Enjoy carnival rides, concerts and fireworks while spending the weekend at the Spring into Summer Salute to Fort Campell festival noon-9 p.m. Saturday and noon-6 p.m. Sunday on the lawn of Valor Hall, 105 Walter Garrett Lane in Oak Grove.
About 20,000 people are expected to attend this award-winning festival, said Traci Cunningham, executive director of the Oak Grove Tourism Commission.
Cunningham, who founded the festival 12 years ago, said it has been rewarding to see how the festival has developed over time.
"When we first started out, it was before Valor hall was even built. It started out as us out in the big field for just a couple of hours one day," Cunningham said.
The first year of the festival, about 1,000 people attended.
"It was a little disappointing, but I wasn't going to stop because I could see the potential," she said. The second year we saw more people and we had more locations. It kept getting bigger every year and we started seeing more and more."
Now, the festival is the largest in Christian County.
"The greatest part is when people really have the greatest time and they are smiling ... when they leave the park with the biggest compliments and gratitude ... seeing the kids' smiles when they are on the carnival rides ... it's just so rewarding," she said. "That's when I feel the happiest, because I know we are giving back to the community and people are having a great time."
Cunningham said she is proud of everything the festival has become.
"There's nothing like this in the area," she said. "It's a way for us to say 'thank you' to the community and the military for everything they have done."
This year's festival will include a concert headlined by Josh Turner, which kicks off at 7 p.m. Saturday inside the Viceroy. Turner is expected to perform about 75 minutes.
For the first time, there also will be a second concert during the festival featuring The Renegade Rally with Brandscombe Richmond and The All Star Band, beginning at 4 p.m. Saturday.
Guests are encouraged to show up at the festival at least two hours in advance to showtime to secure seats inside the Viceroy, Cunningham said.
This year, several new activities such as the Car and Motor Show and ziplining will be available.
"Every year I like to add new things to the festival," Cunningham said. "I don't like to do the same things every year."
Also new to the festival this year is an extreme trampoline show performed by FlippenOut. Shows are scheduled for 1 p.m., 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. Saturday and noon, 1:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Sunday.
"The trampoline show is probably my favorite new addition this year," she said. "That's besides the concert though, because the concerts are always my favorite."
As a longstanding festival tradition, a 10-man team from Fastrax Parachute Jumpers will drop by the festival at 6:45 p.m. before the evening's concert begins.
"It's just beautiful. It's the most amazing thing ... it just gives you chills," she said.
After Turner's performance, a fireworks display will close out the festival.
During the festival special friends Pearl the Squirrel and Oscar the Robot will roam the grounds, interacting with festival-goers and welcoming everyone to the event. Some may remember Oscar from last year's festival. Cunningham said Oscar was so popular they decided to bring him back this year.
While waiting for carnival rides or the shows to begin, guests can have their picture drawn by cariacture artists, watch balloon artists create their favorite creatures, snack on refresehments and shop from vendor booths.
All festival activities are free except refreshments and vendors.
"It's one big party and it's a lot of fun," Cunningham said. "This festival is almost like a free vacation for people. People can come out and not spend a lot of money. Come out, brings the kids and have a great time with us."
Hosting the festival on Memorial Day weekend supports the festival's mission to honor service members and their families, she said.
"Our military fights and protects our country and we thank them for everything they do and appreciate all of their sacrifices," Cunningham said. "We want to give back and say 'thank you' with this festival. We want (service members and their families) to know they are important and we appreciate them. We are the hometown of Fort Campbell, so we want to make sure (service members and their families) feel important and welcomed and know we love them."
Pets and outside alcohol are not permitted at the festival.
Cunningham also noted the festival, which serves thousands, is hosted by a staff of less than 25 people including tourism employees, security, traffic control and volunteers.
"Please be patient with us, because this is a free festival. It's going to be a crowded park. When the festival closes, wait in line and we will get everyone out of here as quickly as we can ... we want everyone to be safe," she said.