By Sara E. Martin, Army Flier Staff WriterMarch 14, 2013
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (March 14, 2013) -- Soldiers and Families looking to plan vacations visited the 25th annual Travel Extravaganza March 6 to find new places to journey to while taking advantage of deals and discounts.
The event is growing every year with more explorers wanting to plan, travel and discover the tri-state area, and officials were happy with both vendor and attendee participation and attendance, according to Kristen Hartwell, leisure travel services program manager.
"We had 811 people come this year. The 54 vendors who came from all around gave participants new and updated information regarding their particular venue," she said. "It's a very fun event. It's just for people to see what there is to do in their time off, and people don't have to travel far if they don't want to, to have a good time."
There were booths from all over the South -- Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, and Missouri, as well as from local areas such as Enterprise and Foley -- to booths about national and international travel where people could get information -- and even passport applications -- about traveling abroad on open seas or to foreign locales.
CW2 Ian Cock, C. Company, 1st Battalion, 212th Aviation Regiment, and his Family like to stay local when it comes to their adventures and went to the event in order to find a fun trip for his daughter's upcoming birthday.
"This (event) is really helpful. I think Fort Rucker did a great job in putting this together. It's hard being in flight school to go anywhere, so any help is appreciated," he said. "I have never seen a travel event at a post before. It's really great."
Among the vendors were tourism departments, chambers of commerce, hotels, amusement parks and even representatives from the Directorate of Morale, Welfare and Recreation. Others included Talladega Super Speedway and Medieval Times.
"We have a lot of military personnel that are passionate about NASCAR, so it's a great opportunity for everyone. Anytime a base lets the community come in to educate its Soldiers about what is in the local area is great awareness," said Tom Patterson, senior director of ticket sales and marketing Talladega Super Speedway.
The casino-themed event also featured door prizes and giveaways that ranged from weekend getaways and gift cards to amusement park entries and rounds of golf. Many vendors that were not in attendance still gave away door prizes.
One local vendor from Enterprise keeps participating in the event because it gives people a chance to be educated on what they are all about.
"The event is outstanding; there are so many vendors here offering a lot of opportunities to people who want and like to travel, not only in Alabama but in several nearby states," said Jenny Jones, board member of Coffee County Arts Alliance. "So many people, especially those who live and work on base, don't know what the area offers and this event lets them see all the things that can entertain them."
Some adventurers who attended the event said they came because they like to find good deals, discounts and coupons, as well as find new places to explore.
"I come every year. I like to see the new booths that come. I want to find places that venture off the map a little bit and I can find them sometimes here," said Stacey Rand, civilian.
"I like to come because I can find good discount coupons and ideas for my upcoming vacations. I like to find places that I didn't know about before. I like to get away from the same-old same-old. I like to explore new places and this event helps me find places that I would have never found on my own," said Shay Collins, civilian.
Leisure travel services also provides discounted tickets to various amusement parks, theme parks, cruises and venues throughout the surrounding states year round for Soldiers and their Families.
"Soldiers are the hardest working people around and if we can do anything to help them and their Families, offer any type of discount we can, that's a benefit to them," said Hartwell. "Holding an event like this for our Soldiers shows that Fort Rucker is very unique and shows that DFMWR is here for our Soldiers."