Columbiana’s Liberty Day weekend sees large turnout

Published 12:08 pm Friday, July 1, 2022

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By MEG HERNDON | Staff Writer

COLUMBIANA – Ali Payne said it was hard to tell if this year’s 36th annual Liberty Day was the largest yet because of the sheer size of the festival.

What originally started as a celebration of the Statue of Liberty 36 years ago, Liberty Day took place from June 24-25 throughout the town and has become a staple event for many locals.

Despite a short lightning delay before the fireworks show Saturday night, the festival went smoothly.

“It was a good day,” said Payne, who is Columbiana’s manager of community affairs. “I think everybody had a lot of fun.”

The day featured food trucks, 130 vendors, a hotdog eating contest, a parade, a car show, a 5K, live concerts from Mark AD, Rhythm Nation, Hannah Ellis, Muscadine Bloodline, a fireworks show and more.

“Everybody has their favorite part of Liberty Day,” Payne said. “Some people love the mornings and the vendors. Some people are just die-hard parade people and their favorite part of the whole event is the parade, and some people feel that way about the fireworks. I think everybody has their different idea of what the best part is.”

Saturday, June 25 started with a bang at the festival’s second annual 5K. The race was a fundraiser for Columbiana Main Street, which was in charge of the event.

This year, 156 participants signed up for the race, 48 more than the previous year.

“It was good,” said Race Director Joel Dixon. “It was hot but (there was) lots of positive feedback, lots of people, both in terms of people bringing their families to cheer but also that were there for Liberty Day. It’s another layer to what makes Liberty Day such a fun day, and we’re thankful to have lots of people and a lot of visitors from outside of Columbiana get to see our city.”

The race raised more than $2,000 for Main Street, which will eventually be used toward revitalization efforts.

In addition to the record-breaking amount of participants, another record was broken during the race.

David Waide, who ran in the 5K, broke the state record for the 50-54 male age range with a time of 17:59.

Dixon said that they are already planning for next year’s race and thinking about things they can do differently. For example, he mentioned debuting a prize for the most patriotic costume and recognizing the participant who traveled the farthest to participate.

“Runners in general and running events are very community-oriented, and they’re super supportive whether you’re running a 15-minute time or whether you’re running a 45-minute time,” Dixon said. “People just cheer, and its positive, and it’s a great event. I love putting them on.”

Dixon said he would like to thank everyone who made the 5K possible, including local police, Sasha Johns, Ali Payne and all the volunteers who gave their time and energy into helping with the event.

Later Saturday morning, the Great American Hotdog Eating Contest was held on Main Street. Reigning champion Jeremy Dixon took home first place. Dixon also won the competition the previous year in 2021.

The Liberty Day Parade took place at noon on Saturday and featured many local faces such as the Mr. and Miss Liberties from the Liberty Day Pageant and the Wilsonville, Columbiana and Fourmile fire departments.

The night ended with a headline show from Muscadine Bloodline and a fireworks show.

Muscadine Bloodline was received very well by the crowd despite the sporadic showers. Payne said the group was popular among the younger crowd and have a big following. Payne also praised the group on how nice they were and said they stayed after their set to sign autographs and take pictures until closer to midnight.

Payne said that they’re already thinking about things they can carry over from this year to next year and things they want to introduce.

One thing that was a success this year was the shuttle, which Payne said helped with guests navigating and moving around in the heat.

“Anything we do, we’ll just do it better next year,” Payne said “That’s always our philosophy. We’ll do it bigger and better next year.”