 2009 Nature Coast Freedom Fest is today at Florida Classic Park, 5360 Lockhart Road, east of Brooksville. Gates open at 3 p.m., and activities start at 3:30. General admission is $5 per person. Limited reserved seating is $25. Parking is $5. For information, call (352) 799-0687 or visit online at

Freedom Fest will feature country music's Rodney Atkins 07/02/09 [Last modified: Thursday, July 2, 2009 3:27pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Pinellas grants St. Pete's request to add millions to pier budget

    Local Government

    Times Staff Writer

    The Pinellas County Commission has granted St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman's request to dedicate millions more toward the city's new pier.

    The St. Petersburg City Council on Thursday  voted 7-1 to appropriate $17.6 million for the over-water portion of the Pier District. This is a rendering of what the new Pier District could look like. [Courtesy of St. Petersburg]
  2. Man injured when small helicopter crashes into Odessa home


    ODESSA — A small manned helicopter crashed into the roof of a house in northwest Hillsborough County on Monday, injuring a pilot, officials said.

    Rescuers respond to a crash of a small helicopter on the roof of a home in the Odessa area on Monday. [Hillsborough County Fire Rescue]
  3. State investigation cites multiple failures in death of Largo child


    LARGO — It was sweltering in the bedroom of the Largo mobile home the day a child welfare case manager visited in July.

    Liz Rutenbeck, 24, poses with her son William in a Facebook photo. Baby William Hendrickson IV died while his mother was in jail after police said his father left ihim in a sweltering room.  A state investigation into the boy's death found multiple failures on the part of the child welfare system.
  4. 'Siesta Key' star punched in face, not sure who did it


    TAMPA —Alex Kompothecras, cast member on MTV's reality show "Siesta Key," tells police he was punched in the face outside a bar in Tampa's SoHo district.

    Alex Kompothecras, Juliette Porter, Pauly Apostolides, Madisson Hausburg, Chloe Trautman, Garrett Miller, Kelsey Owens and Brandon Gomes pose for a photo in Siesta Key in June before the debut of the MTV reality series Siesta Key. [
EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times]
  5. Editorial: Senate health care bill would be disastrous for Florida


    The frantic effort by Senate Republicans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act with something — anything — ranks raw politics over sound policy and threatens the health care of millions of Floridians. It is a desperate attempt to declare victory by shifting responsibility from the federal government …

    Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks in August in Doral.