New festival to benefit disabled veterans July 2-3 at Warren County Fairgrounds

The Warren Sentinel

FRONT ROYAL — Country music icons Larry Gatlin and Jimmy Fortune, gospel singer Lisa Meadows and local folk rockers Scythian will headline the first-ever Virginia Freedom Festival, coming up Independence Day weekend at the Warren County Fairgrounds.

Proceeds from the two-day event on July 2 and 3 will go to four organizations dedicated to helping disabled veterans and VFW Post 1860, which lost its headquarters in a fire last year.

Ken Thurman, chairman of the Virginia Air Show's executive committee, said he helped to organize the event at the request of Warren County Supervisor Dan Murray and Bill Hammack, who wanted to do something that would help wounded and disabled veterans

"How can I say no to that? I'm retired Air Force myself," Thurman said.

Thurman said he also has worked with Able Forces, a local organization that helps handicapped veterans to find meaningful employment. It is one of the organizations that will receive proceeds from the event.

The show has been put together in a matter of about four months, said Thurman, who also helps to organize the Irish Spring Festival at the Front Royal Volunteer fire hall.

Thurman and his fellow organizers recruited enough musicians to fill the two-day schedule, with the main attractions taking the stage Sunday afternoon and evening.

Meadows, a renowned gospel singer who has appeared regularly on Virginia Public Television's "Shenandoah Jamboree," is scheduled to perform at 4 p.m.

Scythian, featuring Front Royal natives Alex and Dan Fedoryka, will follow her at 5:30. The band has some experience with multiple-day events like the Virginia Freedom Festival; it organized and headlined last year's Appaloosa Festival, held Labor Day weekend at the Skyline Ranch Resort and is working on this year's festival. Part of the proceeds from that festival also went to help VFW Post 1860.

Fortune, a Country Music Hall of Fame member as tenor for The Statler Brothers, is scheduled to perform at 7 p.m. He wrote some of the group's biggest hits of the 1980s, including its second No. 1 hit, "Elizabeth" and the top-10 hits "Forever" and "More Than a Name on the Wall." He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame with the rest of the Staunton-based group in 2008.

Gatlin, who gained fame in the 1970s with his brothers Steve and Rudy, has been performing for more than 60 years. He and his brothers charted 17 country top 10 hits, including the signature song, "All the Gold in California."

The Freedom Festival, of course, is about more than just music. It is about saluting service members and helping those who sacrificed their bodies in service of their country. Special opening and closing ceremonies are scheduled for each day. The opening ceremony at 12:30 p.m. Saturday will include a posting of the colors, invocation and red-tie tribute. The next day's closing ceremony, after Gatlin's performance, will include a benediction.

In addition to music, there will be a car show from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday that will include classics, modern production and kit cars and motorcycles, according to the event website,

There will be awards for the top 20 vehicles and best in show for each category.

Thurman said there will be lots of vendors and attractions for kids, including face painting.

His daughter, Holly, also will sell prints of one of her paintings, which features two soldiers under an American flag. The painting is featured on the event website. She will donate the proceeds of her sales to the beneficiary organizations, Thurman said.

More than two dozen local sponsors have contributed to help make the show a success, he said.

Advance tickets are on sale for individual days and available online at or at the Front Royal Visitors Center, 414 E. Main St. The early-bird prices are $15 for Saturday's lineup and $25 for Sunday's. A processing fee will apply to all online orders.

Gate prices will be $20 on Saturday and $30 on Sunday.

In keeping with the theme, active-duty service members will be admitted for free and veterans will be admitted for half price, Thurman said.

In addition to Able Forces and the local VFW post, proceeds will be donated to the Fisher House Foundation, which provides free lodging for family members of veterans receiving medical treatment; Habitat for Heroes and the Disabled American Veterans.

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