Perspectives: A festival that succeeded thanks to its detractors

Bryan Hyde addresses "Western Freedom Festival" in Cedar City, Utah, Oct. 24, 2015 | Photo by Nathan Cowlishaw courtesy of Bryan Hyde, St. George News
Bryan Hyde addresses “Western Freedom Festival” in Cedar City, Utah, Oct. 24, 2015 | Photo by Nathan Cowlishaw courtesy of Bryan Hyde, St. George News

OPINION – Sometimes a bit of controversy can be a good thing.

This certainly appears to have been the case regarding last weekend’s “Western Freedom Festival” in Cedar City.

Detractors, who put great effort into trying to conjure up media controversy regarding the festival, ended up giving it a great deal of free publicity.

This publicity reached a number of people who otherwise might never have heard of the event, prompting them to come and see if it was as egregious as they’d been told. What they found instead was a genuine, nonpartisan gathering of people from many walks of life who still value freedom and common sense.

The festival and conference was first conceived as an educational event to honor, respect and pledge continued support to preserving the lifestyle, heritage, family values and freedom of the American West.

It began with the “Legacy of Freedom Conference” held in the festival hall at Cedar City’s Heritage Center. It kicked off with a panel discussion on outdoor recreation featuring representatives from state and national parks as well as tourism officials.

Participants then had the option of attending a series of presentations regarding federalism, public lands, the proper role of government and constitutional limits, environmental policy, sound money and personal freedom.

A lunchtime panel discussion examined the necessity of sustaining agriculture.

From the very first panel discussion to the final presentation that afternoon, the conference rooms were packed and overflow seating had to be opened up several times.

Attendees ranged from young mothers and fathers with babies in their arms to retired couples and everything in between.

The day finished up with a performance by country music star Darryl Worley that drew thousands of enthusiastic concertgoers to the SUU Centrum.

For the county commissioners and others who helped organize the event, it was a very satisfying success. No local event of this type had been attempted before and the zealous intensity of opposition to the festival was wildly disproportionate.

What was it about the talk of freedom that made festival opponents come unhinged?

Perhaps it’s the realization that free, confident people are less likely to consent to giving others unlimited control over their lives. People with moral clarity are more capable of properly examining the policies mandated by bureaucracies both near and far away.

They understand that their natural rights originate with their Creator and not from man-made government. This means that there are limits on government power and therefore our rights are not subject to the will of the human collective.

Naturally, this infuriates those agents of the status quo who live to dominate others via government.

But the handful of activists opposed to the freedom festival couldn’t refute the case for limited government, property rights, and personal freedom. Instead, they did their best to politicize the event.

They bamboozled the Iron County School District with inflated concerns about using children singing patriotic songs as political pawns — even as they shamelessly treated the kids as political pawns.

Promoting a vast conspiracy that would have had John Birch Society members rolling their eyes, opponents falsely accused various presenters at the festival of being funded by the Koch brothers.

In desperation, the festival’s detractors dug up old photos of Darryl Worley from a Playgirl magazine photo shoot to discourage people from attending a concert performed by a professional musician who apparently had once made a questionable decision.

The scare tactics, accusations and intimidation didn’t work.

Many people still attended, learned and had a great time in the process.

It was immensely reassuring to see the conference rooms filled during the “Legacy of Freedom” portion of the day’s events. The real measure of the festival’s success was evidenced by the throngs of people who flocked to the concert that evening.

Several lonely protesters stood outside the venue holding up their homemade signs as a steady stream of families poured into the arena. Few of those passing by gave notice to the protesters although some favored them with looks of pity.

The protesters’ discouragement seemed to grow in proportion to the crowd of concertgoers.

It was reminiscent of the scene in Rob Reiner’s film “The Sure Thing” where a young woman convinces her stuffy, uptight boyfriend to accompany her to a college mixer. Upon entering a room filled with dancing party-goers, her boyfriend looks around in discomfort and sniffs: “Look at these people. They probably think they’re having a good time.”

The folks who attended the “Western Freedom Festival” certainly had ample opportunity to enjoy themselves. No one there told them who to hate or fear except the critics trying to dissuade them from attending.

Bryan Hyde is a radio commentator and opinion writer in Southern Utah. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @youcancallmebry

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.


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  • anybody home October 26, 2015 at 10:26 am

    “What was it about the talk of freedom that made festival opponents come unhinged?” Bryan, reading this long and pathetic and really needless justification makes me wonder just who it is who has come unhinged.

    It’s fine to have your festival, Bryan, and I hope you had a dandy time there, but methinks you doth protest and yammer and go too much at length in trying to prove a point, a point that’s not even clear. In truth, I don’t think you had a lot of detractors because I don’t think sensible people really gave much of a sparrow belch about this gathering. Claiming all the detractors gives you the kind of heroic posture you always seek.

    Just another wingnut pat-yourselves-on-the-back hoedown. The rest of us have better and more serious things to think about.

  • beacon October 26, 2015 at 11:22 am

    I see no mention of Ken Ivory in this piece. Probably a good thing since he’s become such a lightning rod in this issue. Although I don’t agree with the position these folks take, I support their right to express those opinions and have an enjoyable event. That’s what freedom’s all about, right?

  • Real Life October 26, 2015 at 2:37 pm

    This was the most one sided crap sandwich ever put on this site.

  • Rainbow Dash October 26, 2015 at 5:13 pm

    Sorry Bryan but I have to disagree. I believe the turn out to this little …*, I mean “Western Freedom Festival”, had less to do with the actions of a “handful of activists” and more to do with the fact that the vast majority of people who live around here are, you guessed it, …*!
    *Ed. ellipses

  • Rainbow Dash October 26, 2015 at 5:29 pm

    hey Brian. How came you werer’nty down there in Hildale protesting for the rights of the people who aren’t part of the Mormon church? Oh wait, I forgot your “church” kicks you out if you dare question it.

    • Rainbow Dash October 26, 2015 at 5:31 pm

      Brian = Bryan*
      were’nty = weren’t*

      Please correct those two words. Thank you.

  • fun bag October 26, 2015 at 6:07 pm


  • mesaman October 26, 2015 at 8:57 pm

    Bryan, I congratulate you on this fine article. It is really highlighted with your comment; “perhaps its the realization that free, confident people are less likely to consent to giving others unlimited control over their lives. People with moral clarity are more capable of properly examining the policies mandated by bureaucracies both near and far away.” I would think these sentences alone stoked the furnace of liberals resulting in the usual smoke of cliches and thoughtless whinings. That part I found most gratifying. Stay as the horsefly on the rump of the socialist society.

    • fun bag October 26, 2015 at 9:55 pm

      what r u jabbering about??..

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