With a new title sponsor and some fresh young musical talent, Citgo Freedom Over Texas — the big Fourth of July party and fireworks extravaganza planned for Buffalo Bayou Park — is getting a contemporary vibe on its 30th anniversary.
Standing on the site of the first Freedom Over Texas event in 1987 — an entertainment venue now dubbed the Water Works at Sabine Street following a $60 million renovation of the park, Mayor Sylvester Turner and city officials unveiled the list of performers and sponsors for this year's event. (The Water Works will be the staging area for fireworks as most of the action will take place around nearby Eleanor Tinsley Park.)
Headlining the main stage will be DNCE, the 2016 MTV Video Music Award-winning band fronted by Joe Jonas that had a monster hit with "Cake By The Ocean." Their new single, “Kissing Strangers,” features global superstar Nicki Minaj.
Hunter Hayes, who won the Country Music Association Award for Best New Artist in 2012 and the People’s Choice Award for Favorite Male Country Artist in 2015, will precede DNCE on stage. The 25-year-old country sensation is known for such hits such as “Wanted,” “I Want Crazy,” and “Somebody’s Heartbreak."
"We're going to keep it young and light and rockin' on the main stage," said Susan Christian, executive director of the Mayor's Office of Special Events.
For the first time in the event’s history, the celebration will kick off with a patriotic tribute by the United States Air Force Band of the West before the headliners take to the stage.
Other entertainment on various stages include Houston-based Mango Punch!, the Dallas country-rock group Vaudevylle, ThunderSOUL Orchestra, a 14-piece R&B/funk band that includes original members of the Kashmere Stage Band who were featured in the 2011 documentary Thunder Soul, the Austin-based Peterson Brothers, Lil' Nathan and the Zydeco Bigtimers, and The Juke Box, featuring Regina Belle, Erin Stevenson, Chris Walker, and the Ernest Walker Band.
Citgo, the Venezuelan-owned American oil refiner with headquarters in Houston, will continue to sponsor the fireworks show, scheduled for 9:35 pm on July 4, as it has for the past three years, as well as take on the role of the lead sponsor of the event for the next three years. Other major sponsors include Silver Eagle Distributors, which has been involved since the event began, Dr Pepper, Walmart, Southwest Airlines, and Wells Fargo.
The festival will also include a children's entertainment and game area, a beer garden, food vendors, an area that salutes all five branches of the U.S. military, and other entertainment areas with misters to keep attendees cool in the Houston heat.
Tickets, on sale now online, are $5 for adults (and free for children under 5 years old). On June 1, prices will rise to $8, and on July 4 to $10 for adults. Turner and other officials stressed the low-cost community nature of the event, which has become a Houston tradition.
"As a native Houstonian, this event means so much to me," Turner said, recalling how his family would park their car on the shoulder of I-45 to watch the fireworks when he was a youngster. "As Houstonians we join our brothers and sisters across Texas to celebrate our unity and freedom, our commonalities, our differences, our cultures, our beliefs, our hopes, our dreams, and our belief in the human spirit."