Spirit of America Festival

Spirit of America Festival

The Spirit of America Festival is one of the largest free Fourth of July celebrations in the South. The two day outdoor festival, set in Decatur, Alabama, hosts a variety of traditional summer activities. The event is organized and staged by an all volunteer board.

The major highlights of the festival are the presentation of the Audie Murphy Patriotism Award, the presentation of the Barrett C. Shelton Award, the Miss Point Mallard pageant and also the presentation of one of North Alabama’s largest aerial fireworks displays.


The Spirit of America Festival began in 1967 as anti-Vietnam War protests grew throughout the United States. The Prominent citizens of Decatur, AL, decided to show their infinite support for the servicemen, and women in Vietnam, and to promote patriotism in America through the presentation of an annual, free, Fourth of July event.

The Festival was initially dedicated to expressing support for the American men and women fighting in southeast Asia and to honor those from the Decatur area who had died in combat.

Over 10,000 people gathered in a local high school stadium for the first Spirit of America Festival.

The next year, a Miss America Preliminary Scholarship Pageant was added to the festival’s line-up along with family games and special events, now known as the Miss Point Mallard Pageant.

Air Force Captain Gerald O. Young, in his first speech given since receiving the Medal of Honor for Heroism in Vietnam, directed a great tribute to the “American Soldier” to a gathering of over 20,000 people.


Special Awards

The Audie Murphy Patriotism Award is named in honor of America’s most decorated soldier from World War II, and Medal of Honor recipient Audie Murphy. Murphy, who was to have been the guest speaker at the 1971 Spirit of America Festival, died in a plane crash just two months prior to his scheduled appearance at the Festival. The award is now presented annually to an "outstanding American patriot" or "an outstanding group of individuals who most exemplify the true ‘Spirit of America.’"

Past recipients of the Audie Murphy Patriotism Award include: Vietnam Prisoner of War Charles J. Plumb, Brigadier General Hallett D. Edson, General Omar Bradley, Alabama Governor George C. Wallace, U.S. Senator James C. Allen, U.S. Senator John Sparkman, U.S. astronaut John Young, Olympic track star Jesse Owens, entertainer Johnny Cash, U.S. Congressman Bob Jones, Secretary of State Alexander Haig; Vietnam veteran U.S. Senator Jeremiah A. Denton, U.S. Senator Strom Thurman, Iranian hostage Charles C. Scott, actor Gerald McRaney, and U.S. Admiral Donald Whitmire.

The Barrett C. Shelton Freedom Award was established in 1980 in honor of local newspaper publisher, Barrett C. Shelton, one of the founders of the Spirit of America Festival. The award is presented annually to honor an Alabamian for outstanding service to his/her community and state.

Past recipients include Henry Eugene “Red” Erwin, U.S. Senator Howell Heflin, U.S. Representative Ronnie Flippo, H. Maynard Layman, Jimmy Smith, and Bobby Joe Smith.

In 1994 the H.J. Heimlich Humanitarian Award was added to the honors presented at the Spirit of America Festival. The plaque is presented to an individual or group who have saved or attempted to save another human being, or an individual or group who have significantly added to the betterment of all mankind. Dr. H.J. Heimlich was the first recipient, followed by the United Service Organizations (USO).

The Miss Point Mallard Pageant is one of the many preliminary pageants for the Miss America Scholarship Pageant. The winner of the Miss Point Mallard event advances to the Miss Alabama Pageant, along with receiving a variety of scholarship opportunities, gift certificates, and prizes.

In the early 1970s an outdoor stage was constructed for the Spirit of America Festival at Point Mallard Park, a local municipal park, owned and operated by The City of Decatur. The park is known throughout the country as “Home of America’s First Wave Pool.”

In 1984, President Ronald Reagan honored the City of Decatur by addressing a crowd of over 60,000 souls, at that year’s Spirit of America Festival.

porting events

* Golf Tournament
* Racquetball Tournament
* Tennis Tournament
* Softball Tournament
* Horseshoe Pitching
* Arm Wrestling
* As well as 2 and 5 Mile Runs

Booth activities

(Sponsored mainly by local organizations)

* Concessions
* A Greased Pole Climb
* Watermelon Eating Contest
* Clown Face Painting
* Pony Rides
* Helium Balloon Sales
* National Guard Military Exhibit
* Ring Toss
* Shooting Gallery
* American Constitution Exhibit

pecial demonstrations

* Flag Raising Ceremony
* Karate Demonstrations
* Art Guild Auctions
* Square Dancers and Cloggers
* Magic Shows
* Mimes
* National Guard Paratrooper Jumps
* Dog Show
* Bike Decorating Contest and Parade

tage entertainment

(including locally and nationally known personalities and bands)

Have included:

Nationally recognized artists

* Survivor
* Martina Mcbride
* Collective Soul
* Dixie Chicks
* SheDaisy
* Third Eye Blind


* Bluegrass
* Gospel
* Rock and Roll
* Country and Western
* Blues

Children’s games

* Sack Races
* 3-legged Races
* Jump Rope Contest
* Needle-In-A-Haystack
* Money Hunt
* Ping Pong Ball Drop
* Wheelbarrow Races
* Hula Hoop Contest
* Spoon-N-Egg Races
* Bobbing for Apples
* Leapfrog
* Ice Cream Eating Contest
* Tug-Of-War

2008 Plans


Stay tuned for more details as festival organizers are finalizing plans for 2008.

Previous Spirit of America Festivals have featured Third Eye Blind, Martina McBride and Survivor. Survivor’s mega-hit “Eye of the Tiger” rocked the stage at the 2007 Spirit of America festival. A variety of musical entertainment caters to all ages so bring your lawn chairs, blankets and kick back for a relaxing evening of good southern music.

Shuttle service from the GE parking lot to Point Mallard Park will be available on July 4th from 5:30 p.m. to midnight providing easy and convenient access to the evening festivities.


* The Spirit of America Festival has and always will be free to the general public. It is organized and staged by an all volunteer board, and is completely funded by individuals as well as businesses in the community of Decatur, State of Alabama, and the United States.

* The Spirit of America Festival is one of the largest free Fourth of July celebrations in the Southeast. Annual attendance is estimated at an excess of 50,000 each year.

* The Spirit of America Festival has also been named as on of the “Top 20 Events in the Southeast” over many years by the Atlanta-based Southeast Tourism Society (STS).

* The tourism organization makes selections each quarter based on the nominations, and votes made by its members in the nine Southeastern states.


[http://www.decaturcvb.org/Pages/Press/spirit.html Press release from Decatur, AL website]

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