By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterJune 15, 2018
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- One of the biggest celebrations in the Wiregrass is returning to Fort Rucker for Independence Day where people will be able to enjoy live music, food and fun for the whole family.
Freedom Fest returns June 29 to the festival fields from 4-10 p.m., and with it will return the Maneuver Center of Excellence's rock band, Rolling Thunder, which will perform a variety of hits from rock and pop classics to modern-day hits, according to Staff Sgt. Gregory Edwards, MCOE operations NCO in charge.
The band, which consists of vocalists, guitarists, keyboardist and drummer, will perform two 45-minute sets and take concert goers on a journey through time with favorites from artists like Michael Jackson, Pat Benatar and Stevie Wonder, to songs by modern artists like Justin Timberlake, Shawn Mendes and Carrie Underwood.
Edwards, who plays the French horn for the MCOE brass quartet, said that the band has been preparing for weeks and continues to put in the time to make sure Fort Rucker gets the best performance possible.
"There are several rehearsals a week, not just including planning music, but you have to get the right order or music," said the NCOIC. "When you plan it, you don't want too much high-energy songs in a row, so you've got to space it out."
Before the band takes the stage, the colors will be presented, followed by remarks from Maj. Gen. William K. Gayler, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker commanding general, who will then introduce the band to kick off the concert.
Immediately following the concert, the fireworks show will begin set to patriotic music for all to enjoy, but before the culminating event, people are encouraged to take advantage of everything Freedom Fest has to offer, said Lynn Avila, Fort Rucker special events coordinator.
"Patrons will recognize many vendors and the crowd will have the opportunity to enjoy many different selections," she said. "Also, the fun zone will return for children this year, and we will also have rides, a trampoline, zip line, pony rides and trackless train rides."
"This is a great time to bring your family out, hear some live music and interact with the Fort Rucker Army community," added Edwards. "You'll get to see some fireworks, have some good food and have a good time."
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 support for Fort Rucker," she said. "Freedom Fest is a celebration for our entire community. 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. Building memories to last a lifetime is one of best parts of what MWR does for our families."
Freedom Fest is free and open to the public, but a gate access pass is required to enter the installation. Unescorted visitors planning to attend Freedom Fest must obtain a visitor's pass from one of two visitor control centers.
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. If planning on attending this year's celebration, Dumais recommends people come a few days prior to get an access control pass, as the VCCs will not remain open after normal business hours on the day of the event.
As for parking, people need to park in the designated areas for where they wish to exit the installation, said Marcel Dumais, Fort Rucker chief of police.
"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."
Also, people are reminded that no coolers, tote bags or backpacks will be permitted, except for medical and baby care items. Additionally, no pets, no fireworks, no glass containers and no weapons, to include guns, knives, pepper spray or other such items will be allowed. Bicycles, scooters, roller blades or skateboards will also not be permitted.
For more information, call 255-1749.