GREELY, PIKE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – Saturday marked the first day of the Rod of Iron Freedom Festival, the nation’s largest open carry festival.
“We’re here to stand up for freedom and liberty as the founding fathers spelled it out in the constitution and the Bill of Rights,” said Gregg Noll, festival organizer.
Noll says he expects about 5,000 people to head to Greely for the event this year. He says they hired a private company that created a COVID-19 plan.
“It involves social distancing and mask wearing for those who want it. We don’t mandate mask wearing here, but if somebody feels it’s important to wear a mask, it’s their right to wear one,” said Noll.
The event included 40 vendors serving food from across the world, speakers supporting the Second Amendment and musical performances. People also visited the display of the American Veterans Traveling Tribute, a wall listing the names of all the United States soldiers who lost their lives while serving.
Vietnam veterans tell us they became emotional when they saw the wall.
“To me it was a healing process because 51years ago I came home and one of the men I commanded died on my patrols. I finally found his name yesterday and I said goodbye to him,” said John Oliveri, Vietnam War veteran.
“It’s a representation of their sacrifice, and I find that hard to find anywhere else,” said Tom Heying, Vietnam War veteran.
Oliveri says the festival is enlightening to him.
“I thought patriotism was gone in this country, and with the amount of people and the heartfelt love and respect that was given. Especially Vietnam veterans like me. They wasn’t given anything when we came home. Now we feel like we’re welcomed back home finally,” said Oliveri.