{mosimage}When you think about the Fourth of July, you think parades, picnics, patriotic music, flags and fireworks. And while you might find some of those elements at other community Fourth of July events, nobody does it better than Fort Bragg.
    If Fort Bragg is the place the phone rings when the nation dials 911, then it’s only right that it be the center of the celebration of our national freedom — especially this year as Fort Bragg sponsors Operation Celebrate Freedom VI: A Welcome Home Ceremony.
    “We always celebrate the Fourth of July every year here on Fort Bragg, but this year, we are blessed to have most of our soldiers home, although there are a number still deployed,” said Heather Staffel, special events coordinator. “That’s going to make it a little more special.”
    With that in mind, the installation is pulling out all of the stops to make this year’s event one not to be easily forgotten. The event will kick off at 3 p.m. at the Main Post Parade Field. While the field normally plays host to much more austere ceremonies, on the Fourth of July it becomes one of the biggest backyard barbecues in the nation, with everything from games and rides to food and music.
    The mini-carnival will feature children’s rides only. A $5 bracelet covers the cost of all the rides. Of course,  you may want to ride the rides before you settle down to eat, but when you do decide to check out the food vendors, be prepared. Vendors will offer everything from barbecue to brats to pizza and ice cream. There will be 16 food vendors. If none of that tempts your tummy, you’re always welcome to bring along your own picnic basket.
    Fort Bragg’s festivities have long been associated with great music, and this year is no exception. At 3:30 p.m., Dakota Rain, one of Fayetteville’s favorite country music bands, will start the party. The band, which has been together for more than seven years, is something of a staple at the Fort Bragg festivities, having opened for national acts for a number of years. Dakota Rain highlights its performances with a mix of cover country tunes, southern rock and its own original music. Woman Behind the Man, a tribute to military wives, received considerable air play locally and in other areas throughout North and South Carolina.
    The band will be followed by Rockie Lynne, a former Fort Bragg soldier turned musician. Lynne, a North Carolina native, signed his first record deal in 2005, and has since charted four times on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart. His first hit came with the song “Lipstick,” which peaked at number 29. He currently has two singles out — “I Can’t Believe It’s Me” and “Holding Back the Ocean.”
    It wouldn’t be the Fourth of July on Fort Bragg unless someone jumped out of a plane, and at 5:45 p.m., you can catch the world-famous Golden Knights free fall parachute demonstration. The Knights are among the most elite skydivers in the world, competing around the world annually. The aerial acrobatics and precision landings are a great way to warm the crowd up for another elite performer — the incomparable Wynonna.
    There are only a select few celebrities who have the panache to be known only by their first name — Wynonna definitely makes the cut. The auburn-haired beauty has a powerhouse voice that was made for country music. She gained fame in the ‘80s as a member of one of country’s most popular duos — the Judds. Their story is well known. Wynonna, along with her mother, Naomi, had a meteoric rise to the top, recording more than 10 studio albums and charting 14 number one songs. The duo appeared unstoppable until 1991 when Naomi was forced into retirement due to health issues. {mosimage}
    Many speculated how well Wynonna would do on her own, but she didn’t let her fans down. Launching her solo career, she has sold more than 10 million records, won the Top Female Vocalist award from the Academy of Country Music, and recorded 13 top 10 hits. She has been called innovative, inspired and imaginative, and has proven to be something of a rebel. The tabloids have followed the songstress closely, taking note of her successes, and thrilling when she falls down. But the singer, who has likened herself to a female Elvis, takes it all in stride, and continues to produce great country music. She is currently touring in support of her new release What The World Needs Now Is Love. Wynonna has a special place for the military in her heart, having performed a number of times for the military and their families, including shows at the Pentagon and most recently at Alaska’s Operation Gratitude, a concert for the U.S. military. That show was simulcast to troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, who were able to interact with her via video conferencing. Once you’ve had your taste of country, prepare for a big bite of mom, apple pie and country, as the event turns to the patriotic side. The Flag Ceremony, long a Fort Bragg tradition, pays tribute to the men and women who serve by honoring the flags of every state. If you’ve never seen this ceremony, be prepared for goose bumps.
    At 8:30 p.m., the 82nd Airborne Division’s All American Band will perform the “1812 Overture,” which will flow into the Concert in the Sky fireworks show at 9:30 p.m. This is one show you are not going to want to miss.
    Admission to the event is free and open to the entire community. If you do not have a Fort Bragg sticker on your vehicle, you will need to enter through one of the authorized gates for non-registered vehicles. Expect a delay of at least 30 minutes to access post, so plan your trip accordingly, but leave your pets, grills and glass bottles at home.
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