COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Budget cuts are forcing military installations across South Carolina to cut back or cancel traditional Fourth of July celebrations, but fireworks and military bands are set to cheer men and women in uniform and their civilian neighbors.
Shaw Air Force Base outside Sumter has cancelled its annual celebration, as has the Marine Corps Recruit Training Depot at Parris Island. But some communities and installations are moving forward anyway or finding ways to bring a spark to the holiday.
“We are hosting a fireworks display and the Marine Corps Band” from Parris Island, said Van Willis, the town manager of Port Royal, a town of some 10,000 people near the Marine training site. Willis said the community decided to boost its celebrations and make up for the cuts the Marine Corps had to announce.
“We are excited about the band coming,” Willis said in a phone interview. “Our community is very supportive of our military. They are very willing to put on a celebration and ensure that it is even more robust than ever.”
The community lost its annual Air Show in the spring after nearby Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort couldn’t participate because of the budget cuts, Willis said, so it was even more important for the region to be able to celebrate the Fourth.
Officials at Shaw are hosting a pool-side kick off on Wednesday and at least 2,000 people are expected, said Air Force spokeswoman Capt. Ann Blodzinski.
Cancellation of the fireworks saved about $16,700, she said, and the substitute event will be, “Our time to get our families together and have a fun time on base.”
The budget cutbacks stem from Washington’s failure to follow up a 2011 budget pact with plans for additional spending cuts. That translated into “sequestration,” or $85 billion in across-the-board cuts that began in March. The military took a major hit and some federal workers are enduring forced furloughs.
At Fort Jackson outside Columbia, the state’s largest military base cancelled a portion of its celebration known as a Torchlight Tattoo.
“We normally have around 15,000 to 20,000 visitors, plus some 10,000 soldiers,” said Army spokesman Pat Jones. “The program is going to be a bit shorter, but it will still be worthwhile and people should still come out early to get a good seat.”
The installation plans on having its normal 9 p.m. fireworks display and music by the 282nd Army Band, Jones said.
The portion that is being cancelled is an elaborate event known as a “Torchlight Tattoo” featuring cannon fire, a regimental drum major, fifers and uniformed soldiers who hold torches as they re-enact soldiers returning to their barracks.
The event began in Holland during the 16th century and its name comes from the Dutch expression, “Doe den Taptoe,” which refers to innkeepers turning off the liquor taps and soldiers marching back to their barracks with lighted torches.
Cannons were shot to honor each state and territory. The event required a lot of military support, Jones said, and the cost added up.
Jones said this year’s event is being paid for with non-taxpayer dollars by the Fort Jackson’s Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation organization, which supports itself with income from concessions on post and ticketed events.
“We will still have kid’s rides and food and drink available,” said Jones.
Along the South Carolina coast, the privately funded group known as “Salute from the Shore” has scheduled flights by vintage aircraft from North Myrtle Beach to Hilton Head Island in the south on the afternoon of the Fourth. In past years, F-16s from Shaw Air Force Base had participated.
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