‘Salute to Oxford’ float takes top prize in parade

Parade prize winner in this year’s Freedom Fest celebration was realtor Jason Reynolds with his entry “Salute to Oxford” recognizing the Talawanda High School class of 2022 and youth in sports programs, such as basketball, SAY Soccer and Miami Little League. BOB RATTERMAN/CONTRIBUTED

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Parade prize winner in this year’s Freedom Fest celebration was realtor Jason Reynolds with his entry “Salute to Oxford” recognizing the Talawanda High School class of 2022 and youth in sports programs, such as basketball, SAY Soccer and Miami Little League. BOB RATTERMAN/CONTRIBUTED

OXFORD – Freedom Fest returned to its pre-pandemic normal for 2022 with a parade, concert, community gathering, games and fireworks. Although crowds were somewhat smaller than past years, those who came out enjoyed a good time celebrating the country’s birthday.

The city’s Independence Day celebration took place, as usual, on July 2 and 3, to allow residents to enjoy the party without sacrificing get-togethers of family and friends.

The parade was the highlight of the first evening of events as crowds gathered along High Street to watch an assortment of floats and groups taking part.

Float judges from the TRI board of directors — president Doug Curry, Jim Squance and Kris Winkler — awarded the first-place prize of $100 to REMAX realtor Jason Reynolds with his entry recognizing the Talawanda High School class of 2022 and the Oxford Parks and Recreation basketball players in a “Salute to Oxford.”

Second place and a $75 prize went to the Oxford Kroger Store and the third-place $50 prize was awarded to the Girl Scouts of Western Ohio. Alan Kyger was given honorable mention for his entry driving an antique car.

The parade marshal was World War II veteran William Hubert Malicote and his wife Francis June Malicote who both turn 100 this month.

The parade was followed by a summer music festival concert, moved from Thursday to Saturday for the occasion, by Bluewater Kings Band.

The scene shifted from Uptown to the Oxford Community Park on Sunday for a full schedule of activities, including various food options, inflatable games for kids (and a few adults, truth be told), music, door prizes and a chance to meet with neighbors and friends.

A highlight for kids and parents came as Police Officer Matt Wagers entertained everyone, including himself, showing off a police vehicle. He let kids sit in both the driver’s seat and the backseat and test out the equipment, including the horn and even handcuffs (with parent permission).

With kids locked up in the back seat, they gripped the bars on the window and entertained everyone with comments like, “Where’s my lawyer,” and “I swear it wasn’t me.”

In one case, three kids came up to his car and Wagers asked, “How about we put mom in the back seat?” That drew an enthusiastic, “Yeah.” With mom securely locked in the car, he asked the kids what conditions they should require from her for a release. He drew more enthusiastic positive answers to his suggestions of giving them ice cream for breakfast, no more grounding and bedtime at midnight.

He then opened the car door to let her out, telling the kids, “We forgot to read her her rights, she’s free to go.”

Turning to others assembled around the car, he said, “You didn’t read me my rights, that’s a popular one.”

Taking his handcuffs off of his belt, Wagers asked kids if they wanted to have them put on and when mothers agreed, he did so, telling them they were loose enough to just slip them off.

After one such “arrest” he smiled and said, “Oh, shoot, I forgot the key.”

One kid agreed to get into the backseat but then hesitated, “If I close myself in, will somebody let me out?”

With kids sitting in the driver’s seat, Wagers took the microphone and gave them instructions on what to say. Those included such things as “Put your hands up, mom,” and with the fire department nearby, he told one child to say, “Police are better than fire.” That last drew a laugh when one of the firefighters looked over and Wagers just shrugged.”

He was asked if they can out three people in the back seat and he said there are only two seatbelts. In the older cruisers, he said, they did have three.

The police officer said they have done this before as part of their community outreach and admitted he enjoys doing it. Since he also serves as the School Resource Officer at Talawanda Middle School, it also helps in his relationship-building efforts with kids who are in that school or will be in the future.

A grandmother who allowed herself to be locked in the back of the cruiser laughed with her grandchildren and obviously enjoyed the fun.

Walking away, she said, “This is a great idea for kids.”

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