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There will be a flag ceremony, hamburgers, watermelon and fireworks.

But the party planned for Saturday at Cottonwood Park in Colorado City, Ariz., is not just to celebrate America's independence. Organizers hope that as many as 2,500 former followers of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints will attend to celebrate their own freedom.

It is thought to be the first mass party in Colorado City and adjacent Hildale, Utah, collectively known as Short Creek, since 2002, when Warren Jeffs ascended to the FLDS presidency.

"We're celebrating the freedoms of our country, and the freedom that I've felt is being liberated from this cult," said George Jessop, one of the organizers.

Freedom doesn't come easy.

"The cops have already been over there trying to harass us," said Jim Barlow, another organizer. He said the celebration has been the victim of vandalism, too.

The celebration is being held in Cottonwood Park because it is not controlled by a town government. It belongs to the United Effort Plan, the community trust operated by the state of Utah. Its fiduciary, Bruce Wisan, approved the celebration, Barlow said.

A Short Creek marshal tried telling the person who tested the public address system that he was in violation of a noise ordinance, Barlow said.

Roger Hoole, an attorney who has represented many former FLDS, spoke with Colorado City's lawyer and the dispute has apparently been resolved, Barlow said. He added that organizers want to keep a lawyer on hand Saturday in case any other quarrels with the marshals or the city arise.

The U.S. Department of Justice has a lawsuit pending against the governments in Colorado City and Hildale accusing them of discriminating against people who are out of favor with the FLDS. The towns have denied any pattern of discrimination and said any isolated incidents happened years ago.

Volunteers have been repairing plumbing and broken windows in Cottonwood Park's buildings. They also have been trying to restore a miniature train that stretches around the park.

Barlow said someone recently put sand in the engine. It's unclear if it can be repaired to tow children by Saturday.

Short Creek once held regular community celebrations. Videos on the Internet show Pioneer Day parades in the towns. But Jeffs banned such gatherings.

Jessop, who noted he and his wife quit following Jeffs in late 2012, said the Independence Day celebration is a family reunion as much as a way to celebrate the United States. He expects former FLDS from across the country and Canada to converge on Short Creek.

Many families have been separated since Jeffs took control and began evicting men, reassigning wives to new husbands, and sending children to live elsewhere.

Jessop compared the separation experienced under Jeffs to 1953, when the state of Arizona conducted a raid arresting men for polygamy and placing wives in detention.

"The people returned home from the '53 raid," Jessop said, "and eventually they'll return here."

Saturday's festivities are free and open to the public. They begin at 6:30 a.m. MST with a flag-raising ceremony at neighboring Cottonwood Elementary School. The ceremony will have an honor guard of current and former military servicemen, Barlow said.

Labor, food and other expenses are being donated.

A breakfast will be served after the flag ceremony. Barlow said he and his wife have already prepared about two dozen five-gallon buckets of iced coffee.

Watermelons have been donated. Hamburgers will be served in the evening, and fireworks will be launched after dark.

At some point during the day, former Colorado City Mayor Dan Barlow is to give a keynote address. Dan Barlow was evicted from the community more than a decade ago and recently returned.

Jim Barlow, who was evicted from the FLDS in 2010, said he hasn't seen some of his children in two years, but expects them at Cottonwood Park on Saturday. He said the celebration will send a message to Jeffs.

"It's part of what everyone wants to do is say, 'We're coming back,' " Jim Barlow said. Twitter: @natecarlisle