After a year on hold, the Thunder Over Augusta Armed Forces Day tribute is coming to Evans.
Established in 2009 as a way to honor members of the armed forces, the event formerly took place in downtown Augusta. Last year’s Thunder event was cancelled when construction precluded the use of Reynolds Street. This year the event will take place from 2-10 p.m. Saturday at Evans Towne Center Park. Admission is free.
Don MacNeil, one of the event organizers, said the the new Columbia County venue made it possible to bring the event back.
“There was still an ongoing issue downtown,” he said.
“So if this was going to happen, we were going to have to find a new facility. We were lucky that this beautiful facility is available.”
This year’s event, which retains the Thunder traditions of military bands and displays, skydiving and flybys, will feature higher profile entertainment with headliner Jo Dee Messina, MacNeil said.
Exhibits: Thunder Over Augusta has always served as a showcase for military skills and equipment. This year’s displays will include Black Hawk helicopters, an M2 Bradley and M109 Paladin tank, and the massive Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck (HEMTT) vehicle. There will also be military working dog, combat, field medicine and emergency response presentations.
Team FMX East: Owned and operated by freestyle motocross riders Clint Esposito and Travis Willis, Team FMX is a travelling precision motocross show. The troupe and its riders have appeared at high profile events such as the Harley Davidson 100th Anniversary celebration, the ESPN X-Games and the Red Bull X-Fighters extreme sports series.
Skydiving demonstration featuring Dana Bowman: After losing both his legs in an accident training with the U.S. Army’s Golden Knights parachute team, Dana Bowman became the first double amputee to re-enlist in the Army, becoming the team’s lead speaker and recruiting commander. Today, he uses skydiving as a platform to demonstrate that physically challenged people cannot only contribute, but excel.
434th Army Band Signal Corps Band: Stationed locally at Fort Gordon, this talented professional ensemble plays at a variety of concerts and events throughout the year. At Thunder Over Augusta, it will play during opening ceremonies and will be joined by the Navy All-Volunteer Chorus.
Jenna Jentry: Country singer Jenna Jentry was born and raised in Dallas, eventually receiving a degree in advertising from Southern Methodist University. While in school, she began collaborating with producers and songwriters in the Dallas area. Her debut EP, Fashionably Late, was named a finalist in CMT’s NSAI Song Contest. She followed with the album Good as Gold and is touring and working with producer Mark Moffatt (Keith Urban, Gloriana, Jason Aldean).
Joanna Smith: A Georgia native, Joanna Smith grew up in the small town of Arlington listening to the classic country sounds of artists such as the Judds, Reba McEntire and Dolly Parton. From an early age, she honed her performance skills, taking any opportunity available to hit the stage, eschewing a career with the all-girl group Mustang Sally and a scholarship to Auburn University to try out Nashville. After a little more than a year, she had landed her first publishing contract. Since then she’s had one of her songs recorded by Billy Ray Cyrus and opened for Glen Campbell at the Ryman Auditorium.
Jo Dee Messina: Part of the popular pop-country crossover movement that came out of Nashville in the late 1990s, Jo Dee Messina scored a couple of hits (Heads Carolina, Tails California and You’re Not In Kansas Anymore) off her debut album and never looked back. Over the past 15 years, Messina has had four albums on the Billboard Country charts (two at No. 1) and 12 singles on the Country Singles charts (six at No. 1).
Pyrotecnico fireworks: Thunder Over Augusta climaxes with a 30-minute fireworks display set to music. Pyrotecnico, the company designing the show, is known not only for setting patriotic events alight, but also product introductions, corporate meetings and the occasional Super Bowl halftime show.