ST. GEORGE — The lineup for the 4th of July Celebration at the Greater Zion Stadium in St. George will include a sweet note this year with an official candy drop from the Berlin Candy Bomber.
Gail Halvorsen of Salt Lake City became a symbol of international goodwill in 1948 when he dropped candy from his airplane for children during an American effort to drop food for the citizens of West Berlin during World War II. Halvorsen celebrated his 100th birthday this year and to this day continues to spread goodwill and patriotism.
“Quite honestly, the 4th of July has become a little bit about watermelon, fireworks, music, and going to the lake. Our cause is about remembering what this nation stands for,” said Dennis Leavitt of United We Pledge, a non-profit foundation committed to preserving the values of faith, family and freedom and a sponsor of the 4th of July event. “When we told the Candy Bomber about our foundation and our intent to keep Independence Day sacred and to focus on this covenant idea of being good citizens, he was all in.”
Halvorsen will fly to St. George on the day of the celebration and arrive at Greater Zion Stadium at Dixie State University during United We Pledge’s hour of pre-show events on July 3, from 6-7 p.m. Dixie State’s Events Staff was instrumental in making final arrangements. Halvorsen will board a helicopter and be flown over the stadium and drop candy. Leavitt told St. George News that Halvorsen will be escorted to the stage to speak briefly to the crowd and then fly home. Leavitt said he’s excited to have Halvorsen and his family at the event.
“We think great American heroes ought not to be forgotten,” Leavitt said. “And those who celebrate their 100th birthday ought to get special care. We’re losing World War II veterans and we don’t want them all forgotten. We think this is a great year to pay tribute to those men and women.”
During the event, United We Pledge will present Halvorsen with a lifetime service award in recognition of his actions. The foundation is also creating a Gail Halvorsen award to give to veterans in the future. United We Pledge is not yet a year old, and Leavitt said that he can’t think of a better way to begin the organization’s journey than having the Candy Bomber visit on Independence Day weekend.
During an hour of pre-show entertainment called “A Patriotic Tribute to America,” United We Pledge will unfurl the world’s largest American flag ever flown, which will also be featured in the St. George 4th of July parade. They will also honor men and women from each of the five branches of the military, introduce a document called “The American Covenant” and give out gifts to attendees. Tim Ballard, author and founder of Operation Underground Railroad will also offer a brief message.
Also on Sunday, July 4, United We Pledge will sponsor an evening devotional at St. George Catholic Church in Kuzy Hall. The event, beginning at 7 p.m. is called “A Prayer For Religious Freedom.” The evening will feature music by the St. George Interfaith Choir; a flag ceremony presented by the Knights of Columbus; speakers, including TV news anchor Dave McCann and Elder Lance B. Wickman, Emeritus General Authority Seventy and managing director of the office of General Counsel for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; and a “Prayer of Freedom” offered by Father David Bittmenn of the Saint George Catholic Church. The event will be emceed by Rabbi Helene Ainbinder, Beit Chaverim Jewish Community of Greater Zion and president of the St. George Interfaith Council.
“We’re just doing everything we can to make Independence Day feel like Independence Day should,” Leavitt said. “Let’s link together in harmony to do what we can because we want to keep the message and momentum as strong as possible to keep America great and this love for this land that we all have in our hearts.”
Balance of Nature, the founding sponsor of United We Pledge, is partnering with like-minded organizations including Follow the Flag, Operation Underground Railroad and Let Patriotism Prevail to make the 4th of July Celebration a success and focus on patriotism. Canyon Media and its hit station 99.9 KONY Country is partnering with Dixie State University for the event, which will take place at Greater Zion Stadium on the Dixie State University campus Saturday, July 3. Tickets are $15 each and will go on sale Friday at 10 a.m. They can be purchased online through KONY Country or Dixie State or by visiting or calling the Dixie State box office.
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