FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — Live music, games, classic cars and more will be back in the mix — along with the largest fireworks show in the area — when Fort Leonard Wood opens its annual Independence Day Celebration at 3 p.m. July 4 at Gammon Field.
“We’ll put on a big show,” said Eli Wilson, Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Community Activities manager.
With last year’s event scaled back due to COVID-19 concerns, Wilson said organizers are going all out this year, hoping to draw the 8,000 to 12,000 visitors previous events have brought in.
“There’s absolutely been a big buzz about the event this year,” he said. “Last year, we were only able to do fireworks, and we didn’t have the rest of the normal celebration. So, it’s good to have it back.”
While general admission is free, as well as most activities, this year FMWR is charging a $5 admission fee for patrons ages 5 and older for entry to its Interactive Zone.
“(It) will include things like the inflatables, the pony rides and the petting zoo,” Wilson said. “There will be a $5 charge for an armband for entrance to the Interactive Zone for those ages 5 and older.”
“Admission fees to the Interactive Zone will help offset the costs of the Fourth of July activities, such as the live entertainment and fireworks,” said Megan O’Donoghue, FMWR director.
Schedule of events
The celebration begins at 3 p.m. with the opening of the venue, including vendors, the Interactive Zone and the July 4 Car Show.
Located near the northeast corner of Gammon Field, the car show will include a wide variety of classic cars, trucks and motorcycles.
Those who wish to show their vehicles can register now through July 1 at the Auto Skills Center or online here. Registration is $5 in advance or $10 the day of the show — when show organizers will accept cash only. Show cars should arrive at the venue at 2:30 p.m. Trophies will be awarded for the best vehicles later that evening.
“One of the other new things we’re doing — we wanted to highlight the car-show award winners this year. So, we’re doing a trophy presentation on the main stage. That will be at about 7:40 p.m.,” Wilson said.
Entertainment begins at 4 p.m. with the first of two performances by the Kansas City Disc Dogs. The act, which involves dogs catching flying disks in a variety of formations, has been featured at the Fort Leonard Wood celebration several times previously, as well as at professional sporting events in Kansas City. They will perform a second show at 5:30 p.m.
At 6:15 p.m., audiences can enjoy music by Thompson Square. The country duo, made up of husband-and-wife team Keifer and Shawna Thompson, are known for their number-one hits “Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not?” and “If I Didn’t Have You.”
Following the car-show trophy presentation, the annual “50 Gun Salute to the Union” is scheduled for 7:50 p.m. The event features remarks by Fort Leonard Wood senior leaders, the Salute to the Union narrated by Fort Leonard Wood Drill Sergeant of the Year Staff Sgt. Aquai Alexander and the National Anthem performed by a vocalist from the 399th Army Band.
At 8:15 p.m., headliners Parmalee are scheduled to take the stage. Led by brothers Matt Thomas on lead vocals and guitar and Scott Thomas on drums, the country stars are known for their hits “Carolina,” “Just the Way,” “Roots,” “Close Your Eyes” and more.
“It’s kind of an interesting story, because, in addition to the two brothers, the band includes their cousin, Barry Knox, and a childhood best friend, Josh McSwain,” Wilson said. “So, I guess you could say it’s definitely a family affair.”
The concert will be followed by the celebration’s grand finale, a “Fireworks Spectacular” which will include more than 6,100 fireworks shells set to light up the night sky.
A team effort
Wilson said the celebration could not move forward without the cooperation of multiple agencies on post.
“FMWR is happy to be able to host this event, but we have to mention that it is definitely a team event — literally the entire installation is involved in this,” Wilson said. “We have everyone involved, from military units to the Department of Emergency Services, Logistics and Readiness Command, the Directorate of Public Works, the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security — it’s the effort of multiple organizations, working together, that make this event possible.”
Parking and more
Parking will be available along the streets and lots surrounding Gammon Field. Wilson noted that portions of Iowa Avenue and Constitution Avenue between Kansas and Minnesota avenues will be closed.
“There will be no through-access on those roads,” he said. “Parking is available in the surrounding area, including the lots for the Main Post Chapel, the Rec Plex, the PX, Nutter Field House and the USO building.”
No pets or personal coolers will be allowed at the venue.
For more information, visit the event listing on the FMWR website.