By Jeremy Henderson, Army Flier Staff WriterJune 27, 2016
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (June 27, 2016) -- Freedom Fest returns to the Fort Rucker Festival Fields July 1 with food, live music, fun for all ages and one of the top fireworks displays in the Wiregrass.
Janice Erdlitz, DFMWR marketing director, said the annual event is the perfect opportunity for Soldiers and families to celebrate the nation's independence and experience a full day of local entertainment.
"Freedom Fest is a celebration for our entire community," she said. "When we look around at our neighbors around the Wiregrass, we look forward to this day when we invite everyone out to celebrate our nation's independence with us at Fort Rucker. We all stand together, side by side, Soldier to neighbor, and feel the same powerful emotions of being proud Americans."
Event fields open to the public at 4 p.m. to provide food, vendors, activities, a children's fun zone, rides and static displays. Official opening remarks begin at 7 p.m., followed by the invocation, presentation of historic colors, presentation of national colors, the singing of the national anthem and a tribute to fallen heroes by the 98th Army Band. After a short intermission, the 98th Army Band will return to the stage for a patriotic concert at 8:10 p.m. Fireworks begin at 9 p.m.
"We strive each year to make Freedom Fest something the entire community can enjoy," Erdlitz said. "We love being able to host this event and have our neighbors come out and join us. The event admission is free. You can enjoy the 98th Army Silver Wings Band perform and enjoy one of the best firework shows in the area. We take great pride in being about to make this event affordable for everyone to enjoy.
"We will have a kids' fun zone filled with inflatables," she added. "You can purchase arm bands or individual tickets for the area. We will also have some fun carnival-type rides available with individual tickets available for purchase. The WOCCs will have their confidence course there for kids to try out their skills at mastering the course with assistance, if needed. We will also have several helicopters out on static display and other display areas for families to stroll through and enjoy. And we'll have tons of vendors. You'll be able to find some great festival food like roasted corn, funnel cakes, barbecue sandwiches and so much more."
Erdlitz added that there will also be pony rides, laser tag and zip lines.
Marcel Dumais, Fort Rucker chief of police, said safety remains the main priority during this year's event.
"As it stands right now, people who will be allowed to enter the installation during Freedom Fest are going to be Department of Defense ID card holders and anyone who possesses a (visitor's) pass," said the police chief. "There will not be any visitor control center operations that day (July 1), and it won't be like it was in years past, where we open up entry procedures for the Wiregrass community to come on."
Visitors may obtain passes prior to the day of the event from one of two visitor control centers at the Daleville and Ozark gates. The Daleville VCC is open Mondays-Sundays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Ozark VCC is open Mondays-Fridays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Dumais said the measures are due to increased security across Army installations, and although Fort Rucker has no direct threat, he said the precautions are necessary.
"Safety comes first and the force protection level is based on a threat level that's been determined, which tells us that we need to increase our security posture," he said. "There is no directed or targeted threat to Fort Rucker, so we're being prudent with our security measures."
Normal security measures that have been in place in the past will also remain in place. The event will have police patrols across the installation, as well as increased security throughout the venue to ensure the site is secure for the day of festivities, said Dumais. "Emergency medical service and the Fort Rucker Fire Department will also be on hand as a response team in the event of an emergency."
Also, there are certain items that are prohibited from being brought onto the installation during Freedom Fest, including: coolers, backpacks, pets, fireworks of any kind, glass containers, weapons of any kind, bicycles, scooters and skateboards.
Family members with medical needs or small children and babies will be allowed to bring bags for medical items of baby care items, which will be checked and tagged before entering the festival fields.
To help ensure a safe and secure Freedom Fest, Dumais also asked that people remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity.
"If you see something, say something," he said. "If something looks suspicious or doesn't look quite right, don't just drive away or walk away without saying something. Give us a call and we'll send someone out there to see what it is. It's always better to be safe than sorry."
To report suspicious activity, call 255-2222.
"We're looking forward to a great Freedom Fest this year, and hope the Wiregrass will come out to enjoy the band and the fireworks like they do every year. We ask that anyone who will be coming out to celebrate safely," said Dumais. "We truly want all the people who join us in celebrating our nation's birthday to come and have a good time."
For more information about Freedom Fest, call 255-1749.