0

MCLB-Albany celebrates America's independence

Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

MCLB-ALBANY, Ga. -- Funnel cakes, inflatable slides, working dog demonstrations and band music.

These were some of the things seen and heard at Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany as the base hosted its 17th annual Independence Day celebration Friday.

"This is the largest community relations event we have each year," said 1st Lt. Kyle Thomas, the base's public affairs officer. "It's a special way of showing support.

"We really can't thank the public enough for the support they show. We want the public to know we don't take it for granted."

At the event, spectators were able to meet the newly crowned Miss Georgia 2011, Michaela Lackey, who signed autographs. There were also inflatable attractions, food and beverage vendors, and a bungee/rock wall.

The evening also included military working dog demonstrations, clown appearances, a military vehicle display, performances and interactions with the Albany Marine Band, and a fireworks show.

Activities held the same excitement for attendees as they have in years past, but there were heightened security measures -- which resulted in more rigorous security checks of both people and vehicles -- and the absence of the Silver Wings Parachute Team from Ft. Benning, which officials are expecting to bring back.

Gunnery Sgt. Larry Graham, his wife and their two children were among the thousands in attendance.

"We usually go out of town (for the Fourth of July)," he said. "We love it out here (at the MCLB celebration). It's great."

Graham has been serving in Albany for three years and is set to leave in December. And while he says he's not going to come back for next year's event, he was grateful to have the opportunity to take part in it while he could.

"The community gets to see how the Marine Corps actually is," the gunnery sergeant said. "We have a great relationship with the community.

"Being an American is a great thing."

Gena Crews, who was operating a funnel cake station at the event, has been a vendor for the base's Independence Day celebration since it first began.

"We keep coming back because we love it," she said. "The crowd has gotten better because it has gotten bigger. Everyone has always been very nice. I've never seen any trouble out here.

"(The Fourth of July) means what our forefathers fought for. I believe in our country, and I always try to put it first."

On an annual basis, there are roughly 10,000 people that attend the event.

"(The large attendance) is probably due to the accumulation of (attractions offered), plus people want to hang out with Marines and watch fireworks," Thomas said.

The attendees aren't just from the Albany area, either.

"We get phone calls from people out of state," Thomas said. "If someone hasn't been on the base, it should be awe-inspiring.

"We get really good feedback each year. We look forward to having people here every year. We never get tired of it."