Fort Benning celebrates Independence Day today -- six days before the rest of the nation -- and expects a crowd of 15,000 for an evening of music, food and games.
"What better way to celebrate the holiday for our civilian community than to come out and celebrate alongside our military families," said Bridgett Siter, a spokeswoman for the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation.
The free event is held the weekend before July 4 because many military families will be traveling during the holiday. It kicks off at 3 p.m. on York Field in front of McGinnis-Wickam Hall and ends about 10 p.m. with a huge fireworks display choreographed to the 1812 Overture.
"The fireworks this year is bigger than ever," Siter said. "This year, we have added to it."
Visitors to York Field will find more than 25 inflatable bounce houses, as well as crafts, art, face painting and temporary tattoos. Activities include musical performances by Natalie Stovall and the Maneuver Center of Excellence Band on the Ranger Joe's Stage and a demonstration by the Silver Wings Parachute Exhibition Team.
Other than the free events, a carnival is located on Gardner Field near York Field. For a $10 wrist band, you can take unlimited turns on the Giant Slide, Starship, Expo Wheel, Merry Go Round and other rides.
At nearby Eubanks Field, the airborne training tower will be manned for guests who want to jump from the 34-foot tower. Cadre from the school will determine who is eligible to jump based on age, weight and physical ability.
"We try to offer it every year," Siter said. "If the temperature gets over 98 degrees, we have to shut it down for a while."
Siter said there will be a series of cooling stations equipped with water sprays and water slides.
Soldiers who have not had a chance to talk to family will find a Verizon Wireless phone bank with at least 100 phones availalble for free calls at 3 p.m., said spokeswoman Elisa Graciaa.
For the eighth straight year, Graciaa said soldiers and their families will be able to make phone calls and send photographs and messages from the phone bank.
Visitors entering Fort Benning won't have to leave their vehicle and get a pass to enter the post but anyone in the car age 16 and older must show a photo identification at the gate. Signs will direct motorists to York Field located on Eckel Avenue.