Loads of fun was to be had in downstate New York on the Independence Day weekend at the America the Beautiful Festival—the first of what’s expected to be an annual celebration of freedom and patriotism.
Spanning two afternoons and evenings, the festival converged on the main stage where attendees savored a lineup of classic rock, folk, and most of all, country performances, including Danny Griego, Keith Anderson, Julie Roberts, and Allen Mack Myers Moore.
Enhancing the atmosphere were musket and sword demonstrations, including the Town Crier announcing “the regulars are coming.”
Despite weather forecasts of thunderstorms and a haze of smoke from Canadian forest fires, the event went off without a hitch. Serendipitously, dark rain clouds parted just over the venue on Sunday afternoon, granting the attendees a chance to fully enjoy the holiday weekend.
As a final act, vocalist Mika Hale performed a soul-stirring rendition of America the Beautiful. Just as the audience erupted in applause, a magnificent fireworks display lit up the sky.
More than just a pleasant family outing, though, the festival offered a deeper meaning of togetherness, family values, and the importance of freedom.
“Freedom means everything to me,” said Griego, whose heartfelt songs made him a Billboard Top 10 Recording Artist.
“I think that freedom is overlooked by Americans in this country, by people who were born here,” he said, comparing the attitude to the appreciation for freedom he’s seen in people who’ve fled oppression under socialism or communism.
“You can’t get much worse than that, right? Those things were a war on God,” he said.
“Our country was set up on the foundations and principles of Christianity and the Constitution is everything, because it protects our individual liberties and our freedoms. And if we lose those, in this country, not only will America fall, the world would fall.”
Griego’s appreciation for America’s core values blossomed through hardship.
When he was in college, working his way toward a law degree, his interests were rather materialistic, he said.
“You’re out there doing your own thing and trying to get ahead,” he said.
Then, during a camping trip in Arizona, he was struck by lightning.
“It stopped my heart, and then when I came to, the end result was a few things: I had a paralyzed right arm and I had to rehab my hands to get my motor skills back,” he said.
The incident made him reflect.
“It gets you reaching out and looking up and wondering why you’re here. And it changed everything,” he said.
To help the rehabilitation, his neurosurgeon recommended he learn guitar. And so he did. Soon, he was coming up with song ideas. He discovered music as both a career and a calling.
“My music, you know, it’s to heal people’s hearts with music,” he said.
His special passion is to help veterans. He runs a charity that provides equine therapy to veterans with PTSD as well as special needs children.
For those who may feel down about the current state of the country, he stressed faith and efforts to overcome differences.
“This is the United States of America because we’re supposed to stand united. Eagles need both wings to fly straight. They need a right wing and a left wing. So if we hold together and stand fast, and not get sucked into some of the propaganda out there and the fakeness that you watch on your mainstream television and you follow your heart and your God, and you stay together and love your brother, we will not fall in this country.”
Anderson shared some of the same sentiments.
“I just grew up with an amazing mom and dad, and strong Christian faith,” he said. “They just always taught me to tell the truth, be honest, and, you know, don’t hate, just love.”
Political views never played much of a role, he recalled.
“The only solid beliefs we had was what the Bible taught us—love, peace, faith, understanding—those kinds of things.”
Through his successful career, he found honesty key to songwriting.
“I found out quickly that you can write any song you want, but if you’re not writing from the place that you’ve lived, a place of honesty, a place of truth, writing things you know about, then you’re not going to fool anybody,” he said. “You can sing all you want, but if you’re not writing the song that you know, then there’s no need to write it.”
He appreciates that America gives him the freedom to choose his faith.
“There are a lot of places, if you don’t live in America, you don’t have a choice, you have to believe what they tell you to believe,” he said.
“One thing I love about America is I’m afforded the opportunity to choose whatever I want, choose the path that I want to do as a career, choose the religion I want—Christianity—choose my beliefs and stand strong on them and nobody’s going to take it away from me.”
Roberts said she learned her love for her country from her late father, a U.S. Air Force veteran.
“It just was a natural ingrained thing to me because I was around it. And I saw him—how proud he was.”
She said music can play a role in bridging some divides between Americans.
“I think music connects us all,” she said.
What draws her to country music in particular is its authenticity.
“It’s about life. It’s real stories,” she said.
Griego seconded that opinion.
“It’s the story of the people,” he said.
For Zach Myers, of Shinedown and Allen Mack Myers Moore, freedom is not just about having a choice.
“Freedom is a state of mind also,” he said.
People need to disentangle themselves from many of the outside manipulations, often coming through our electronic devices and sources of information.
“There are so many owned sources that can twist it and bend it however they want. So, news is a weird word now,” he said.
America can weather the storm, he suggested, if Americans place greater trust in each other rather than politicians and politics.
“I think America as an idea is a great thing. And we’ve gone in other ways at times, but I think the idea of this country is still one of the greatest ideas ever,” he said.
America the Beautiful festival was put on by The Epoch Times and New Century Festivals.
From The Epoch Times