‘All American Freedom March’ in Rangely honors first responders, law enforcement and veterans

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Sam Tolley (right) shakes hands with veteran Lisa Hatch (left) during the first All American Freedom March in Rangely last Friday. Tolley, along with Frank and Ryan Huitt and multiple volunteers, organized the event to honor first responders, veterans and local law enforcement. 

The ominous-looking clouds to the south held off their thunder, lightning and rain for the duration of the first All American Freedom March. The germination of the event, according to organizers, started in April when Rangely residents organized a “Cruisin’ Main” parade as a socially-distanced way to get everyone out of lockdown during the pandemic.

Veterans of varying ages gathered around the statue at Hefley Park for a photo, and presented Sam Tolley with an award for his community service and volunteerism. 

Lauren Boebert, a primary contender for the 3rd Congressional District seat held by Scott Tipton, made a rescheduled appearance (she was supposed to be in Rangely on Wednesday) to give a stump speech for her campaign. 

Then local law enforcement officers and first responders led the way beneath a huge flag strung across the street by cranes, down South Stanolind Ave., between rows of police vehicles, ambulances, and fire trucks with their lights on, in a low-key, peaceful parade intended to be a show of support and appreciation for law enforcement and first responders. At Elks Park, parade marchers lined up for a plate of food. 

“Today it seems that so many of our first responders are demonized by the very people they serve,” Huitt said. “We have the utmost respect for the people in those tough, often thankless jobs. Sam Tolley and I talked about doing a community gathering to support our first responders including our military veterans back in April while attending the Cruisin’ Main event. My son Ryan got the ball rolling for this event a few weeks ago and did most of the leg work. He even started cooking at 5 a.m. to ensure the food was ready for the crowd.”

Tolley agreed that plans for the event began to be discussed in April. “The whole world has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and it has changed everything. Sitting on the school board and the college board I have seen firsthand how hard it has been on the teachers, the parents, but especially our young kids. Our healthcare professionals, all the first responders, it’s been tough on everybody. We wanted to thank our entire community, especially the police officers, the people who work at the hospital, our volunteer fire department, even our teachers. Everyone in town has just been so stressed. We want to thank all of the citizens of our town, no matter your politics, we love them, we are family here in this community. We have a lot more in common than we have differences. This gave everyone a chance to put the stress behind them for a few hours and just enjoy our community. We united behind our veterans and the people who have spilled their blood and put it all on the line for this country. There are a lot of people in Rangely who could live wherever they choose, and they choose Rangely because of the great people.” 

Ryan Huitt, who started cooking at 5 a.m. on Friday,  said it was a community effort, from donations of food and money to people who gave their time to help cook.

“This was a big deal and we had a massive amount of community come out in support. In two weeks’ time we had a showing of 400 plus people come out. It was a march in unity, proud Americans banded together and shared a meal together. Small town America is great but there is something incredibly special about Rangely.  Hopefully, next year we can make it even bigger and better. I would personally like to thank everyone that helped and came out to make this successful!”

Plates of food were home-delivered to elderly residents at their homes who couldn’t attend the event.

Visit https://rioblancoheraldtimes.smugmug.com/All-American-Freedom-March for more photos.

By HT Staff | editor@ht1885.com

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