By Franklin FisherJune 21, 2019
FORT BENNING, Ga. - Fort Benning will hold an open-to-the-public celebration of the nation's Independence in a big way June 29, with admission-free fun for the whole family, including a special ops fast-roping maneuver, free-fall parachute jump, a live concert by seven-time Grammy winner Lady Antebellum, and the biggest fireworks display in the Chattahoochee Valley.
It will also feature a concert by Fort Benning's popular Maneuver Center of Excellence Band, scheduled for 5:45 p.m.
The Independence Day Celebration is scheduled to start at 4 p.m. and wrap up at about 10:30 p.m. on York and Gardner Fields, which are on Eckel Avenue in front of McGinnis-Wickam Hall.
For those attending the Celebration, Fort Benning's gates open at 3 p.m.
Parking is free.
Food and beverages will be sold throughout the event.
Fun for kids includes face painting, darts, ring toss, and other crafts and games, as well as nearly 30 inflatable bounce houses, a petting zoo, and more.
"Here at Fort Benning we're really looking forward to our Independence Day Celebration," said Col. Matthew Scalia, Commander, U.S. Army Garrison Fort Benning. "It's our way to say thank you to our friends and neighbors in the Fort Benning community by opening our gates and welcoming them to join us in a day of fun and patriotic celebration.
"On behalf of Fort Benning's Soldiers, civilians and family members," said Scalia, "I invite all members of our Chattahoochee Valley area community to come join us here June 29 in celebrating our nation's birthday and independence."
Although Independence Day falls on July 4, Fort Benning each year holds its Celebration several days early for a number of reasons, a big one being to allow Soldiers to travel during the holiday to be with family and friends.
Two demonstrations of military skill - involving parachuting and high-speed helicopter operations - are scheduled for 6:35 p.m.
The Silver Wings, Fort Benning's Command Exhibition Parachute Team, will make a free-fall parachute demonstration. And the Army's elite Rangers will perform high-speed insertion and extraction operations involving fast-roping from a helicopter. The maneuver they'll demonstrate is known as FRIES and SPIES. FRIES stands for Fast Rope Insertion/Extraction System; SPIES for Special Patrol Insertion/Extraction System.
In addition, guests will have a chance to jump from 34-foot-high Airborne training towers, which the U.S. Army Airborne School uses to train the nation's paratroopers in the second stage of the Airborne course.
The Airborne training towers will be open from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Eubanks Field. Parents must accompany their children and sign a waiver of liability. But it will be up to the Airborne School cadre to decide whether a child's height and weight are enough to jump from the tower. If the temperature reaches 98 degrees the tower event will be called off.
Combat vehicles will be parked for display, including an Abrams tank, a Bradley Fighting Vehicle, and a Stryker armored vehicle.
A concert by country music singer Bailey Bryan is scheduled for 7:05 p.m., followed by Lady Antebellum at 8:35 p.m.
The evening will wrap up with the MCoE Band performing music synchronized with the fireworks show, scheduled for a 10 p.m. start.
More than 50 food and drink vendors will be on hand during the Celebration. The food vendors accept payment in tokens only, not cash. Tokens will be on sale during the event at $1 each. Unused tokens are refundable at the event, or at Fort Benning's Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation headquarters, in Building 228 on Kilgore Street. They can also be bought in advance there, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
A special events lane will be open to motorists at Benning Road gate starting at 3 p.m. Civilians attending the Celebration can get to Benning Road from Victory Drive by following signs that will be posted for the event. Those 18 and older must show a valid state or federal ID.
Coolers, bags, backpacks and vehicles will be subject to random inspections at the discretion of the Military Police.
To cut waiting time at the front gate, a free Fireworks Pass is available. Starting June 22 through 3 p.m. June 29, a Fireworks Pass can be picked up at Fort Benning's Visitor Control Center, at the end of I-185 South/Fort Benning. The Center is open 24 hours, seven days a week.
To be given a Fireworks Pass, those wanting one must show a valid state or federal ID for each person 18 and older who would be in the vehicle seeking entry to the Celebration. The Fireworks Pass is valid only on June 29, 2019, starting at 3 p.m. Those with a Fireworks Pass may enter Fort Benning from any open gate.
Like those with a Fireworks Pass, those guests who do not have one must also show a valid state or federal ID for each person in the vehicle 18 and older seeking entry to the Celebration.
Those who have no Fireworks Pass and who do not have Fort Benning's "Trusted Traveler" status can enter the post only from the Fort Benning Road gate, which is just beyond the National Infantry Museum.
Those with physical disabilities will be able to attend the event. Those wanting to ask for sign language interpretation or other accommodation should call 706-545-4499.
Pets - with the exception of service animals - are not allowed at the celebration.
Weapons of any kind are prohibited.
Coolers, bags and backpacks are allowed, but alcoholic beverages or glass containers are not permitted. Also prohibited are grills and cook tops.
Visitors are encouraged to bring lawns chairs and blankets. Shade structures and tents that are more than 4 feet high must be set up in a way that does not obstruct others' view of the stage or fireworks show.
Fort Benning asks that motorists respect its speed limits. Drinking and driving are prohibited.
In the event bad weather forces cancellation of the fireworks display, the fireworks event, only, will be re-scheduled for June 30.
A full schedule of events and other information on the Celebration is online at: benning.armymwr.com, or by calling 706-545-3328.