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Let Freedom (Park) ring

Long running free concert series remains hot spot for family summer entertainment

What began as a dumping ground for cement and construction materials along the Mohawk River, Freedom Park was transformed into an amphitheater for a festival when Schenectady County was selected as one of 32 statewide locations to host the Bicentennial Barge for four days in July of 1976.

What began as a dumping ground for cement and construction materials along the Mohawk River, Freedom Park was transformed into an amphitheater for a festival when Schenectady County was selected as one of 32 statewide locations to host the Bicentennial Barge for four days in July of 1976. Photos by Bill Pytlovany

— Good music, good friends and the warm air is what summer is all about for Nell Burrows and the hundreds of others who chill in the open sky amphitheater at Scotia’s Freedom Park each week for the park’s summer concerts.

What began as a dumping ground for cement and construction materials along the Mohawk River, Freedom Park was transformed into an amphitheater for a festival when Schenectady County was selected as one of 32 statewide locations to host the Bicentennial Barge for four days in July of 1976. The barge was an exhibit that traveled New York waterways during the celebration.

Burrows was an integral part of the first celebration in 1976 and continues to play a vital role in the park festivities now as president of the Freedom Park Foundation.

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The Glenville resident said the summer following the bicentennial celebration, she and the rest of the committee sat gazing at the structure one evening.

“We thought, we ought to do something,” she said. “We started with just a few shows on Wednesdays. The first year we had eight shows, and they weren’t all concerts. Louise Boika ran a Miss Freedom Park contest and we had a boxing match at one point.” Burrows said.

The idea back then was to provide cheap family summertime entertainment, and now more than 35 years later, the idea is the same. Families continue to flock the Scotia riverfront for free concerts each summer.

“A lot of people just like to make this their summertime fun because it’s free and it’s good,” said Margo Janack, Freedom Park board member.

Today, the amphitheater is the stage for many genres of music, from polka to classical to rock to musical theater.

Being so close to the river, the park and its stage have seen their share of hardship thanks to Mother Nature.

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