Family Fun Day thrives despite bad weather
May 29, 2013
VICENZA, Italy -- Rain clouds and storms threatened to dampen the spirits of members of the Vicenza Military Community during the Family Fun Day May 16. The celebration was created to welcome home Caserma Ederle units from their deployments in the last year and join them together with their families in a fun day.
"It's great to see Soldiers and their families enjoying themselves, regardless of the weather," said Robin Gonzales, Morale, Welfare and Recreation special events coordinator.
With quick maneuvering the celebration was moved indoors to the Arena with discounted bowling, free food and face painting by the Arts and Crafts Center. Upstairs was opened up to the crowd with numerous musical acts including the Dusty Saddle Boys, the Vicenza High School Jazz Band, Syncage and Colleen Lloy. The USO gave out free cupcakes while Global Credit Union gave out free tchotchkes.
The decision was made to close the Vicenza schools so that the children could enjoy the celebration with their parents.
"Having been stationed at several different posts, I was proud to see the 173rd Airborne Brigade Soldiers, families and communities to come together to celebrate the return of the Sky Soldiers and other units who have deployed," said family member Candice Leaverton. "From the memorial ceremony to watching the kids dive into the ice pit, it was a great way to spend the day."
The pinnacle of the day was the Highland Challenge that was part of the Warrior Challenge series of races. Sixteen different events for the Scottish-themed event included a stone throw, golf stroke and the ever popular mud pit.
Nearly 100 race participants split into three different groups to take the challenge, with elementary school children first, followed by middle and high school aged participants as individuals and teams, and finally adult individuals and teams.
Through the nearby city of Vicenza and its environs were experiencing local flooding conditions brought on by torrential rains, nothing but excited and happy faces could be seen around the field during the events.
Family member Nicole McNeil, whose husband, Justin, was the first-place finisher in the men's category, had nothing but positive remarks about the day, along with her three children.
"My children had fun making little flags and listening to the wonderful music. The jazz band was very impressive, especially," she said. "Everyone liked getting free food and drinks, and the Warrior Challenge was great, as usual. I'm so happy that the garrison supports the Soldiers and their Families even with the lousy weather."
Outdoor Recreation director Chris Wolff said it was the toughest race held at Caserma Ederle.
"As we were setting up in the downpour and flooded field, there was some question if people would even come out to race and I was worried that we may be doing it all for nothing," Wolff said. "As usual, the hard-core racers did not disappoint and, if anything, the rain made people more fired up to run."
Following the race, awards were given out to the top three finishers in each category and a best costume award was given out.