Fort Meade Independence Day festivities draw 20,000 to McGlachlin Parade Field
July 7, 2011
FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. - The sultry weather of a day in early July did not prevent an estimated 20,000 people from celebrating the nation's independence on Monday at McGlachlin Parade Field.
"It was a definite success," said Jean Francois "J.J." Jordan, special events coordinator for the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation at Fort Meade. "The crowds started coming in early, and the weather held up for us. ... The vendors were happy and the spectators were happy."
Jordan said about 5,000 more people attended this year's event than last year's.
The threat of an evening thunderstorm did not deter people on and off post from setting up tents and picnic areas on the field in anticipation of the day's highlight -- 30 minutes of spectacular fireworks that began at 9:30 p.m.
"Fort Meade has one of the best fireworks in the area," Jordan said. "Even civilians said, 'I'm coming back to Fort Meade.' "
The free 10-hour event offered a wide range of activities, ranging from a mini train ride around the parade field to a round of paintball.
Children, joined by their parents, stood in long lines for the chance to climb several inflatable slides and a rock wall, jump inside an inflatable rocket ship and try their hand at jousting.
Tanya Martin and her husband Jeffrey, a Department of Defense civilian, said they have been coming to the installation to celebrate July 4th for about three years.
"It's close to home and it's free," said Tanya Martin, who lives in Seven Oaks. "It's a nice open space, not crowded."
Martin said she preferred coming to Fort Meade instead of venturing into Washington D.C., and dealing with the traffic.
"It's good for the kids," said Martin, who held her 1-year-old son Kenyan as she waited in line for a seated spin ride with her niece Kaia, 5.
Kerry Walker, a procurement specialist for Booz Allen Hamilton in Annapolis, cheered as her daughter Allorah, 9, sat in the seat of the Verizon IZOD Indycar simulator and "drove" at 130 mph.
"She loves race cars. She wants to be a race car driver," said Walker, whose 3-year-old son C.J. held her hand. "This is awesome and a lot of fun."
In addition to inflatable slides and carnival rides, the event also offered arts and crafts and games. Many people tossed Frisbees and footballs on the field, while others sunbathed.
The music of Teddy Wade, also known as "DJ Teddy," played during the day.
Wade, who served in 55th Signal Company (Combat Camera) from 2005 to 2010, now works at the Pentagon. In his spare time, he is the DJ for Latin Night at Club Meade.
He played a wide range of music from hip hop and reggae to rock 'n' roll, rhythm and blues and disco.
"It's wonderful. I love to give back to my people," Wade said. "I used to play music in the barracks for free."
Later in the evening, attendees enjoyed the music of Phoenix, a local band that performed the music of renowned entertainers.
Staff Sgt. Ryan Harris and his wife, Melissa, watched with pride as Griffin, their 16-month-old son, boogied to the music.
"He dances all the time, even for commercials," said the sergeant, a broadcast instructor at the Defense Information School.
The family arrived at Fort Meade last week from Vicenza, Italy, where Harris was stationed with the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team.
"It's been a great first weekend," Melissa Harris said.
To cool off from the humidity, people enjoyed lemonade, ice tea and strawberry smoothies along with a wide variety of carnival foods, including hot dogs, funnel cake, hamburgers and crab cakes as well as chicken teriyaki and Pad Thai.
Retired Staff Sgt. Shirley Brande of Odenton celebrated the Fourth on Fort Meade with her husband, Fred, and daughters Teia and Jody.
For the 21st consecutive year, the Brandes set up a tent and picnic area to share shade, beverages and food with active-duty and wounded service members.
"We enjoy it," Brande said. "They know we're here."
Brande, who worked for the Personal Service Support Team for First Army Division East in the 1980s, said it is an honor to return each year to celebrate Independence Day with service members.
"It's very patriotic and very emotional," she said. "I'd rather do this than be at home."
The Fort Meade Public Affairs Office hosted the installation's first tweetup this year.
"It was a great opportunity for our community to share how it was enjoying the festivities using social media in real time," said Jason Kelly, the PAO's new media manager. "Social media is about having a conversation and making connections."
Twitter-user @Johannsone was one of the tweetup's participants who shared her experiences in 140 characters or less.
"Being American isn't about always being first or never being wrong, it's about always standing united! Happy 4th!," Johannsone tweeted. "Worth sweating it out, Beautiful, perfect 4th celebration. ...Thanks for sharing it with me."