Columbiana celebrates 31st Liberty Day

COLUMBIANA – Thousands of people visited Columbiana to join the city in celebrating its 31st annual Liberty Day on the evening of Friday, June 23 and all day on Saturday, June 24.

Columbiana Mayor Stancil Handley said Liberty Day is a celebration of the Statue of Liberty’s birthday. While some people expected Liberty Day to be a one-time event when it was first started in 1986, Handley said he is proud to have seen Liberty Day become a local tradition that attracts visitors from all over the state of Alabama.

“For a while, it went long and gained some momentum, but it was still just a local thing. As it got bigger and more known, we increased the number of vendors and increased the entertainment,” Handley said. “It’s a tremendous event where people come all over the state to enjoy it.”

Liberty Day has always featured a parade, live entertainment, fireworks and vendors. This year, the city added a Heart Walk for the American Heart Association, a hot dog eating contest, a patriotic dog show and a car show.

Handley said he was proud to have Columbiana native Erskine Bentley II as the grand marshal of this year’s parade.

“He is a local hero. He spent his adult life defending our liberty. Is he the perfect person to be the grand marshal? Of course he is,” Handley said.

While many cities have fireworks displays during this time of year, Handley said Liberty Day is a unique event because of its size and location.

“It’s a street festival. We can close Main Street all day, and we do,” Handley said. “People can come here and stroll up and down Main Street and have a good time.”

Although this year’s Liberty Day started off slowly because of the rain, city of Columbiana marketing director Elizabeth Smith said she was happy to see a high turnout in spite of the weather.

Columbiana resident Brenda Moore, who has gone to all 31 Liberty Day celebrations, said she has seen firsthand how the event has grown over the years and how it benefits the community.

“When it first started, it was really small. More and more things have been added each year,” Moore said. “People come here for fellowship and to see people we haven’t seen in a while. It brings the community together.”

Sterrett resident Justin Wardlaw said he was enjoying his first visit to Liberty Day.

“There’s a lot of good food and a lot of good people,” Wardlaw said.

According to Smith, the city is planning to incorporate some of this year’s new attractions into the next Liberty Day.

“We feel the hot dog eating contest and the patriotic dog costume contest were both a success, and we plan to repeat them next year,” Smith said.

Handley said Smith was instrumental in making this year’s Liberty Day a success. Smith also credited the many sponsors that made Liberty Day possible.

Handley said that Liberty Day served as a reminder that liberty is not free.

“We are mindful that our liberty is earned. We need to pause sometimes and recognize that fact,” Handley said.