If you happen to be outside Kansas City, Kan., on June 29 and hear loud noises and some large explosions, don’t worry. It’s probably just Keith Mark celebrating his American freedoms.
Mark, who owns the huge spread in the Yukon Territory that’s the focus of “Shawn Michael’s MacMillan River Adventures,” celebrates the Fourth of July in a big way with barbecue, music, fellowship and fireworks. At his Basehor, Kan., residence, Mark holds what he calls a “Freedom Day Celebration.”
“We celebrate our American freedoms every day,” Mark said. “One day a year, we invite family, friends, co-workers, business associates and other freedom loving patriots to show up at the Mark family farm and literally just blow up this part of the world.”
What started as a church, baseball-team, covered-dish-barbecue picnic with Mark shooting off a few fireworks around 1999 has turned into a behemoth. There are usually more than 500 people on hand, enjoying music from entertainers like Ted Nugent and Colton James, among others. Mark’s son, Zach, who does the music for the show, always performs.
“What it really is, is Americans celebrating our freedoms, like we ought to with barbecue and fireworks,” Mark said. “My son and I have ATF licenses; we shoot off fireworks the size of basketballs, and a lot of them, and it’s frickin’ awesome.”
It’s usually the Saturday closest to the Fourth, and that fact escaped a number of folks when Mark went on a Kansas City radio show with Nugent, who announced he’d be performing there and “I’ll blow your F’ing state out.” Mark reported crowds lining the gated community hoping to hear the Motor City Madman, but they were a couple days late.
Shawn Michaels, who Mark has made the front man of the show, has been in attendance. He’s had other luminaries, including politicians who often speak to the guests between music sets. Comedian Jeff Foxworthy might come next year, if Mark can strike a deal.
“Foxworthy wants to come up (to MacMillan River) and do a moose hunt with me, and I told him he can only come if he performs there next year,” he said. “So, the music is cool, the entertainment is great, the fireworks are incredible, but really the message is why we do it.”
And that message is heartfelt by Mark, who speaks eloquently on what the Fourth of July means to him. His remarks also show why he’s made a convincing attorney – “That’s my day job. That’s how I can afford to lose money doing outdoor television.”
So here goes Mark on the basis for his patriotism and celebration of America’s Independence Day.“I’m a big concealed carry guy. I love the fact I have the freedom to worship as I please … I love the fact that I have the freedom to speak as I please … to assemble with my neighbors, my friends, without interference.
“I love the fact I can keep and bear arms, which protects all the other freedoms I just talked about.“What I’m most thankful for is, since those brave men who went to the bridge in Concord -- which is when our experiment in self-government really started -- there’s been brave men, and now men and women, who are willing to sacrifice their very own lives so that I can hunt, so that I can barbecue, so that I can go watch the Kansas City Royals play tonight …
“… So my kids can grow up and worship the religion we choose, so I can watch my kids grow up and speak about things that matter to us. The fact that kids, young men and women, are willing to sign on the dotted line to go and fight and risk their lives, and in some cases give their lives, that’s really what we’re celebrating.
“The flip side of that is, yes, we rejoice and celebrate where we came from -- that Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, John Adams and all those people who were our founding fathers, were given the wisdom from God to do what they did, the courage and the strength to do what they did, which is awesome, and all the patriots that have come to now brings us to where we are -- but also to make sure that we do not allow tyranny to occur, whether it’s from our government or outside of our own government, that we’re not going to lose what we have.
“We have to recognize where we came from and how we got to where we are to make sure we don’t allow it to be lost, which, quite frankly, in one generation it could be lost, if we lose that patriotic spirit, that patriotic vision, that goal of self-govern and the freedom it provides us. So yeah, it’s a combination of all that. And it’s a big thing in my house.”
Click image for what Independence Day means to other outdoorsmen.