A dedication ceremony for the five newly installed interpretation panels at Freedom Park in Van Buren was held Tuesday.
City officials and members of the Van Buren Lions Club attended the dedication. The Lions Club donated $5,000 to pay for the creation and installation of the panels.
After the Lions Club offered to contribute to the park, Van Buren Mayor Bob Freeman suggested the interpretive panels, he said.
“I made the suggestion so that we could take the history of our park, the history of our city and the history of the county and lay it out for future generations,” Freeman said.
Freeman thanked the Lions Club, city planner Joe Hurst, Fred Williams with Williams-Crawford and Associates advertising, which donated the graphic design work, and Sheila Bell, who provided the historical research and vintage photographs used on several of the panels.
“This is what the community working together is all about,” Freeman said.
Lions Club members asked that the dedication ceremony be scheduled in October as part of the club’s 95th year anniversary, said Lions Club president Joe McDaniel.
“This is a legacy for us,” McDaniel said. “This is something that will be around for generations, and we wanted to be a part of it.”
Interpretive panels are an imaginative combination of text and visuals to tell a story about an object or place. The five interpretive panels in Freedom Park explain the symbolism represented throughout the park and provide historical information about the city and its downtown.
Topics of two panels in Freedom Park are blue and gold star service flags and the four freedoms outlined in President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s famous speech.
Blue Star service flags are flown usually by a mother or parent with a child in military service, and Gold Star flags by those whose child has died in service. The stars are represented in the park in the design of the splash pad.
The four freedoms come from Roosevelt’s State of the Union address on Jan. 6, 1941, during which he proposed four fundamental freedoms that people “everywhere in the world” ought to enjoy: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear.
Those four freedoms are represented throughout the park: Pavilions represent freedom from want, the stage represents freedom of speech, Veterans Memorial Plaza (still to be built) will represent freedom from fear, and the nearby church represents freedom of worship.
Norman Rockwell’s Four Freedoms, inspired by Roosevelt’s address and printed in The Saturday Evening Post in 1943, are displayed on one of the interpretive panels - the only such display in the country outside of the Norman Rockwell Museum, Bell said.
“This is the only place in the United States that the Curtis Publishing Company has allowed anyone to use the Norman Rockwell prints of the Four Freedoms on a permanent display,” Bell said.
Bell helped to acquire permission for the city to use the Rockwell works, and spent six month researching the history of Van Buren for the historic panels, she said. She also contributed the photos for the panels, she said.
Three other panels outline some of the history of Van Buren’s Main Street, the Frisco depot and the former Camp Jesse Turner.
Freeman said Van Buren will soon begin work on Memorial Plaza, which will consist of a renovation of the original Veteran’s Park located across the street from the new Freedom Park.