Gallery: Crowds gather for 4th of July celebrations at RAF Feltwell

Stars of stage and screen, the scent of cooking burgers filling the air and Stars’n’Stripes flags everywhere could only mean the annual July 4 United States Independence Day celebrations, yesterday.

Crowds had already begun flocking to RAF Feltwell during the early afternoon to enjoy funfair rides, family activities and a birds of prey demonstration, but many more joined in during the late afternoon and evening for displays by military aircraft, including the Red Arrows and the main event, a performance by stars of hit US TV show American Idol, while on their world tour.

Planes old and new performed during the festivities, including a fly-past by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Spitfire and a Typhoon Eurofighter, while there was also a display of classic cars and motorbikes and cheerleader demonstrations.

A film star also made an appearance, the Sally B B-17 Flying Fortress which starred in the war movie Memphis Belle and is now housed at the Imperial War Museum in Duxford.

And there was also plenty of traditional American-style food and drink to keep visitors refreshed including stalls selling hot dogs and burgers.

The day’s fun was crowned by a fireworks display.

Keith Beaumont, co-ordinator with the USAF’s 48 Fighter Wing at nearby RAF Lakenheath, was one of the organisers of the event and said there were also children’s activities including a bouncy castle, face painting and the Go Ape forest adventure trail based at Thetford.

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He said the Independence Day celebrations traditionally attracted between 25,000 and 30,000 visitors, including personnel from RAF Lakenheath and RAF Mildenhall airbases, but also local residents.

He said: “The 4th of July celebration is a way of bringing the community together and for the airbases to say thank you to the community for the work it does for the airbases and invite local residents to join in the celebrations.”

Amanda Mucha, 32, was visiting with her husband Michael, 30, a serviceman at Mildenhall and daughters Heather, four, Priscilla, eight months and Michael, eight. The children particularly enjoyed the merry-go-round rides. She said: “I just like how everyone gets together to celebrate Independence Day and we invite the community on to the base and the fireworks display is always good.”

Suzy Crawford, 29 was visiting with her husband, Mike, a Lakenheath serviceman and daughter Josie, one.

She said the event brought service personnel from the two bases together, adding: “We all have our own lives and make a point of meeting each other for the Independence Day event.”

Bedfordshire couple Dean and Alison Barrett, 45 and 41 and their son Oliver, eight were exhibiting their Ford F-150 at the classic car show. Mr Barrett said: “I think it is very good that it is open to everybody. This is our first time here at Feltwell and we have enjoyed it.”

Staff Sgt Cordarrell Hammond, 23, was among firefighters manning a stall raising money for the Lakenheath Firefighters Association, an 80-strong team covering Lakenheath and Feltwell bases.

He added: “The Independence Day celebrations are definitely a morale boost. It is a time when people look forward to coming out and having fun.”

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