Freedom Fest 2011: Almost 30,000 celebrate America’s birthday
A group of ladies join Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band onstage during one of the band’s numbers at Freedom Fest on Fort Rucker July 2. The band played a wide variety of hits for the almost 30,000 in attendance.

FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- A crowd of nearly 30,000 attended this year’s Freedom Fest at Fort Rucker, according to Directorate of Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation officials.

The number of attendees rivaled that of any years prior, said Janice Erdlitz, DFMWR marketing manager. She added that the threat of inclement weather might have deterred some people, but many others still made the trip anyway.

“This year’s attendance was clearly larger than last year,” she said. “We did have some concern with the weather. There were severe thunderstorms in the surrounding communities, but we were very fortunate that we didn’t experience any of them. We think they kept some people from coming to the event early on, but the weather cleared and we had a packed event. The weather actually cooled down the temps, which made Freedom Fest even more enjoyable.”

The major highlight of the night was a performance from Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band, added Erdlitz.

“It was an awesome show, it truly made the entire event just absolutely incredible,” she said. “Great memories were made at Freedom Fest this year. During one song, Gary even had people come up on stage and dance. Concert goers really got a great show.”

Sinise, known for his roles in Forrest Gump and CSI: NY, said performing for the troops in the U.S. for the Fourth of July holiday weekend was a great experience for him and the band.

“I love being with the troops on the Fourth of July or any day, really,” he said. “We’ve performed for the troops every year for the holiday, but it’s been overseas, usually. This worked out perfectly since I’m on my summer hiatus.”

The band played a variety of hits from Jimi Hendrix to Christina Aguilera, even calling up several members of the audience to be backup dancers for the band during one number.

Overall, it was what Erdlitz called “the best Freedom Fest ever.”

“We had more food vendors than ever, plenty of games and rides for the kids, the 98th Army Band did a fabulous job of getting everyone pumped up for the Lt. Dan Band concert and the show was just so memorable,” she said. “The crowd was allowed right up to the base of the stage and Gary even came down into the crowd for a while. Then to top off the concert, the fireworks were just spectacular.”

Page last updated Fri July 8th, 2011 at 12:51