FORT RUCKER, Ala. (June 17, 2016) -- Freedom Fest waits just around the corner and the 98th Army "Silver Wings" Band has spent months preparing to give their best performance of the year in honor of the nation's freedom.

"Freedom Fest is our pièce de résistance, so to speak," said Staff Sgt. Christine Permenter, Crossfire vocalist and leader. "For Crossfire, it is our biggest venue and our greatest performance in terms of reaching out to the Soldiers and patrons of the Wiregrass area. We work tirelessly for months for this performance so that we can put out the best product we can.

"Many months of planning and preparation go into Freedom Fest," she added. "We get back from Christmas break and literally start thinking about Freedom Fest, and how can we make this year better than last year.

"The group rehearses an average of 10 hours a week as a group -- not including individual practice and preparation for rehearsals," Permenter continued. "Sound technicians and production specialists within the band spend countless hours preparing the ambiance of the stage and the 'bells and whistles' that take the show from a great rock performance to a spectacular show! We also try every avenue of approach when it comes to getting the word out of the performance. We try to reach out to every newspaper that we can, radio advertisements, local television stations, etc."

According to CW2 Daniel R. Parker, 98th Army "Silver Wings" Band commander, this year's performance will have a little something for everyone.

"Preparation for Freedom Fest starts with guidance from the (commanding general)," he said. "In this case, we have a lot of freedom to build a production that speaks to and entertains the diverse population of the Fort Rucker and the Wiregrass while honoring our great country. With that guidance, we conceptualize, design and produce all of the aspects of the performance -- selecting and preparing music; coordinating contracts for stage support; designing light, video, and sound schemes; and tapping into public affairs channels to help publicize the performance.

"This year's Freedom Fest concert will feature 'Crossfire,' the 98th Army Band's premiere popular music ensemble," he added. "This Top 40 group will play both modern and classic music hits that everyone can enjoy. Also, we have the honor of playing a tribute song for our Gold Star Families. We collaborate with Survivor Outreach Services each year to honor these families and their Soldiers in the most fitting way that we, as musicians, can. It it truly an honor to have this chance to pay tribute to those who have sacrificed so much."

What do the bands have planned for the Freedom Fest crowd?

"An evening of fun and entertainment," Permenter said. "Crossfire has prepared a variety of songs including hits from today as well as hitting a few classics. We plan to pay homage to two truly great, inspirational musicians who have passed this year. Their passing has affected each member of the group in some way, and we plan to pay tribute to them on July 1st. We also plan to dedicate a truly special song to the Gold Star Families. Their loss is again heavily felt among us and we plan on paying our respect in the best way we know how."

According to Parker, Freedom Fest is more than just an opportunity for the bands to take the stage.

"Freedom Fest is a chance to give back to Fort Rucker and the communities of the Wiregrass," he said. "Freedom Fest is a celebration of the history of our nation and allows us the opportunity to both honor the sacrifices of the men and women who have fought or who are fighting to make America free every day and to thank those in our communities who support our Soldiers, support our military and support our nation."

Spc. Clay Parler, vocalist and instrumentalist, said Freedom Fest is unlike any performance the bands do throughout the year.

"While all of the band's performances are executed with precision and enthusiasm, Freedom Fest requires a much higher level of energy from all of the performers. Furthermore, a successful performance requires more physical communication on stage between performers," he said.

Staff Sgt. William Peters, drummer, echoed Parler's sentiment.

"Performing at Freedom Fest differs greatly from other performances," he said. "This is one of the biggest events that we support, and a lot of time and effort is put into this performance. The 98th Army Band has a unique mission and a big part of our mission is ceremonial. This gives us a chance to play some modern music and put on a high-energy show for the community."

According to Permenter, Crossfire's performance will provide some modern music for the crowd in addition to the traditional songs offered by the 98th Army "Silver Wings" Band.

"The songs that Crossfire performs for Freedom Fest are very carefully chosen so that we can put on an exciting show that will build throughout and grab the attention of our audience," she said. "We choose songs that are not only hits in their corresponding genres, but also songs that we can make our own and apply our own special touch. We go through a rigorous trial and error process to not only make the song performance worthy, but to also make sure that the product we are putting forth is one we can be proud of."

Parler added that collaboration is a key component in the performance process.

"It is a highly collaborative effort to choose and work on songs for this performance," he said. "We have to choose songs very carefully, paying special attention to the abilities of every performer in the group; and, more importantly, we have to choose songs that will work well in a live setting and appeal to a larger audience."

For more information about Freedom Fest, call 255-1749.