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Freedom Fest

Motorcycles, music and more for a cause

Freedom Fest is back at Littleton venue, with a focus on thanking vets


Motorcycles, metal bands and good times are on tap for the third annual Freedom Fest, a day-long event in Littleton to thank and help America's military veterans.

Eight bands will rock the Platte River Bar & Grill, 5995 S. Santa Fe Drive, on June 17, including returning headliner Warrant. The day opens with a motorcycle show, followed by a ride to Evergreen and back.

Proceeds from the event support the American Soldier Network, a California-based nonprofit that works to help veterans tackle psychological and emotional issues.

Organizers are hoping for upward of 4,000 attendees, up from around 3,000 last year. Tickets are $30 in advance or $35 at the door. Free parking will be provided across Santa Fe Drive at Arapahoe Community College, and free shuttle buses will carry attendees across the busy roadway.

For Freedom Fest organizer Dean Gary, of Castle Rock, the event is a way to give back to people who have already given so much.

“I've got men and women who would take a bullet for me, who don't know me, and I don't think I've got a friend who would do that,” Gary said. “The normal thank-yous to a vet are one thing, but I want people to come out, look a vet in the eye, and hug them, man. Say thank you in a way you never have. Listen to some music, have a beer, but have a day where that gratitude resonates in your heart.”

Though Gary never served in the military, he says he feels indebted to veterans, and he funds Freedom Fest largely out of pocket.

“I’m just a local Realtor, dude,” Gary said. “I don’t have a ton of money, but what I do have goes back to this cause.”

American Soldier Network founder Annie Nelson will be on hand to help roll out the newest incarnation of the group's "I Choose To Live" oath, which encourages veterans to swear not to take their own lives — an effort to address what she describes as an epidemic of veteran suicides. Nearly 20 veterans took an earlier version of the oath at last year's event.

“When these veterans took the oath to serve their country, they took that oath for life,” Nelson said. “They don't stop abiding by that oath when they hang up their uniform. If you talk to any veteran, that oath means something.”

Nelson said her group's partnership with Freedom Fest was a natural fit.

“You can't walk away from the event without knowing you've impacted lives,” Nelson said. “So many veterans come to the event and get that feeling of warmth and gratitude and acceptance and pride. It's so strong there.”

The connection between veterans and motorcycles is an enduring one, Nelson said.

“The motorcycle is a way veterans reconnect,” Nelson said. “It's how they get their brotherhood back.”

The event has grown substantially since its first year, when about 1,800 people came to the Douglas County Fairgrounds in Castle Rock. Gary moved the event to the Platte River Bar & Grill last year after he says he was struck by the venue's beauty and tranquility.

“It's one of the last non-pretentious bars on this side of the city,” said Christian Coulter, Platte River's marketing director. “It's not even blue-collar. It's no-collar.”

The City of Littleton has worked closely with organizers to ensure the event is safe and secure, said city spokeswoman Kelli Narde.

“We urge people to be careful, and utilize the free parking at the college and the shuttle buses,” Narde said. “Please don't try to cross Santa Fe at any time of the day or night.”

Six Littleton police officers and two supervisors will be on site, and Coulter said additional security will be provided by dozens of former Navy SEALs.

“The event largely polices itself,” Coulter said. “Last year we had every motorcycle club on site — Diablos, Sons of Silence, Hell's Angels — and everyone left their club colors on their bikes. It's so military-driven. Everyone remembers why they're here.”


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