Stadium of Fire made its triumphant return to LaVell Edwards Stadium Saturday night, carrying on a notable Provo Independence Day tradition.
The annual festival, which dates back to 1980, suffered its first ever cancellation in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The planned 40th anniversary celebration from last year’s show was incorporated to this year’s production, with headlining performances from country artists Lee Greenwood and Collin Raye. Extreme motorsports team Nitro Circus added a series of jaw-dropping motorcycle stunts to the festivities between country sets.
An extensive opening ceremony, complete with a military flyover, honored first responders and members of the armed forces. Seven recipients of the “freedom awards” were also highlighted, most notably President Dallin H. Oaks of the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“When they honored the specific men and women who sacrificed so much for this country… (it was) unforgettable,” sophomore David Higbee said.
For BYU students in attendance, the opportunity to attend a such a large-scale event was a breath of fresh air following the drudgery of a COVID-19 school year.
“I loved the feeling of being surrounded by so many people again, looking around and seeing everyone unified,” sophomore Rachel Plumb said.
Greenwood can be credited as a unifying force, with his famous patriotic anthem “God Bless the U.S.A.” being belted in unison throughout the stadium during his performance, followed by a loud chorus of “U.S.A.” chants. Greenwood would perform nine songs in total, including his former chart-topper “Fool’s Gold.”
“Celebrate America and thank a soldier,” Greenwood urged the crowd following his performance.
Raye’s lively, energetic slot of songs included a few of his well-known tracks, some newer material and a cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll.” The country rhythms from Raye and Greenwood easily got the crowd on their feet and dancing throughout the night.
In addition, members of Millennial Choirs & Orchestras offered a few songs of their own with the accompaniment of “America’s violinist” Jenny Oaks Baker. There was even a surprise appearance from former “American Idol” finalist and teen idol David Archuleta, a fan favorite on campus to this day.
“I was stoked to see David Archuleta in person,” sophomore Jill Maxwell said. “It was something I had dreamed of for years.”
Following the tributes, music and stunts, the crowd was treated to the famous finale of pyrotechnics. The impressive fireworks display — the largest such stadium offering in the country — was cued to a series of songs from across the four decades of the festival’s history, featuring artists such as U2, MC Hammer, Justin Timberlake and others.
“After a long year of quarantine, there was nothing better than getting together with friends to watch the fireworks and celebrate our country,” sophomore George Davies said.