It just sat there becoming a canvas for vandals. When they spray-painted a holiday scene with Santa dropping his pants, mooning all passers-by, Bubba Sorensen had a better idea.
This post contains affiliate links, which means we may earn a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through the link. We share these destinations and products because we enjoyed them so much. We hope you will, too.
Honoring Veterans in Iowa
Bubba, whose legal name is Ray, is a graphic designer and a pretty good artist. He’s a quiet guy, a father who is proud of his community and his country.
Just a few weeks before Santa Claus exposed his hindquarters on Highway 25, Bubba sat in a movie theater watching “Saving Private Ryan” for the first time. Like so many of us, Bubba was moved by the horrors of war and the valor of those soldiers. That Private Ryan and his brothers were good old Iowa boys might have had something to do with his strong reaction.
So Bubba grabbed a couple of cans of paint along with the pictures of veterans from Adair County who had served this country. Slowly, he applied his talent and respect to that big boulder, creating images that evoked patriotism and appreciation. He worked in the images and stories of veterans as far back as the War of 1812 up until the current conflict in the Middle East.
Iowa’s First Freedom Rock in Adair County
That was in 1999 and each year, Bubba returns to the big rock on Highway 25 to create a fresh image honoring new soldiers and telling new stories. At times, he has been asked to mix in the ashes of a fallen soldier from Adair County, which he has done without hesitation.
Over the years, it’s become known as The Freedom Rock and Bubba has been asked to create similar tributes in counties throughout Iowa. Freedom Rocks now decorate more than 80 of Iowa’s 99 counties.
Drive the back roads and rural areas to find them and you’ll learn something special about each community in Iowa. You’ll learn about heroes who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
Bubba Sorensen continues to grow his freedom rock imagery with a goal to have a Freedom Rock in all 50 states. As of May 2019, he has one in Trempealeau Wisconsin and one in Kasson, Minnesota. Missouri has three freedom rocks – one in Cape Girardeau, one in St. Robert (near Fort Leonard Wood) and this one in Maryville, MO.
Tip: For a locally-owned place to stay in Adair County, consider the wonderful story behind The Hotel Greenfield.
Freedom Rocks Throughout Iowa
Back on Highway 25, silent visitors stop at the rock throughout the day and night to pay their respects. They often leave flowers or mementos of their service nailed to a nearby utility pole. Motorcycle groups of military veterans make Adair Iowa a stop on their rides.
Not once in all of these years has the rock been vandalized in any way. And I’m quite sure Santa is happier with his pants on.