Warner Robins concert, fireworks a way to say ‘thanks’ to community

WARNER ROBINS — Though Monday was their first rehearsal for Thursday’s 26th annual Independence Day concert, the Band of the U.S. Air Force Reserve is more than ready for the extravaganza at McConnell-Talbert Stadium.

About seven months have gone into planning the show and coordinating with the guest artists, country music veteran Gary Morris and Motown legends The Miracles, said Maj. Don Schofield, the band’s commander and conductor. Returning as the show’s host will be cable TV country music personality Nan Kelley.

“We’ll hold two rehearsals and then do a run-through with the artists,” Schofield said. “We feel the show will be a great opportunity to bring people together.”

“It’s a way to express our thanks for the support we have experienced in the community,” said Lt. Col. Leslie Pratt, chief of the Public Affairs Operations Division of the Air Force Reserve Command at RAFB.

As another way of saying thanks, Schofield said, the band scheduled the show for Thursday instead of the Fourth of July.

“We’re aware that others have family commitments for July Fourth, and July 2 was a great compromise,” he said.

The show and fireworks display will be taped for airing Friday over the American Forces Network.

Allen Tatman, the Warner Robins Civitan Club’s project chairman for the event, said the fireworks display has proven to be a huge attraction. Jerry Vincent and his family will start setting up the display Wednesday evening.

“We’ve been well pleased with Jerry Vincent’s fireworks displays through the years,” Tatman said. “We get a ton of comments about them, and we even shoot more fireworks than they do at Stone Mountain.”

The stadium is scheduled to open at 6 p.m. for the free event, and the band will strike up the national anthem at 8 p.m. after a flyover from F-15s, Pratt said. The fireworks are scheduled to begin after dusk.

Tatman said the Warner Robins Police Department, in coordination with other agencies, does “an outstanding job” handling the after-show traffic.

“They emptied the stadium last year in 45 minutes, and this year they’re aiming for 30 minutes to clear the parking lot,” Tatman said. “It’s a great event all the way around.”