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Warner Robins city council considers changing venue for annual Independence Day Celebration

The Independence Day Celebration planning team recommended a move to Freedom Field because of transportation safety.

WARNER ROBINS, Ga. — The Warner Robins city council still hasn't set final details for this year's Independence Day Celebration.

The city normally hosts the celebration at the McConnell-Talbert Stadium, but last week the council discussed whether to move the event about eight miles away to Freedom Field.

Johnny Whitehead attends the Warner Robins Independence Day Celebration almost every year. Most years, he walks to the concert because he lives just around the corner.

Whitehead wants the fireworks show to stay in place, but he also says he can see where it might help to host it elsewhere.

"If it stays, I think it'll be a great idea; and if it moves, it'll just give more room for transportation to get out that way," said Whitehead.

Last week, council members Derek Mack, Larry Curtis, and Clifford Holmes Jr. did not want to move the annual concerts and fireworks. They had concerns about whether enough people would have transportation to cross town. 

Keith Lauritsen and Kevin Lashley voted to move the annual event. Charles Bibb was not present.

"It's a sensitive issue. You know, certain parts of the community always feel like things are being moved away from them and I understand that. They have a point. I want to consider all of it," said Lauritsen.

"So much has been rapidly moving everything to the southwest part of the city. Warner Robins is losing traditional things that people from every corner of the city can enjoy, from businesses to civic activities to include the Christmas parade," Mack said. "We have to do more to feed the northeast (Post 5) part of town where most of the blight in the city is located."

By the end of the discussion, the majority voted not to move the show to Freedom Field. 

City Clerk Mandy Stella says the Independence Day Celebration planning team recommended the move because of transportation safety, not due to crime.

"I want the public to know that it's not safety concerns in the area that the event takes place, but just some of the concerns regarding sidewalks and pedestrian traffic to and from and parking locations," said Stella.

"Really you just have that one corridor running on South Davis and sometimes that limits you; and I think one of the issues was when they are shooting fireworks off, they feel like they need to close that road down," said Lauritsen.

Stella says at the upcoming council meeting, the council plans to vote on whether to officially pick McConnell-Talbert Stadium. Then, the Board of Education will take their vote because they own the field. 

So, the final location has not yet been determined.

Before council votes, they'll discuss McConnell-Talbert Stadium at their pre-council meeting, which is open to the public Monday at 4:30 pm at City Hall.

Warner Robins Police Chief John Wagner is also on the planning team. He said, "As all event locations have shortcomings, WRPD identified traffic, pedestrian, and post-concert concerns at the McConnell-Talbert Stadium venue. A consensus agreement by the IDC team agreed on Freedom Field as a potential alternative - which was offered. WRPD and all other city departments will ensure to provide the best security plan whatever venue is chosen. This is a team effort."

Stella also says they'll be announcing the headliners soon.

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