* What: Freedom Festival.
* When: 5-11 p.m. today.
* Where: LaFayette Municipal Park Recreation Center, 638 S. Main St., LaFayette, Ga.
* Admission: Free.
* Phone: 706-639-1590.
Back when the city of LaFayette, Ga., began what is now called its Freedom Festival, the country was only 200 years old.
Now, as the United States prepares to celebrate its 236th birthday, the town's annual event -- set for tonight at the Municipal Park Recreation Center -- is in its fourth decade.
The festival began in 1976 as a Bicentennial celebration, according to city Recreation Department administrative assistant Deborah Stoner. The first town get-together offered watermelon and Coca-Colas, she said.
This year, the festival includes entertainment by headliner Johnny Cash Now (8 p.m.); the Music City Brass (6:30 p.m.) and Dancers@Heart (7:30 p.m.), a line-dancing group.
In addition, the evening features a free swim at the city pool (7-9 p.m.), an old-timers softball game (7 p.m.), three-on-three basketball games (7 p.m.). A variety of food vendors, children's games and activities also will be available, such as a bungee jump, mechanical bull and inflatables, and, of course, fireworks (10:15 p.m.).
The four-person Johnny Cash Now show not only re-creates hits by the late Man in Black but also includes music made famous by Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, June Carter and The Tennessee Three, the original backing band for Cash.
Stoner said the headliner should resonate with LaFayette residents, given Cash's past in Walker County. It was near LaFayette, according to Cash histories, where he was arrested in 1967 as an intoxicated prowler.
After the singer spent the night in jail, Sheriff Ralph Jones, a Cash fan, let him go with a warning about his wasted potential. Cash later termed the moment "the turning point of it all" and, in 1970, did a concert in front of 12,000 people in the town.
The Music City Brass, formed in 1969, has been nominated for Dove and Horizon awards, has made more than 15 recordings and has performed with artists such as Kenny Rogers, Porter Wagoner and Travis Tritt.
Contact Clint Cooper at email@example.com or 423-757-6497. Subscribe to his posts online at Face book.com/ClintCooperCTFP.