Freedom Fest draws hundreds to Ashland
New Jersey gym owner Ian Smith waits to speak at Freedom Fest 21.

Freedom Fest draws hundreds to Ashland

The recently-created Nebraska Freedom Coalition held its inaugural event, “Freedom Fest” over the weekend, bringing out four keynote speakers and 500–600 attendees to the ballroom at the Round the Bend Steakhouse in Ashland, Neb. The event was billed as a combination of “Woodstock and CPAC” by the organizers, which included local activists Malia Shirley, Tim Davis, and Allie French. Admission was $20 per guest, though children 12 and under were free, bringing many families with kids to the event. Food trucks with hot dogs and barbecue served guests in the fenced-in yard, while kids played in a bounce house as grown-ups threw axes during the hours before speakers took the stage.

Christian conservative rapper Bryson Gray gets the crowd going.

“Recently cancelled” radio host Chris Baker was the emcee for the event, and the speakers included school choice advocate Corey DeAngelis, Omaha chiropractor Ben Tapper, and New Jersey gym owner Ian Smith, who made headlines keeping his gym open during local Covid shutdowns. Smith in particular focused on local activism, telling the story of his gym fighting with local officials to stay open while encouraging attendees to work at the local level rather than the national level — “hoping for one guy to solve all our problems.”

The evening ended with a performance by Christian conservative rapper Bryson Gray, a clear favorite of many of the young folks in the audience. He rapped about Trump, vaccines, and January 6, and a handful of youngsters in the front sang along with him, clearly familiar with every verse. Michael B., a pastor from South Dakota, drove down just to see the rapper, who himself drove 12 hours from Tennessee (to avoid having to mask-up on a flight).

The first-time event appeared to be a success, in spite of EventBrite having cancelled ticket sales one week previously, and organizer Tim Davis said more people turned out than even he had initially expected.

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