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Gathering of vendors reflects troop support
Community Showcase on Fort Stewart
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Debbie Willingham, left, Liberty County Chamber of Commerce executive assistant, greets Sgt. Ena Wilson and her 3-year old-daughter, Paris, during the showcase. - photo by Photo by Denise Etheridge
Seventy vendors from across the Southeast greeted soldiers and their families during the Community Showcase and Travel Show on Wednesday at Fort Stewart. The event is held twice a year, in the spring and the fall.
Representatives from the region’s tourism and hospitality industry, cities, chambers of commerce, school districts, wildlife refuges, theme parks and local organizations informed the military community about travel and leisure opportunities.
In addition to the showcase, city and county leaders met with post commanders Wednesday morning for an informational forum. Civilian leaders exchanged information about upcoming events with their military counterparts. One of the highlights scheduled for July 4 include a concert on post featuring musical artists Darius Rucker and En Vogue.
Deputy Installation Public Affairs Officer Dina McKain said showcase participants exhibited their services and activities especially for the military community, “so when they’re (soldiers) not on duty they can make their down time quality time.”
“This is a reflection of the community’s support for soldiers and family members, and their unending support for (soldiers’) sacrifices,” McKain said.
More people attended this showcase than the one held in September 2009, McKain confirmed. She added there were some first-time vendors who participated in the spring event, including the Georgia cities of St. Marys, considered the “gateway” to Cumberland Island, and Helen, located in the North Georgia mountains.
McKain also took ballots from showcase attendees for the best showcase display.
Last fall the “Community Cup” was awarded to the Hinesville Downtown Development Authority and Zum Rosenhoff, a German restaurant located in downtown Hinesville. Yesterday the Community Cup was awarded to the Liberty County Health Department Suzie Q’s. The Suzie Q’s are a local team that will compete in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, a breast cancer research fundraiser to be held April 17 in Savannah.
Despite 15,000 soldiers currently deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan from Fort Stewart, rear detachment soldiers and a significant number of army spouses said they use information from the showcase to plan outings and vacations.
“It helps soldiers make plans for their families, like in the summer,” said Lt. Joshua Fink, of the 1-76 Field Artillery. “They can get great deals.”
Fink said the showcase has given him plenty of information to share with soldiers returning from deployment.
“If they come back for R&R, I can give them some information,” he said.
“There’s been a lot of interest so far,” said Debbie Gagliolo, executive director of the Alpine Helen/White County Convention and Visitors Bureau. “A lot of soldiers have been stationed in Germany, and so are interested in visiting Helen.”
Sgt. Ena Wilson, a nutritionist at Winn Army Community Hospital, said she’s found numerous day outings and activities to entertain and educate her children right here in Liberty County, through the showcase.
“You hear people say there’s nothing to do in Hinesville, but then you look around and see there’s a lot to do,” Wilson said.
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