Freedompalooza draws media, not crowds

Sage advice: James Renwick Manship dressed as General George Washington, speaks to visitors at the Altamont fairgrounds during Freedompalooza on Saturday Aug. 24. Visitors were far and few between.

Get the message? Visitors entering the Freedompalooza festival last week were met by heavy ordnance and military gear, symbolic of the rally’s pro-gun and civil rights spirit.

Let freedom sing: A couple walks from a military vendor to the country music stage at Freedompalooza on Aug. 24. The event’s organizers hoped to draw thousands and raise funds for voter awareness of civil rights issues, but organizers admitted the group’s first fund-raiser drew far fewer people than intended.

ALTAMONT — With crowds numbering only in the hundreds, and at times dozens, instead of the thousands expected, the organizers of the Freedompalooza festival acknowledged the Saturday pro-gun and civil rights rally was a flop.

“Freedompalooza” was the first fund-raising event for the Freedom Coalition, founded by state Assemblyman Bill Nojay, a Republican representing western counties, and Tom King, president of the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, with an ad-hoc group of what King described as “constitutionalists.”

“I don’t really want to talk about it,” said King when contacted yesterday by The Enterprise.

“We made a mistake,” King said, “We underestimated what was going on.”

Organizers were hoping thousands of visitors would attend the country music event at the Altamont Fairgrounds and that it might inspire similar festivals in other locations.

With security preparing for a larger turnout, at times Saturday there appeared to be more police and black-shirted security guards than actual visitors on the grounds.

In an interview prior to the event, Nojay told The Enterprise he was concerned over gun-control legislation passed this year — the Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement (SAFE) Act — and what he called an effort to delay regulations on hydraulic fracturing by Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration. But he said the group’s push is for a broader concern over individual liberties and home rule.

The assemblyman could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Organizers had hoped the ticket sales would fund a voter education and registration campaign for the 2014 election, modeled after MTV’s Rock the Vote campaign.

King said many of the issues on which the political event focused were important to discuss but declined to talk about them, citing extensive media coverage of the poor attendance rather than other issues.

“We prefer to look ahead,” said King, adding, “The more I say at this point the more it gets dragged out in the media.”

Though a setback, King said, organizers are not discouraged from holding future events.

“We’re far from being through,” he said, “It certainly didn't kill us or the movement.”

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