DARMSTADT, Germany - The city of Darmstadt threw a Farewell Fest Friday to say danke schoen and auf wiedersehen to Darmstadt's U.S. military community, and to celebrate more than 60 years of kinship.

Darmstadt's Lord Mayor Walter Hoffmann said the May 30 fest was in keeping with the long tradition of a German-American friendship week.

"We Darmstaedters have taken our American friends into our hearts during all these decades and will never forget them," he said. "They came as liberators, now they are leaving as neighbors."

Lt. Col. David Astin, commander of U.S. Army Garrison Darmstadt, thanked Hoffmann and the city for their generosity and friendship, saying: "That the Lord Mayor and the citizens of Darmstadt would hold a farewell fest as a way of saying thank you to their American friends speaks volumes about the bonds that have been created between us."

"Today is not meant to be a day of sadness," he added, "rather, it is meant to be a celebration of the friendship that has been created in this wonderful community, a friendship that will forever endure."

Following their remarks, Hoffman and Astin then tapped the final Darmstaedter beer keg for the U.S. military community, with the assistance of Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Smith,
Darmstadt's senior mission commander, and Col. Robert Ulses, commander of USAG Baden-WAfA1/4rttemberg.

Approximately 700 people - young and old - stopped by Freedom Field on Cambrai-Fritsch Kaserne to say tschuess to former friends and neighbors during the fest. Children bounced on inflatables provided by USAG Baden WAfA1/4rttemberg, while adults cued for complimentary burgers, brats, ice cream and goulash soup provided by the German Red Cross.

Even though he was on patrol duty during the fest, Staff Sgt. Michael Gaskins called the experience "fantastic." The military policeman, like so many in Darmstadt, will miss a close relationship that existed between two communities. And in Gaskins' case, the rapport extended into his day-to-day work with the Polizei and German fire department, which also supported the event while celebrating a lengthy collaboration.

During his time in Darmstadt, Astin noted that he came to know the city, like many Americans, as his "home away from home." But saying goodbye to Darmstadt does not necessarily mean a final parting.

"A farewell is necessary before meeting again," he explained. "And meeting again, after moments or lifetimes, is certain for those who are friends."