Freedom Fest brings fun, food, music to Fort Rucker
July 12, 2012
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (July 12, 2012) -- Despite forecasts of thunderstorms, thousands of people packed the Festival Fields on Fort Rucker to celebrate the nation's independence at Freedom Fest with food, fun, fireworks, and the return of Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band July 3.
Before the concert began, people were able to enjoy fair-type rides like the Wrecking Ball, ride a zip line, jump on a bungee trampoline and even ride a mechanical bull, which is one of the activities that Sydne Dufrene, military Family member, participated in during her visit.
"I've been telling [my dad] that I want to ride a real bull but he won't let me," she said. "I guess I'll have to settle for the [mechanical bull], but it was a lot of fun. I liked it a lot."
Others said that riding the bull was something that they enjoy on a regular basis, but was not as easy as it looks.
"It was hard, but nothing I'm not used to," said Blake Larson, who is set to enter the Marine Corps in the coming months.
People also came to enjoy the various types of fair food offered at the event, but for most, they came out to see the main attraction: Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band.
"I came out here to see Gary and his band play again," said Jerry Danford, retired Army veteran. "I visited last year and it was simply amazing. I think it's just amazing what he does for our troops and the fact that he's able to take time out and come to Fort Rucker to put on a show like this for us is just awesome."
The concert was delayed by rain and many thought it might be canceled, but Maj. Gen. Anthony G. Crutchfield, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker commanding general, was determined to get the show rolling.
"Gary told me we've got all night and he asked me, 'General, do you want me to [play]?' and I said, 'Gary, I want you to [play],'" said Crutchfield.
The concert got back on track when the weather cleared up and Natalie Stovall, up-and-coming country star, took to the stage to open for Gary's band.
Stovall's time on stage was brief because of the delays, but she was thankful that she was able to play for everyone in attendance.
"It breaks my heart that we have to pack up and leave," she told the audience. "We want to thank all the men and women serving all over the world. Thank you so much for what you do."
After Stovall's performance, a Lt. Dan montage played on the two large screens on either side of the stage, which showed different scenes that the actor was featured in from the movie "Forrest Gump" before he took to the stage.
The band played music that a wide variety of people could enjoy, ranging from classic hits like Lionel Richie's "All Night Long", to modern pop hits like Katy Perry's "Part of Me."
The Lt. Dan Band came to Fort Rucker after doing a tour for military troops in Alaska, according to Sinise, and has been touring around the world for almost nine years in locations like Korea, Singapore, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Germany and the Netherlands.
"The band has been all over the world because we appreciate the sacrifices of our military and our military Families," he told the crowd. "We can never say enough or do enough to thank them. We can never, ever take for granted what our military does for us each and every day in the defense of freedom around the world.
"People right here at Fort Rucker are training every single day to go out around the world in harm's way in the service of freedom," Sinise continued as he closed the show. "We are lucky to live in the United States of America. There are people all over this planet that don't understand what we have here, so, value it, appreciate it and appreciate those that provide it."
As Sinise and his band exited the stage, the fireworks show began, bringing Freedom Fest 2012 to a close.
"I thought this year's Freedom Fest was amazing," said Katie Pettengill, civilian. "I'm really glad I stayed for the whole thing because the concert was so amazing. This is the kind of thing that really makes me proud to be an American and live where I live."