Allamakee County to get its Freedom Rock

Allamakee County Freedom Rock now in place ... A large boulder was placed by crews from Bruening Rock Products early Friday morning, July 17 in the Waukon City Park to serve as the canvas for Allamakee County’s Freedom Rock to be painted by famed artist Ray “Bubba” Sorenson in mid-August. After several years of organizing and the last couple years spent searching for a suitable rock, this large piece of Iowa’s geographic history soon to honor Allamakee County Veterans’ history was found in a Mason City quarry and hauled to its new home in Allamakee County by Caledonia Haulers, with driver Ken Mark of Waukon also donating his time to haul the rock. The rock will become part of Sorenson’s Freedom Rock Tour in all 99 Iowa counties that serves to both honor America’s Veterans and also promote tourism in Iowa, with plans to further enhance the area surrounding the rock with suitable landscaping and other aspects honoring Allamakee County Veterans and promoting additional area attractions. Noticeable in the background of the above photo, one of the most honorable aspects of the Allamakee County Freedom Rock location is its proximity to Oakland Cemetery just across the State Highway 9/76 entrance into Waukon, where many such area veterans these Freedom Rocks are designed to honor now lie in rest following their contributions to this nation’s freedoms, and where the Waukon Memorial Day program is held each year. Standard photo by Joe Moses.

“Canvas” for Iowa artist Bubba Sorenson arrives at Waukon City Park, painting to begin in August

After years of waiting, this year marks Allamakee County’s turn to get its Freedom Rock as part of an overall honoring and tourism idea formulated by Iowa artist Ray Sorenson.

Back in 1999, Ray Sorensen (better known as Bubba) painted his first Freedom Rock in Menlo, which is located in Adair County in Iowa. He was encouraged to continue with the project, which really took off after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States.

Sorenson decided to paint 99 Freedom Rocks across the state of Iowa - one for each county. As he was traveling from county to county painting the rocks, he came up with the idea to work with the State of Iowa to create a tourism draw with the rocks by promoting the “Freedom Rock” Tour.

Since he could only paint so many rocks each year, Sorenson put forth an application process for a city in each county to apply to be that county’s Freedom Rock location, and that application process would be on a first-come, first-served basis. Application for a rock for Allamakee County was made back in 2016 and several years later Waukon has finally made it to the top of that application list.

Being the county seat and centrally located within the county, Waukon was named for the site location on that 2016 application. That application and an ensuing contract agreement were approved by Sorenson in the fall of 2016.

Allamakee County is one of the last 12 rocks Sorenson has left to paint and he will then have all 99 county rocks completed across the state of Iowa. The Allamakee County Freedom Rock is scheduled to be painted in August of this year.

Sorenson had several goals for creating this project, among them to honor America’s Veterans and to promote Iowa tourism. Each county rock is to be a piece of his 99-piece puzzle – that puzzle being one giant Iowa Veterans Memorial. Each county rock is different and does not necessarily represent all branches of military service, but Sorenson does design the rock to include some local county Veteran history. He also drapes each rock with a painted American Flag to show patriotism.

Sorenson’s focus for the Freedom Rock Tour was that at each rock visitors would learn a unique piece of either Veteran or local history, and that it would be a springboard into exploring other memorials, sites and tourism attractions within that same area and within the state of Iowa. This tourism project has a Veterans theme and gives each county an additional opportunity to honor and thank not only Veterans but all who have served in some capacity during wartime.

Upon application approval, finding a rock to be painted for Allamakee County proved to be no easy feat as the rock material in Allamakee County is basically limestone, which is not ideal for painting. Sorenson asks that each county locate its own hard rock boulder. Several people joined the Allamakee County effort over the course of the last two years to help find a suitable rock, and one was finally located in a quarry near Mason City and has been moved to its permanent site at the Waukon City Park as of last week (see photo and caption).

There will be some rock preparation including sandblasting to be done before Sorenson arrives to start painting. He is scheduled to start painting the Allamakee County rock August 19 of this year.

A countywide fundraising campaign will be started to help support the project for Allamakee County, not only to get the rock painted but to also develop the area around the rock to become a unique and enhanced way of showcasing the Allamakee County Freedom Rock Memorial.

Local organizers believe that supporting this project for Allamakee County will be a heartfelt and continuous opportunity for all to honor and thank local Veterans. Allamakee County will have its very own story portrayed in the 99-piece puzzle that Sorenson calls his giant Iowa Freedom Rock Memorial.

For more information about the Allamakee County Freedom Rock, call 563-568-2624. For more information about the Freedom Rock project, visit the project’s website at or

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