By Aila Boyd
aboyd@ourvalley.org

New Freedom Farm, located in Buchanan, is set to hold its second annual Freedom Rocks Fest this Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The event is billed as being “bigger and better” than last year, with the focus on honoring veterans and gathering for a day of music, food and fun.

Admission to the event is $10, including access to the concert and one raffle ticket. All proceeds from the “family event” go to benefit New Freedom Farm.

Scott Helmer, a singer-songwriter, talk radio host, and Guinness World Record holder, is among the scheduled performers. On Saturday, he will be performing his “One-Man Rock & Country Music Show” as part of his year-long charity concert tour aimed at helping equine-assisted activity and therapy organizations across the country raise money and awareness.

The bands The Fishers and On Common Ground will also be performing.

Bim Gardiner, the drummer and vocals for On Common Ground, said that the band is particularly looking forward to the “dry nice weather.” He went on to explain that he views Freedom Rocks Fest as a “good time for a good cause.”

The band will be performing a variety of music from classic rock to modern country, to dance. On Common Ground is comprised of five members.

Lois Fritz, the founder of New Freedom Farms, explained that the idea for Freedom Rocks Fest grew out of the annual open house that the farm held.

I hope to bring awareness to how people suffer with invisible wounds,” she said. “If we save one veteran that day by bringing awareness, then that makes the second year all worth it.”

Although the weather was not very cooperative last year, Fritz said, 817 people attended the event. She’s expecting more this year and is anxiously monitoring weather reports. Luckily, she said, it’s supposed to be in the 70s— “perfect weather” —on Saturday.

Last year, a Vietnam veteran from North Carolina hitchhiked to the event after hearing about it. This year, Fritz said, she’s expecting people from as far away as Mississippi to be in attendance.

Since last year’s Freedom Rocks Fest the farm has added its own color guard, with US Navy veteran Roger Clites serving as the sergeant at arms.

Unlike last year, Jason Hogancamp is now the co-director of New Freedom Farm.

Hogancamp explained that the comradery that Freedom Rocks Fest facilitates between veterans and the community is truly meaningful. “It’s a good way for the community to see that veterans are of use and not just for combat zones,” he said. He added that the event shows veterans that both the farm and community are there to support them.

While speaking about Korean and Vietnam War veterans, Hogancamp said, “This gives them an opportunity to get the support that they haven’t always gotten in the past.”

On a personal level, Hogancamp said that New Freedom Farm has provided him with a stable and welcoming community from which he has been able to work through some of his experiences in order to live a more fulfilling life.

The schedule for the event is as follows:

Gates open at 11 a.m.

The Fishers perform from 12 to 2 p.m.

The opening ceremony with participations including New Freedom Farm’s color guard, veterans, and mustangs will take place at 2 p.m. Iraq War veteran Brian Moore, a Purple Heart recipient and author, is expected to take part in the ceremony. April 6 is the anniversary of the date in which an explosion injured him and killed eight of his fellow soldiers.

Scott Helmer will perform from 2:30 to 5 p.m.

On Common Ground will perform from 5 to 8 p.m.

There will be a “huge” silent auction and guitar giveaway. The guitar will be donated by Helmer and will have been used during the concert.

Commemorative T-shirts will be available with the New Freedom Farm and Rolling Thunder logos on them. There will also be over 100 vendors in attendance.

Representatives from the Veterans Administration and the Combat Veteran Motorcycle Association will be in attendance.

Rolling Thunder NJ-2 president Charlie Webster is also scheduled to attend.

New Freedom Farm, consisting of 13 acres and 19 equines, was founded in Buchanan in 2016 by US Navy veteran Lois Fritz. She cites the relief that spending time with horses provided her with as the reason behind her decision to open the nonprofit organization.

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