HOLLIDAYSBURG - Members of the Blair County Tea Party kicked off their Fourth of July weekend Thursday afternoon during the group's annual Freedom Fest event.
Andrew Katz, vice president of the group, said they celebrate Freedom Fest on the Fourth of July each year.
Current tea party members and other interested voters gathered in Legion Park to meet their local representatives and learn more about becoming involved with the Blair County Tea Party, Katz said.
Mirror photos by Gary M. Baranec
People in the crowd at the Blair County Tea Party’s annual Freedom Fest sit under a pavilion Thursday afternoon at Legion Park in Hollidaysburg.
"Hopefully, people are going to take away knowledge" and vote in future elections based on information and not emotion, Katz said.
State Rep. John McGinnis, R-Altoona, served as emcee of the event.
"You're true patriots here," McGinnis told the crowd of about 150 seated on rows of picnic tables under the park pavilions.
McGinnis thanked the group for spending its Fourth of July afternoon with the tea party.
Standing atop a flatbed truck and flanked by the U.S. and Pennsylvania flags, McGinnis said Tea Party members were keeping the spirit of John Adams and the other Founding Fathers alive through their dedication and hard work.
"By the way, sequestration cuts prevented our F-16 flyover," McGinnis said jokingly following the Pledge of Allegiance.
McGinnis introduced Sen. John Eichelberger, R-Blair, to loud applause from the crowd.
In turn, Eichelberger thanked all of the veterans in attendance for risking everything to preserve our freedoms.
"And we are not free to forget them," Eichelberger said.
Eichelberger implored Tea Party members to seek the truth and ignore misinformation when in the voting booth.
During his time Eichelberger touched upon many topics, including attempts at liquor reform in Pennsylvania and his distrust of public sector unions and the federal government's admission of wide-spread surveillance on American citizens.
State Rep. Rick Saccone, R-Allegheny, Kim Stolfer, Firearm Owners Against Crime chairman, and State Rep. Steven Bloom, R-199th District, also spoke during the event.
The crowd also applauded loudly for Art Halvorson, a retired Coast Guard captain expected to run against Rep. Bill Shuster for the 9th District.
Halvorson is against Shuster's belief in big government, big spending and debt, McGinnis told the crowd.
"Sounds like our type of guy, a Tea Party guy," McGinnis said.
If elected, Halvorson told the crowd he would end the "insanity" of an encroaching federal government he believes is intent on trampling citizens' rights.
"We need new leadership," Halvorson told the crowd. "'We the people,' are the answer, with God as our guide."
Mirror Staff Writer Zach Geiger 946-7535.