Veterans Day celebration Saturday at airport
Oct. 30—The more than 7,000 veterans who call Cullman County home might be the guests of honor, but everyone is invited to the Cullman Regional Airport this weekend for a patriotic day of commemoration and gratitude at this year’s area Veterans Day celebration.
Staged as a free event by the Cullman Elks and members of the local VFW Post 2214, the day-long slate of food, music, aircraft displays, skydiving demonstrations, military memorabilia, antique car show, and even helicopter rides is all set to unfold on Saturday, Nov. 4 from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. There’s no cost for parking or admission — only for air tours in the Vietnam-era Huey helicopter, plus food from any of the vendors who’ll be serving on site.
“Everyone will be able to come out, visit, and get home before Alabama or Auburn even start playing football on TV — it’s all been front-loaded that way,” says retired U.S. Air Force Col. Ken Brown, one of the VFW veterans helping to organize the event. He’s not wrong: Kickoff for the Alabama-LSU game is set for 6:45 p.m., while Auburn plays Vanderbilt in Nashville at 3 p.m.
There’ll be tons of ways to explore contributions that all veterans have made during the course of America’s military past, from volunteers greeting guests in period dress to static displays showcasing vintage aircraft flying in for the occasion. A tandem-rotor Boeing CH-47 Chinook helicopter will be on display and open for walk-through tours, as well as a plane styled after a Nakajima B5N KATE bomber — better known as the Japanese aircraft that flew in the WWII attack on Pearl Harbor.
Veterans and their significant others will be treated to free food courtesy of the local Elks Lodge, which is gearing up to dish out 1,000 hot meals at lunchtime. Cullman Republican Women group members will also dress up as Donut Dollies (the service volunteers who boosted overseas troop morale from WWII through the Vietnam War) serving free coffee and donuts to veterans and their spouses in the airport’s terminal lounge from 8 a.m. until 10 a.m.
Whether it’s a throwback Ford Model A car show or a mix of era-defining radio sounds from local DJ Wayne Abbott, there’s something for everyone at this year’s celebration, said Brown.
“Wayne will be there impersonating Adrian Cronauer, the U.S. Air Force Sergeant and radio host played by Robin Williams in Good Morning Vietnam,” he said. “What he’s doing is really neat, because he’ll be playing music from the American Forces Vietnam Network.
“It’s music that was popular at the time, with public service announcements mixed in that our Vietnam veterans would have heard when they were overseas: ‘Don’t forget to write home to mom; clean your rifle; go to church.’ For our Vietnam soldiers, that was the only up-to-the-moment connection to what was happening in the rest of the world while they were deployed, so it should bring back some pretty specific memories.”
Skydive Alabama will also stage an airborne parachuting demonstration, accompanied by retired U.S. Army Col. (and Fairview native) Don Fallin, a former Army Ranger who’ll perform a tandem jump at 11 a.m. If you’d like to get in the air yourself, Huey helicopter rides will be running all day on a first-come, first-served walkup basis beginning at 9 a.m. Cost for the air tour is $75 per person, with no advance reservation required. The Huey rides are available for guests as young as 5-years-old; children ages 5-16 must fly alongside an accompanying adult. The Full Throttle Formation Team out of Atlanta will provide an air exhibition.
“We have more than 7,000 veterans in our county, and they and their families stepped up and gave a lot for this country,” said Brown. “We always talk about supporting our troops, and this is our chance to do it the week before Veterans Day. It’ll be great Saturday that doesn’t conflict with football — and it’s a wonderful opportunity to educate the kids and grandkids on the difference between a veteran and a veterinarian.”
For more information on this year’s Veterans Day celebration, visit the event’s website at cullmanveteransday.com. The festivities fall one week before the formal nationwide commemoration of Veterans Day, which occurs each year on Nov. 11.
Benjamin Bullard can be reached by phone at 256-734-2131 ext. 234.