Rice-Eccles to host 'Freedom Blast'
Ex-Provo organizers say event became too political
The Rice-Eccles Stadium will host a new Fourth of July celebration this year the Freedom Blast, with Kelly Clarkson, the Salt Lake Scots bagpipes, skydivers and 800 dancers.
Producer John Whittaker, who has been involved with Stadium of Fire for the past 25 years, said he developed the Freedom Blast as an antidote for the Provo event, which he believes has become too political. "We are going to stay away from politics," he promised.
The Huntsman Cancer Institute will receive part of the proceeds from the event, which will be held in the stadium on Saturday, July 2. Ticket prices range from $15 to $35, and will go on sale March 18 at 10 a.m. through www.utahtickets.com or by calling 801-581-8849.
Whittaker, who was also the senior production manager for the 2002 Winter Games, said he is looking forward to bringing a fireworks-and-music production back to the University of Utah. It's been two years since the U. hosted a Fourth of July show (after the Red Hot Fourth celebration moved to the USANA Amphitheater).
"We have a lot of fun and exciting things planned for the event," Whittaker said during a news conference held at the Point Restaurant in the Huntsman Cancer Institute on Friday. "Kelly Clarkson, the original American Idol, will headline the event that will include Bill Brown High Dive Team, skydivers and a BMX bike team."
The fireworks will also be exceptional, according to Whittaker. "Pyro Spectacular, who did the opening and closing ceremonies for the 2002 Winter Games, are working in conjunction with Fireworks West. They've arranged for the fireworks to be made in the state for the event."
Whittaker said that he and his wife, Sheri, left Stadium of Fire after 25 years because they wanted to produce a Fourth of July celebration that would appeal to everyone. "These past few years the Stadium of Fire became very political. Sheri and I left because it was getting too conservative."
Last year, the Stadium of Fire featured outspoken right-wing activist Sean Hannity and the music of country star Toby Keith. "Freedom Blast will cut down on the political speeches and focus on having a great time celebrating the birthday of our country," said Whittaker.
Julie Webb, choreographer for Freedom Blast, said she is looking for 800 dancers of all levels to participate in the production. Interested dancers should e-mail Webb at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"We are going to divide them up into groups cheerleading, drill teams, jazz dancing and specialty dance," Webb said. "They will be dancing while Kelly is singing. Once I get e-mails from dancers who want to participate, I will e-mail them the information they need to become part of the program."Mark Burk from Rice-Eccles stadium said he would like Freedom Blast to become an annual tradition. "We have been waiting for a good July event and have a high level of confidence in the Whittakers," said Burk. "This is something that needs to be represented in our region."
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