Residents mark July 4 with events downtown and at Infantry Museum

Skydivers, war reenactors and comic book heroes greeted a crowd of thousands Friday at the National Infantry Museum's Second Annual Freedom Fest.

Freedom Fest, a day-long Independence Day celebration complete with live music, food vendors and bouncy castles, was created in 2013 as a replacement for the longstanding Thunder on the Hooch celebration, National Infantry Museum employee Jordan Beck said.

The museum recorded more than 3,000 guests during 2013's festival, despite a series of summer thunderstorms that dampened fireworks displays for many local celebrations.

"When WTVM decided they were no longer going to have Thunder on the Hooch, we wanted to still have a Fourth of July celebration," Beck said. "We decided it was going to be a rain or shine event, and had a great turnout despite the terrible weather. This year, we've counted almost 2,000 people within the first two hours."

Many of the celebration's activities catered to area families with small children, including free face painting, arcade style games, bouncy castles and balloon animals. The celebration also included a Pint-Sized Patriot Parade where children displayed bikes, tricycles, scooters and wagons decked in national colors.

After the parade, the Fort Benning Silver Wings Parachute Demonstration Team displayed their skills for onlookers. The team dived for onlookers using the parade field behind the museum.

"We've got a bunch of free programs for kids," Beck said. "We've also got a beer tent and tons of vendors with great food. The combat simulators and IMAX Theater shows are not free, because the revenue generated from those attractions, along with the generous donations from our visitors, are how we keep this private museum running."

Festival goers also enjoyed classic rock hits such as "Go Ask Alice" by Jefferson Airplane and "Heartbreaker" by Led Zeppelin performed by the Maneuver Center of Excellence rock band.

Crowds gathered once an hour to watch Civil War reenactors fire a working cannon displayed at the front of the museum. A reenactor, dressed in period garb, signaled the cannon fire with by waving a sword. Inside, attendees met and took pictures with a Revolutionary War reenactor and enjoyed the museum's educational displays.

Ft. Benning First Class Sgt. Jackob Marcum said his family most enjoyed the bouncy castles and war reenactments.

"It's a great opportunity to get together, and it's free," Marcum said. "The reenactment was really great."

Families also got the opportunity to meet a plethora of DC Comics and Marvel heroes on entering the museum, including Spiderman, The Flash, Wonder Woman, Batman and Raven from Teen Titans.

Fort Benning Major Robert Crouch, who portrayed Captain America during Friday's celebration, said he enjoyed watching interacting with the festive crowd throughout the day long event.

"My favorite part was all the great people coming out and saying hi," he said. "And seeing the great red, white and blue outfits."

The iconic hero still had one regret, however: being denied a chance to jump with the Silver Wings.

"I asked and they said they couldn't let me," he said with a laugh.