It will take place nearly two weeks before the Fourth of July, but Fort Benning’s Independence Celebration this Saturday — free and open to the public — also will be jam-packed with patriotism, entertainment and military-style fun.
Capping off the evening Saturday is to be what Fort Benning is calling the “largest fireworks show in the 100-year history of Fort Benning,” accompanied by the Maneuver Center of Excellence Band. The Army post was founded as Camp Benning in 1918.
But the hours before the colorful pyrotechnics explode in the night sky over Fort Benning’s York Field will be filled with musical performers, demonstrations by Rangers, opportunities for civilians to jump from an Airborne tower and other fun activities.
Music fans will have the chance to take in three distinctly different styles of music on stage — rapper Flo Rida, rock band 3 Doors Down and country-rock duo Big & Rich.
Florida native Flo Rida, aka Tramar Lacel Dillard, is known for the hits “Low,” “Right Round,” “Sugar,” “Good Feeling,” “Wild Ones,” “Whistle” and “My House.”
Rock band 3 Doors Down, which will be kicking off its Rock & Roll Express Tour with Collective Soul in July, is known for the hits “Kryptonite,” “When I’m Gone,” “Here Without You,” “Let Me Go” and “It’s Not My Time.”
Big & Rich, formally Kenny Alphin and John Rich, surged to popularity in 2004 with the risque country song, “Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy).” Hits also include “Wild West Show,” “Holy Water,” “Big Time,” “Comin’ to Your City,” “8th of November” and “Lost in This Moment.”
The Independence Celebration, which kicks off at 4 p.m. Saturday, also will include a jump by the Silver Wings, Fort Benning’s exhibition parachute team. However, a highlight of the day should be another fast-paced demonstration by Army Rangers in which they perform two maneuvers — one called “Fast Rope Insertion/Extraction System,” or FRIES, the other known as “Special Purpose Insertion/Extraction System,” or SPIES.
For the younger Independence Celebration crowd, there will be more than two dozen inflated bounce houses, crafts and games. Fort Benning said a petting zoo will include the world’s tallest horse.
The post’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation office noted that the Airborne training towers will be open for jumps from 4 to 7 p.m., with signed waivers required by parents and Airborne School staff determining if a child is tall and heavy enough to do it. Also, if the temperature hits 98 degrees, the jumps won’t take place.
Here is more information on the celebration:
Food and beverages — Tokens will be available for purchase food and refreshments on site in $1 increments. Tokens not used can be turned back in for a refund Saturday.
Accepted and prohibited items — Service animals are the only pets allowed on York Field, while weapons should not be brought to the event. Coolers, bags and backpacks are allowed, but may be searched by authorities if necessary. Lawn chairs and blankets are allowed, while shade structures and tents over 4-feet high must be in a designated area so that views of the stage and fireworks are not obstructed. Grills and cooking devices are not permitted.
Stormy weather — If thunderstorms with persistent rain occur, the celebration will be canceled Saturday, although the fireworks alone will take place on Sunday evening.
Getting on post — The free event is open to the general public, but civilians must use the Interstate 185 security gate, with those age 16 and older needing a photo ID in case Fort Benning personnel request to see it. Once through the security gate, follow signs to the celebration at York Field.
Why the event is Saturday — The Army post has been scheduling the Independence Celebration in advance of the official Fourth of July holiday for several years to give soldiers and their families the chance to travel home or elsewhere if they so choose.