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A fabulous fourth

Northwest Guardian

Published: 04:22PM July 12th, 2012
A fabulous fourth

Scott Hansen/Northwest Guardian

Even during her lunch break, “Lady Liberty,” aka Janet Raynor, still manages to pose for photos by substituting corn-on-the-cob for a torch during the recent Freedom Fest celebration at Cowan Stadium on JBLM Lewis Main.

This Fourth of July, Cohen Molck and his brother, Kyler, decided to mark the occasion by getting their first tattoos. With their mother’s permission, the two made their big decisions — Cohen, 2, instructed the artist to put Tigger on his forearm, while Kyler, 3, went with a puppy.

Of course, the boys’ airbrushed body art, provided at the 110th Chemical Battalion tent during Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s annual Freedom Fest, is long gone by now. But the memories and traditions they built will last them a lifetime.

“Everyone loves to go to the fair,” their mom, Lisa, said.

This year’s event was a classic in every sense. The sun was out and so were the crowds, enjoying every variety of fried food and fair treat to be had. The air smelled like hamburgers and, near water attractions, faintly of chlorine. Everywhere kids with cotton candy walked among stilt walkers, unicyclists, and game operators shouting, “Step riiiight up, step riiiight up. Do we have a winner here?”

“It’s timeless entertainment,” Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation plans and operations officer Heinz Fitzgerald said.

This is his 27th year working at JBLM and his 22nd Freedom Fest. His favorite parts are the roving entertainers, including Plasterman, who poses as a statue. At the end of the day, he sees why community fairs like fairs Freedom Fest are still appealing to families after generations.

“It’s fun you don’t see everyday,” he said.

For April Ammerman, a Navy spouse who came to JBLM from Naval Base Kitsap, the fair was a chance to share part of her childhood with her kids, Dylan, 9, and Joel, 2.

“I’ve always liked coming here,” she said, remembering spending time on base with her dad, who was in the Army.

April, the boys, and her husband Jeff came for the sights and the food, having gyros for lunch and watching Don Riggs of Reptile Isles show off some scaly friends at the kids’ entertainment stage. Brianna Barclay, an Army spouse, and her parents Cathy and Kelly Daugherty spent their afternoon camped out at Cowan Memorial Stadium watching a slew of live bands, including headliner Joan Jett, and waiting for the fireworks to begin after dark.

Brianna remembered going to her grandfather’s Rotary Club fair in Indiana each year when she was young, drinking lemon shake-ups and playing the same games over and over with her brother. Cathy remembered going to similar fairs when she was young.

“It was the biggest thing you did all year,” she said.

With everything from a car show to prism glasses to really make the firework show pop, it might have been easy to forget about any bigger messages — but there are always some to be had.

For FMWR Better Opportunities for Single Servicemembers adviser and Nelson Recreation supervisor Bill Strock, the point of all the fun is to bring people together, particularly the military community.

“It’s just like the towns I grew up in,” he said. “I went to my county fair, I wouldn’t go to someone else’s.”

Cathy Daugherty also had more important things on her mind than elephant ears and giant slides this year — especially on Fourth of July spent with far-away family on a military installation.

“It kind of brings the importance of your country to life,” she said.