By Jeremy Henderson, Army Flier Staff WriterJune 15, 2017
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Freedom Fest returns to the Fort Rucker Festival Fields June 30 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.
"It's a wonderful opportunity to show your support for Fort Rucker," she said. "Freedom Fest is a celebration for our entire community. When we look around at our neighbors across 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," she added. "Freedom Fest is a tradition for many families. We often hear our retirees comment on attending Freedom Fest when they were stationed here as active duty Soldiers. Building memories to last a lifetime is one of best parts of what MWR does for our families."
The event, which takes place from 4-10 p.m., will feature many family vendors and activities, according to Lynn Avila, special events coordinator.
"Patrons will recognize many vendors, but we will also have some new additions," she said. "The crowd will have the opportunity to enjoy Italian sweet tea, crawfish menu items and gelato.
"The fun zone will return for children this year," she added. "We will also have rides, a trampoline, zip line, pony rides and trackless train rides."
According to Avila, families may purchase a $10 arm band to allow each child unlimited access to bouncy houses in the fun zone or pay $1 per entry.
"We invite the community to come early and enjoy all the food, drinks and entertainment before the fireworks show," Avila said. "The fun zone is perfect for children, but we have also added a tiki hut that will serve refreshments for adults and live music entertainment.
"As you come in to park, make sure you park in the designated area that will get you out the preferred gate," she added. "As you leave your parking area, you will be directed to the gate exit that is assigned to your parking area."
Marcel Dumais, Fort Rucker chief of police, reinforced Avila's advice.
"Ensure when you arrive on Fort Rucker that you park in the parking area for the gate you wish to exit from when the fireworks are complete," he said. "As an example, if you want to leave from the Daleville gate after the fireworks, make sure you park in the Daleville parking area because the exit routes will be strictly enforced.
"During the Freedom Fest celebration there will be multiple police personnel on the fields to assist patrons," he added. "The DPS incident command post will also be located on Field A and patrons can ask for assistance at that location. A medical tent and lost child tent will also be set up on Field A for assistance."
According to Dumais, signage will be in place to direct visitors to the correct parking area for their preferred gate.
"It is important for patrons to follow the parking and traffic flow plan because the plan was developed to ensure safety as people enter and exit the installation," he said. "There will be a number of road closures associated with Freedom Fest and it is important for people to follow the signs posted as well as any instructions from police personnel and event staff. The egress routes are set up to move the large volume of vehicles off the installation as quickly and safely as possible. Patrons should understand that it is going to take time to get all the vehicles off the installation so we ask for their patience up front."
Dumais also urged visitors to be patient at the end of the event as personnel work to help everyone exit the facility safely.
"I ask people to remember there are probably 8,000-10,000 people in attendance and only so many roads to exit the post --, the egress routes have been set up to allow the maximum number of vehicles to exit each of the gates as safely as possible," he said. "I ask for the public's help in making sure they park in the parking area for the gate they want to exit from, this greatly helps law enforcement so we don't have vehicles trying to cross established routes and causing back-ups or accidents."
Visitors are also reminded that certain items are prohibited during Freedom Fest.
"No coolers, tote bags or backpacks permitted except for medical and baby care items," Dumais said. "No pets. No fireworks. No glass containers. No weapons, to include guns, knives, pepper spray or other such items. No bicycles, scooters, roller blades or skateboards.
"The [Directorate of Public Safety] wants everyone to come out and enjoy Freedom Fest 2017, but we ask that you do it responsibly," he added. "There will be prohibited items signs posted in the parking areas as a reminder not to bring those items on the field. Last year, there were still a number of patrons that brought pets to the event -- please leave your pets at home."
Admission to the event is free and open to the public. However, a gate access pass is required. Unescorted visitors planning to attend Freedom Fest music obtain a visitor's pass from one of two Visitor Control Centers prior to the day of the event. VCCs will not be open June 30.
Visitors may obtain passes from VCCs 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.
"We strive each year to make our Independence Day celebration something the entire community can enjoy," Erdlitz said. "And the fireworks are spectacular under the Alabama stars. Freedom Fest has the ability to pull at our patriotic heart strings.
"It's an event like no other with thousands of people joining together to enjoy the splendors of all things that make our nation so great," she added. "Freedom Fest offers something for everyone from an amazing concert, brilliant fireworks show, military aircraft static displays, to some of the best festival foods to enjoy."
For more information, call 255-1749.