CAMP ZAMA, Japan (July 2, 2012) -- The 236th anniversary of the United States' independence was celebrated June 30 at Dewey Park here with a daylong event that included live music, free food and a massive fireworks show.

An estimated 3,500 people from both on and off the installation attended the celebration, said the acting director of Camp Zama's Morale, Welfare and Recreation Division, which organized the event.

"Since we're overseas, having our community come together makes [it] stronger," said John Shoda. "Events like these build camaraderie, bring families together ... and it's just to build a strong team, reinforcing that our independence is something to be treasured."

On a stage erected in the park, a rotation of musical acts fronted by members of the U.S. Army Japan Band performed throughout the day. They played an eclectic mix of rock, country, hip-hop and Latin tunes, punctuated fittingly with several patriotic songs such as Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA."

Elsewhere on the grounds was a petting zoo, face-painting booth, a pair of ponies for riding, an inflatable bouncing castle, and other children's activities. Behind the stage, patrons at the event could grab free hot dogs and hamburgers, chips and drinks.

During his opening remarks, U.S. Army Garrison Japan Commander Col. Eric Tilley noted that celebration was in the air, considering that the Army's own 237th birthday had been observed only weeks earlier.

"We want to acknowledge the families, the service members who cannot be here with us who are deployed, or who are not otherwise with their families, and make sure we recognize them during this day when we're celebrating," said Tilley.

The celebration concluded with a joint concert performed by the USARJ Band, the Kanagawa Police Band, the Sagamihara City Band, and the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Central Band. They played a variety of pieces, ending with the traditional "Stars and Stripes Forever" and the "1812 Overture," which led to a dazzling fireworks finale.

Page last updated Fri July 6th, 2012 at 02:33