Community prepares to celebrate AFAD

Wednesday, September 2, 2015
The state's largest parade highlights the Air Force Appreciation Day celebration in Mountain Home. The parade begins at 10:30 a.m. Sept. 12.

The 55th annual Air Force Appreciation Day in Mountain Home -- the community's largest celebration -- kicks off the morning of Sept. 12.

The event is designed to honor the men and women stationed at Mountain Home Air Force Base and to recognize all uniformed members of the U.S. armed forces.

The main events feature the state's largest parade followed by a free barbecue and entertainment in Carl Miller Park.

Events actually begin the evening prior with the annual corn shucking to prepare the corn for the free barbecue in the park the following day. The public is invited to take part in the activity, which starts at 6 p.m. Sept. 11.

At the same time, the annual commander's social is also held at the park that evening, in addition to the AFAD Fun Run and Walk.

Celebrating its 22nd anniversary this year, the race will mark a new tradition this year as it hosts a children's run in conjunction with the traditional race. The one-mile youth run starts at 5:30 p.m. on North 10th East Street next to Carl Miller Park with the second race following at 6:30 p.m.

The course during the main run stretches three miles for walkers with a five-mile option for runners. Both follow designated routes through town that are monitored by police for safety.

Festivities on AFAD day Sept. 12 begin with a VIP breakfast at 8:30 a.m. at War Memorial Hall, 515 East 2nd South St. The event is by invitation only.

The Idaho Air National Guard will mark the beginning of the parade as a pair of A-10 Thunderbolts from Gowen Field fly over American Legion Boulevard at 10:30 a.m. It resumes a long-standing AFAD tradition after military budget cuts tied to sequestration stopped last year's flyover.

The parade will wind its way from Paul's Market through the city's downtown area before it concludes at Carl Miller Park. Mayor Tom Rist will serve as this year's parade grand marshal.

As of last Thursday, more than 65 entries had already registered to be part of the AFAD procession. The deadline to enter floats or vehicles in the parade was Aug. 26, although organizers usually make accommodations for late entries.

Each year, an estimated 2,000 citizens walk, ride and march in the state's largest parade. Another 7,000 or more people are expected to line the streets to watch the parade, many of them waving tiny American flags or dressed in red-white-and-blue outfits.

Parade officials emphasized that the parade is not arranged on a first come, first served basic. Instead, it comes together as an orchestrated event with floats, decorative displays and awesome equipment spread throughout the whole parade -- start to finish.

Officials understand that those that enter the parade want to be at the front of the procession and will often list good reasons behind their requests. However, to have an entertaining parade, organizers need to place entries in a fashion that viewers see interesting entries coming toward them to the very end.

The final entry is just as important as the first, parade officials added.

As soon as the parade ends, activities move to Carl Miller Park where more than 100 vendors will set up booths, offering everything from food to arts and crafts to games. More than 10,000 individuals typically show up to enjoy the festivities throughout the afternoon.

In addition to the entertainment, people line up for the free barbecue, which features pulled beef sandwiches, corn and more. The meal begins as soon as the parade ends, roughly around noon.

AFAD organizers request that people keep their dogs and other animals at home versus bringing them to the park.

During the afternoon events, the Chamber also begins raffling off a number of items donated by local businesses. AFAD raffle tickets are $1 each or six for $5.

Tickets are available in advance at city hall, the Mountain Home Chamber of Commerce, Paul's Market, La Mode Cleaners, Mountain Home News, Bank of the Cascades, Idaho Independent Bank, Pioneer Federal Credit Union, DeMeyer Furniture and Lucky Perk. People may also buy them at the chamber booth in Carl Miller Park on Sept. 12.

Raffle prizes include a Yamaha Vino from Cycle City, a 32-inch LCD television from the Bank of the Cascades, a natural gas barbecue from Intermountain Gas, a set of luggage from Brenda's Travel Service, two $250 cash prizes, a one-night stay and dinner for two at Cactus Pete's, a Keurig coffee maker from Bealls, his and her bicycles from Wal-Mart, a 182-piece tool set from Sears and a pair of $250 cash prizes.

AFAD is an event that is almost legendary throughout the Air Force, according to the event's organizers. From humble stop-and-start beginnings, it has grown to become the community's largest event.

Run by the Mountain Home Chamber of Commerce, it takes hundreds of volunteers to put it on, a coordinating committee that has to deal with thousands of details to make it work, combined with the wholehearted support of businesses and individuals throughout the community, officials added.