Grafenwoehr celebrates Independence Day in style
July 16, 2012
GRAFENWOEHR, Germany -- With pick-up games of football, barbecues laden with hot dogs, boot-stomping country music, and the crack of baseballs in the batting cage, a little America sprung up in the middle of Bavaria for Grafenwoehr's Fourth of July celebration.
Unlike previous garrison Fourth of July celebrations, which sought to incorporate German flavor into the festivities, this year's shindig was all about the U.S.A., explained community activities coordinator for Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, Neville Paschal.
"It's truly a Fourth of July for Americans," he said.
Grafenwoehr's Parade Field swarmed with community members dressed in red, white and blue. Children lined up to jump in bouncy houses, climb a 20-foot high inflatable wall, get their faces painted and collect balloon animals. Farther back on the field, groups set up grills, coolers and lounge chairs, staking ideal locations for the fireworks display.
The evening's entertainment took off at 6 p.m. with Kayleigh Leith, who, paired with violinist Pauline Koning, sang her way through one hour of sweet country-pop songs.
Leith, who writes her own songs and is currently working on her second album, draws her inspiration from the melodious and accessible stylings of singers like Keith Urban.
"I never really liked classical country music like, 'I lost my dog,'" said Leith. "I classify my music as pop with a country twist."
The USO brought Leith to Grafenwoehr. Her performance at the Fourth of July fete marked the first time she has played for Soldiers, a turn she was excited about.
"I love sharing my music with people, especially Soldiers with what they've done for us," said Leith. "I'm very honored to be here."
After Leith's performance, deejays took turns on stage as music was pumped out to the ever-swelling crowd. FMWR estimated around 5,000 people arrived from across Germany to ring in America's birthday with flair. FMWR, which planned the event, strove to provide the Army community with a "taste of home," explained Andrew Snoddy, Grafenwoehr's community recreation and division chief.
"The country, fair-type atmosphere is what we try to create here," he added.
For Paschal, the communal aspect of the holiday, family and friends coming together to celebrate another year of America's independence, was essential to the ambience and the success of Grafenwoehr's festivities.
"The traditional thing is getting people out of the house, socializing and communicating," said Paschal, adding, "It's a community party."
No one embodied this sentiment more than Chief Warrant Officer 2 Marius Ciubucciu, mobility warrant officer for the 2nd Cavalry Regiment.
With his wife, two daughters, mother and father-in-law, and multiple Soldiers in tow, Ciubucciu settled down on a large plot of the parade field, whipped out a grill and began cooking up steaks and chicken for his party.
Donning a well-used apron and wielding tongs, Ciubucciu proudly proclaimed, "This is how we roll."
Becoming more serious, he added that the Fourth of July is about family and friends.
"For us, Fourth of July is the biggest day of the year," said Ciubucciu. "Normally I'm not staying out late, but this is the exception: fireworks."