Two country music groups took to the stage Friday night in support of Jacksonville area military veterans.
Helping to raise funds and entertain the crowd at the third annual Freedom Festival at the Morgan County Fairgrounds were Madd Hoss Jackson of Mount Sterling and nationally known Trailer Choir, best known for its Top 10 hit "Rockin' the Beer Gut."
"We've used our proceeds from previous Freedom Festivals to support our local military veterans," said Jim Duncan, commander of Jacksonville AMVETS Post 100 and facilitator of the VET-2-VET program, which was founded about five years ago to assist military veterans in finding jobs and to help them with Veterans Administration issues and reintegration into civilian life.
"This year, the primary purpose of the proceeds will be to support area veterans' transportation costs for VA appointments," he said.
Duncan added that Friday's weather was a vast improvement over the cold and rainy conditions the event had last year, which contributed to a smaller turnout.
"We were fortunate that the weather was beautiful," he said. "We've had a lot of support from our sponsors, particularly Sarah Hautala at WJVO. We thank everybody for supporting our efforts to help our local heroes."
Hautala, who is general manager of local radio stations WJIL-WJVO, said the stations are always happy to help veterans.
"WJVO has always been very proactive in supporting our men and women in uniform," she said. "Three years ago, we saw a need to help generate funds for our local veterans organizations, so we teamed up with some great people and businesses, including Mike Mason of Mason Sound, Rage Revolta Lighting and A. Gaudio & Sons, and put together a festival to help celebrate our men and women in uniform and raise money for them.
"We do this event every year, not only to raise funds, but to show our appreciation for our military servicemen and women."
Hautala said this was the third straight year that Madd Hoss Jackson has played at the Freedom Festival.
"They are a favorite band in the area," she said. "We are honored to work with everybody involved for such a noble cause," Madd Hoss Jackson drummer Jim Jennings of Mount Sterling said.
Hautala said organizers were lucky to get Trailer Choir to perform at the Freedom Festival. "They have had some popular country songs that appeal to many music fans," she said.
"Holding events like this is a good thing," AMVETS Post 100 Junior Vice Commander Ron Howard of Jacksonville said. "There are a lot of servicemen and women out there, and many of them suffer from physical injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder. And it's not just those coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan, it's veterans from all conflicts who are suffering in one way or another. Events like this help all veterans who need to get to treatment."