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Marines open gates for holiday celebration

Bailee Luciano, 5, left, has some fun making bubbles with new friend Aidan Pritchard, 6, during Friday night’s Independence Day celebration at MCLB-Albany.

Bailee Luciano, 5, left, has some fun making bubbles with new friend Aidan Pritchard, 6, during Friday night’s Independence Day celebration at MCLB-Albany.

ALBANY, Ga. — The Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany hosted its largest community event Friday to welcome everyone to the base for an early celebration of the founding of America.

“This is our 18th year,” said Lt. Kyle Thomas. “The admission is free and we have a working dog show, the Marine Corps Band New Orleans and the fireworks as the main attraction.”

A first-timer at the celebration, Lola Brown, an Air Force wife, brought her children, Aiden Brown and Matthew Trotti, to enjoy the show. Her husband is in Korea and they live at Moody Air Force Base.

“I heard about it on the radio driving in Hahira. I decided to bring the kids,” Brown said. It is great to have something to do with the family.”

Asked if she was grateful for the Marines staging the celebration, she said she was. “But remember, we’re Air Force.”

Some of the proudest young men and women at the celebration were a group of young men and women who have signed up to join the Marines and are awaiting their date with boot camp.

Taking a break from chin-ups at the recruiting booth, Mandy De Santiago said she was to report Sept. 10. Until then, she’s getting to know some of her new family at the celebration.

photo

Joe Bellacomo

Sgt. Stephen Cooper plays the Tympani drums as part of the Marine Corps band during Friday night’s Independence Day celebration at MCLB-Albany.

“Joining will help me get physically and mentally better. It’ll help with a scholarship to school,” De Santiago said. “Besides the Marines are the best.”

It was difficult to tell who had the best time at the celebration. Children frolicked on every type of bouncy house ever invented. Adults and children watched two demonstrations by the Marine Corps Base Police K-9s.

As with most Fourth of July celebrations, there was food — fried food, barbecued food, iced food and more. Just as the country is composed of immigrants from all over the world, booth after booth featured cuisine from around the world including Poland, Asia, Italy and Mexico.

Selling Italian and Polish sausage grilled with peppers and onions, Mike McKinney of Moultrie is a veteran of the celebrations. With a usual attendance of more than 11,000 at the event, he hoped the heat didn’t keep people from attending.

“One year, business is really good or great. The next year a little off,” McKinney said. “The we get back up again. People do come out for the fireworks.”