JANESVILLE—Rock County’s most well-attended one-day event could get even bigger this year.
New Life Assembly of God’s Freedom Fest is taking a page from the biblical miracle of the loaves and fishes and greatly expanding the goods and services it will offer the needy during the June 30 festival.
Most stunning in this expansion of the fest’s “Day of Compassion” is the food giveaway. Instead of 500 bags of groceries, organizers plan 5,000.
Parents and kids might also rejoice at another effort: free children’s shoes. Up to 15,000 pairs are expected to be distributed.
Free haircuts, family portraits, healthful smoothies, minor dental and medical services, and employment counseling that will include a professionally edited resume are among the services offered.
Mercyhealth will be there again, offering on-site services. The local health care provider will be joined by doctors from the William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital in Madison.
The VA heard about Freedom Fest from New Life Assembly of God pastor Jason Karampatsos’ father-in-law, who was talking to his VA doctor during an appointment. The doctor told him to wait a minute, brought another doctor into the conversation, and the result is the VA offering suicide-related services to veterans at the fest.
The impressive offerings for the needy are due in large part to ideas from Convoy of Hope, a faith-based humanitarian organization that works worldwide, notably during natural disasters.
Karampatsos noted Convoy of Hope has provided groceries at Freedom Fest for years, but this time the organization is making the festival one of its national events. It holds about 24 such events each year.
Local donations pay for all the food, Karampatsos said.
The Day of Compassion services will be offered from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. People will be able to get tickets for the groceries, enjoy the carnival, and then pick up the food as they leave, by 2 p.m., which is a new procedure, Karampatsos said.
Those receiving services will be welcomed and respected, Karampatsos said, adding, “We call them our guests of honor.”
Groceries always ran out in past years, “so we knew we needed to do more,” Karampatsos said.
Karampatsos said he doesn’t expect that to happen this year, but then again, it’s impossible to tell.
Nationally touring Christian music artists will begin performing at 3:30 p.m. This year’s headliner is Plumb, a woman described as having an “otherworldly voice” and a gift for songwriting.
Plumb has been in the business for years. Karampatsos said when he and his wife were in college, Plumb was their favorite artist.
The second-to-last act, We Are The Messengers, is probably equal to Plumb in popularity, Karampatsos said. The only reason Plumb got top billing was because We Are The Messengers had to leave early for another gig, he said.
All four acts are likely to draw visitors to the free concerts in Janesville, Karampatsos said.
The star of the day, for many, will be the fireworks. The display, shot from a farm field across from the church on Highway 14, has been impressive in past years.
The event seems a monumental task, and Karampatsos said about 1,000 volunteers along with 12 local churches and lots of donations make it happen.