By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterJuly 6, 2017
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Although storms made their way across the Wiregrass and prevented fireworks from lighting the night sky over Fort Rucker, they didn't stop thousands from coming out to celebrate the nation's independence.
People came from all over the Wiregrass to enjoy one of Fort Rucker's biggest celebrations of the year, and although visitors weren't able to enjoy the fireworks, which were canceled due to inclement weather and as a safety precaution, they were still able to enjoy food, fun, music and festivities during this year's Freedom Fest celebration June 30.
"We take a lot of pride in hosting this event every year because our surrounding community does so much to support our Soldiers and our families each and every day," said Col. Shannon T. Miller, Fort Rucker garrison commander. "This is kind of our thank you back to the community for their great support."
Throughout the day of celebration, people were able to take part in a host of activities and entertainment, ranging from static displays of some of Army Aviation's fleet of aircraft, including a CH-47 Chinook and an AH-64 Apache; a children's confidence course, complete with rope and wall climbs hosted by the Warrant Officer Career College; a zip line; bounce houses; fair-style food; and more.
Adeline Halford, military spouse, said she brought her children out to enjoy a day in celebration to observe the nation's independence in the only way they know how -- by having a good time.
"Any chance I get to bring the kids out to an event where they can just be themselves and play around, I'm all for it," she said. "This is so great and they have so much to do, so I'm glad that [Fort Rucker] hosts this every year. It's a great way to celebrate Independence Day."
For many, like Charles and Hannah Sutherland, civilians from Ozark, Freedom Fest is a local tradition, and the Fourth of July wouldn't be the same without it.
"This is something I come out to every year," said Hannah. "This has become a family tradition of ours and we wouldn't miss it for the world.
"It's honestly the best Fourth of July [celebration] around," she said. "There is nowhere else around you can go and get all of this -- a concert, games, food -- it's just everything in one package."
"It's a great way to show our support for Fort Rucker, too," added Charles. "Where would we be without the service of the Soldiers who put their lives on the line every day for us? It wouldn't be right to go and celebrate anywhere else. If you have the chance to celebrate on Fort Rucker with those who we owe our independence to, then we should celebrate right here."
After people had their fill of fair food, games and rides, they were able to sit and listen to Shane Owens, a country music star from the local area, who performed a patriotic set, followed by the Enterprise State Community College Entertainers.
The Maneuver Center of Excellence Band, Rolling Thunder, out of Fort Benning, Georgia, was next up to play, followed by the Fort Rucker Detachment band, Crossfire, but inclement weather forced the concert to be halted for the safety of the staff and visitors alike.
Although the weather also forced the cancellation of the fireworks show, people were thankful for the celebration and the consideration to their safety.
"Even though we didn't get to see any fireworks, we still had a great time," said Alison Pettengill, civilian from Dothan. "I understand that they have to look after the safety of everyone, so I'm just glad we got to come out and celebrate."