Military Families In NWA Enjoy A Festival Just For Them

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The third annual Freedom Fest took place Saturday at the Pinnacle Hills Promenade in Rogers to show appreciation for Northwest Arkansas' military men, women and families.

The event kicked off with a competitive 5K run that was exclusive to military personnel. Organizer Jody Bergstrom said there were 12 teams competing made up of 10 soldiers each. She said over 300 people came out to support the men and women as they competed over a traveling trophy and ,of course, bragging rights.

From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. the area in front of Malco at the mall was open to the public for free family fun. The area had bouncy houses and face painting for the kids and booths with resources for military members.

Bergstrom is a military spouse and has helped organize this event for the past three years.

"It's them that have set the footprint for us to walk in, and we are proud to walk in that footprint," Bergstrom said.

She said it's important for servicemen and women to know that they are appreciated.

"It truly is a community event, so it gives our community the opportunity to say thank you to those that have served or are serving," Bergstrom said.

Military kids were able to play on the bouncy houses, get their faces painted and take a pony ride. Military mom Amanda Ballard said it's important for the kids to get to know each other.

"The kids get to make new friends that will have something in common, so that really ties them together and gives them experiences they can both relate to," Ballard said.

She said as a military spouse, events like Freedom Fest helps her forget about some of the hardships of the military lifestyle.

"When you're out with your family you tend to forget about the harder times," Ballard said," Like when your spouse is deployed or a family member is having a good time really gives you time to forget, and sometimes it's nice to be able to forget for a little while and just have a good time."

The Freedom Fest finished a fun-filled day with a first-ever Brew Fest for adults. Five local breweries brought beers for people to try. Seven restaurants also brought samples out for visitors to enjoy. The cost of a ticket was $4 and the price included one beverage.