Parade of Air Force Heritage

DOBBINS AIR RESERVE BASE, Ga., -- Combine colorful floats, marching bands, an enthusiastic, patriotic crowd, add a dash of Air Force heritage and finish with an evening of top-class entertainment, and you have the recipe for good holiday memories, Southern style.

This year's July 4th celebration in downtown Atlanta certainly was that and much more.

It began with the 47th annual "Salute2America" Independence parade and ended with a fireworks show in Centennial Olympic Park.

Hosted by WSB-TV/Channel 2, which broadcast the event live using high-definition television, the annual parade is billed as the nation's largest Independence Day parade. The theme for the parade was "Celebrating Freedom." It also honored the 60th Anniversary of the U.S. Air Force.

More than 60 Airmen marched in review before the parade's VIP stand. They, in turn, were joined with a miniature C-17 (The Spirit of Hope, Liberty & Freedom) from Charleston AFB, S.C., the Air Force Reserve Jet Car and mini-Raptor; and "Lil' Bill," a miniature C-130 from Kessler AFB, and an assortment of dazzling floats, marching bands, giant, helium-filled balloons that wound their way through downtown Atlanta along Peachtree and Marietta Streets, ending at Centennial Olympic Park.

The parade's Grand Marshall was Lt. Col. (ret) Charles W. Dryden, a former Tuskegee Airman. VIPs included Maj. Gen. Thomas Owen, commander, Robins Air Logistics Center, Col. Michael Kim, vice commander, 22nd AF, and Col. Heath Nuckolls, commander, 94th AW.

Special guests included the newly crowned Miss America 2007, Lauren Nelson and the professional dancers of ABC's, "Dancing with the Stars". Other guests included Mark Indelicato of ABC's comedy "Ugly Betty;" and the country music group "Carolina Rain".

The festivities continued that evening in Centennial Olympic Park. There, over 40,000 people listened as Max Impact, an Air Force band from Washington, D.C., played a virtuoso arrangement of contemporary, high-energy tunes. The band was the opening act for Ruben Studdard, the 2003 winner of American Idol.