Freedom ride planned after Oakboro celebration gets canceled

Though the official Oakboro 4th of July Celebration has been canceled due to COVID-19 and the statewide safety restrictions put in place due to the virus, a Facebook group has been created to raise support for a freedom ride through the town.

Created by Locust resident Zach Helms, the event, which is called Oakboro Freedom Convoy, would be at 9 a.m. July 4 along Main Street in Oakboro. Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Helms encourages all people who want to be involved to wear masks and maintain proper social distance.

“We want to follow all rules and regulations” for the convoy, Helms said, which he calls a “peaceful ride through town.” He also said the event won’t impede traffic.

“This is our way of celebrating our freedom and independence,” Helms wrote on Facebook about the event. “It will take effort from each and every one of you but I believe we can come together and make this happen. Unity and peace are what this country needs and is what our soldiers have fought and died for. Don’t live in fear you have freedoms, just get out and exercise them.”

As of Friday, more than 700 people have already joined the group, which was created Thursday after news broke that the town’s 4th of July celebration was canceled.

Helms later said he felt “we need to encourage patriotism and freedom right now during these tough times.”

Helms said he is working on the logistics of the event and more details still have to be worked out.

Oakboro Police Chief T.J. Smith, who has talked with Helms, said there is no permission needed for people to simply drive through town as long as they are following the rules. In order for people to be as safe as possible, Smith encourages people to wear masks and stay six feet apart.

Helms has spoken to a town official but would not disclose who it was nor what the conversation was about. “I can tell you that they support this but do not want to be involved to stay neutral which is best for their political reasons,” he said.

The parade will “simply be a ride through town with flags flying,” he said.

Helms acknowledged the event is also a way to honor the people who organize the traditional 4th of July event each summer.

“They put it on for us for so long…,” he said. “This is our way of giving back and saying ‘hey you couldn’t do it and we’ll do it for you this year.’ “