By Aleah M. Castrejon | Mountaineer editor
FORT CARSON, Colo. — After more than a year, Soldiers and their Families couldn’t have been happier to come together to celebrate Independence Day during the Freedom Fest July 2, 2021, at Iron Horse Park on Fort Carson, Colorado. The event concluded the Ivy Week celebrations, where units across the installation competed in various tournaments.
While the “Iron Horse” Division has an illustrious history that dates back to 1917, it wasn’t until 1977, that Ivy Week was created, however, at the time it was named “Week of the Ironhorse.”
The event became a large part of the division’s history and units compete to show they are the best by racking up points all to win the Commander’s Cup. The cup is awarded to the best overall team, this year Soldiers with 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, were the winners of Ivy Week 2021 with 19 points.
With the physical competitions over, the Soldiers, Families and community were ready to end the week with a bang.
While past Freedom Fest events spanned an entire weekend and included carnival rides, this year looked a bit different, as most things have, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation (DFMWR) staff worked to make this year’s festival just as entertaining for the Fort Carson community. The festival included bounce houses, electronic bull riding, decked out historical figures walking the park grounds and the evening ended with a massive display of fireworks. The event included various entertainers including Logan Mize, Johnny McGuire, Ashlee and the Longshot Revival and Joe Nichols.
Col. Nate Springer, commander, U.S. Army Garrison Fort Carson, introduced headliner, Joe Nichols and thanked him for being a military supporter. After more than a year of not being able to gather, Springer gave thanks to the DFMWR and many others for their hard work for making the Freedom Fest a success.
Soldiers were thrilled to be back in the hustle and bustle of the crowds, too.
Spc. Colby Shaffer, 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, who volunteered to keep the festival clean, said he was excited to see people out and rebuilding connections with the friends, family and the public again.
“I’m loving people being able to get back out in the community, and actually get together and enjoy life,” Shaffer said.
As the community pulls out from the pandemic, Shaffer said he was slightly worried that the 4th of July celebration would be canceled.
“But a lot of people seem to be pretty good at getting their vaccines,” he said.
The event afforded families an opportunity to reunite with friends and enjoy family time in a way that was restricted for so long.
“We are just really thrilled and happy that this went on as scheduled and just facilitate an opportunity for everybody just to really be together and support one another,” said Kaci McCarley, spouse of Capt. Chris McCarley, chaplain, 4th Engineer Battalion. “Happy Independence Day, stay safe and enjoy your family time.”
McCarley said she, her husband and five children decided they were not going to miss out on this year’s Freedom Fest.
“We are going to hang out with friends,” she said. “It feels amazing, it is so good just to celebrate the Fourth (of July) with everyone together, especially with our service members and their Families.”