For 50 years, the City of Decatur, Alabama has been proud to host the Spirit of America Festival and provide free, family entertainment to thousands of area residents in celebration of the 4th of July. The event annually places among the “Top 20 Events in the Southeast” by the Southeast Tourism Society for the month of July. In addition to children’s activities, entertainment, food, games, music, and fireworks, one of the defining activities of the festival is the annual Spirit of America Awards Ceremony in which special honorees receive awards commending their outstanding service and sacrifice for their county and their fellow man.
The Independence Day celebration kicks off on Friday evening, July 1st with a special V.I.P. ticket holder fundraising event. Here, sponsors and friends will enjoy heavy hors d’oeuvres and dancing from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Then, for the next three days, festivities continue with a Children’s Parade, family fun games and lots of entertainment. Food vendors and a Beer and Wine Garden Area will be on site for your convenience. On Monday, July 4th, the excitement builds and does not disappoint with our popular Awards Ceremony which begins with the VETERANS walk. We urge ALL veterans to be at the Ice Rink area (across from the field no later than 7 p.m.) and participate in the festivals Veterans WALK that will begin at 8:00 p.m. on the 4th of July. Also if you want to carry a sign in honor of a loved one that passed you are welcome to participate. The awards show will celebrate patriotism, talent, and the true beauty of the American spirit as we honor the recipients of three awards. Our famous fireworks show will begin at approximately 9:45 p.m. and will be followed by an nationally acclaimed singer and CMT star, Kassie Miller.
The festival began in 1967 during the height of the Vietnam War amid rising protest as a way to show community support to the fighting men and women of the Armed Services. In keeping with the patriotic theme of the event, an award was created to honor someone who best exemplifies the American spirit. The award’s first recipient was Audie Murphy, who tragically died only weeks before he was to receive this honor. The award was then designated as the “Audie Murphy Patriotism Award.” The “Barrett C. Shelton Freedom Award” was added in 1980. In 2015, a new award, the “Bill Duke Community Award” will be introduced.
In 1984, the Spirit of America festival was honored to have President Ronald Reagan as a guest and speaker at the awards ceremony. Reagan reminded the huge crowd gathered that “This is a wonderful time to be alive. And we’re so lucky because as a people, we still have the opportunity to be patriots, and as a nation, we still stand for something.”
The festival’s mission is to “promote the spirit of American Patriotism by the staging of the annual Spirit of America Celebration in Decatur, Alabama.” This family-friendly event honors the contributions of those Americans, both past and present, who have dedicated their lives to the preservation of our freedoms both at home and abroad.
Through the leadership of a volunteer board of directors and with the generous support of private, governmental and corporate contributions, the Spirit of America Festival will maintain high quality standards for all activities associated with the free annual event.