Annual Freedom Festival brings Beaches community together


Independence Day may have ended, but for residents of Jacksonville’s Beaches communities, the celebration of the American spirit carried on Saturday, July 14 for the annual Beaches Freedom Festival.

Held at the Seawalk Pavilion in Jacksonville Beach, the free event was well attended — sparking the interest of thousands on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter — and benefited several local veteran organizations, including Warfighters in Arms; Project Hero; 1st Platoon Jacksonville; the Women’s Army Corps Veterans’ Association, Chapter 56; and Florida 4 Warriors.

The musical lineup for the event included South Point, Zander, Ramona, The Band Be Easy, The Supervillains and Sidereal, and other forms of entertainment included food trucks, bounce houses, a hot-dog-eating contest, a cornhole tournament and more. Local vendors were also well-represented, offering free swag to the visitors who stopped by their tents.

“We have a lot of beach stuff that we give away for fun,” said Madeline Nguyen, a local Geico agent who attracted a sizable crowd to her tent. “Customers love to come and spin the wheel, and anybody who stops by can get a free popsicle or water.”

Nguyen estimated that her team had given away roughly 500 popsicles and bottles of water in addition to prizes such as beach balls, pool floats, hats and cups. Having recently opened a new agency at 10150 Beach Blvd., she added that the Freedom Festival offered her and her staff the perfect opportunity to get involved in their local community.

“Geico is known for its website, but a lot of people like to go into the office and deal in-person, so being local is a big deal,” she said. “Most of the relationship-seekers want to come in and talk to us and have a face-to-face conversation, so this event is great exposure for us. It brings us into the community, so people get to know that we’re local, we’re here to help and, hopefully, we can save some customers money on their insurance.”