The City of Crestview will observe the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II just a few days shy of the actual Sept. 2 date. On that day in 1945, Japanese representatives signed the instrument of surrender on the deck of the USS “Missouri,” formally concluding the 20th century’s deadliest conflict.
For a community that loves its military, no matter the era, this occasion is so significant and monumental in its impact that it is worthy of a community-wide celebration, organizers say. The result is the Crestview World War II Victory 75th Anniversary Commemoration.
On Friday and Saturday, Aug. 28 and 29, World War II artifacts and vehicles from public and private collections will be displayed inside and outside of the Crestview Community Center, accompanied by a commemoration ceremony, film screenings, a concert and more.
“After our D-Day 75th anniversary program last June, people have been asking me, ‘When are you going to do it again?’” Mayor JB Whitten said. “People who visited it wanted to come back with their kids and grandchildren.”
Educational history displays will feature significant war-era photography, posters and explanatory texts. Tactile exhibits will include materials from the Baker Block Museum, Tom Rice’s display above his Fort Walton Beach Magnolia Grill restaurant, and a private Alabama museum devoted to World Wars I and II.
Outside, World War II re-enactors will exhibit uniforms and equipment. Inside, “Community Collections” will feature local family WWII artifacts. Members of the community may also display framed photos of loved ones who served in World War II on the Table of Honor.
“This was a moving and much visited part of the D-Day event last year,” table coordinator Pam Coffield said. “We will have more room this year to represent more World War II heroes this year.”
Like the D-Day observance in June 2019, the World War II victory commemoration is being coordinated by Crestview public information officer, Brian Hughes, who is also president of the Crestview Area Sister City Program, the event’s community organization sponsor. He has lectured on war-related topics at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, often informed by the personal experiences of family members.
“Our family was intimately involved in World War II in both theatres and both sides,” Mr. Hughes said. “I grew up hearing World War II stories from my mom, dad and grandfather and love learning about the war. Community events like this are a great way for people of all ages to learn about such a world-changing event.”
After the success of last year’s one-day D-Day anniversary observance and subsequent community demand for a longer event, the victory commemoration isa planned for two days, including a Saturday.
“The D-Day 75th anniversary was observed on a Thursday evening last year,” Mayor Whitten said. “Many citizens wanted to come back the next day and look at the exhibits in greater detail.”
Scheduled events currently include:
• A commemoration ceremony featuring special guest speaker Col. Sam Lombardo (ret.), a World War II veteran of the D-Day landings
• “Meet the Heroes” opportunities to meet, greet and take selfies with World War II veterans (subject to safe distancing practices then currently in effect)
• “Music of America” concert by the combined Crestview Community Chorus and the North Okaloosa Community Band
• A screening each day of a World War II film; Pacific Theatre represented on Friday, European Theatre on Saturday
• Guided tour of World War II vehicles displayed outside by their collector and restorer
• World War II re-enactors’ camp outside the Community Center
• A flyover of a World War II Stearman single-engine spotter plane.
The commemoration will conclude Saturday evening with a gala Victory Ball featuring a buffet dinner prepared by event cosponsor Mary Richard and dancing to live war-era big band music performed by Hashtag Swing. It is the only commemoration event for which an admission is charged.
“We hope this experience will provide our friends and neighbors a greater understanding of what it was like for the nation to be in such an all-encompassing war, especially our younger residents who are two or more generations removed from it,” Mr. Hughes said.
“For many of them World War II is just an event in history books and on the History Channel,” Mayor Whitten, a former history teacher, said. “Our hope is seeing these vehicles, artifacts and photographs will make it more of a tangible event for them.”
CRESTVIEW’S WORLD WAR II VICTORY 75th ANNIVERSARY COMMEMORATION
When: 3-8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 28 and noon-6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 29
Where: Crestview Community Center, Commerce Drive opposite the library
What: Community-wide commemoration marking the 75th anniversary of the Allied victory at the end of World War II
Admission: Free daytime exhibits, concert and films. Refreshments available for purchase at the student-run Stage Door Canteen
Victory Ball: Admission: $35 per person cash or check, available at City Hall and the Community Center. $40 online at www.downtowncrestview.org/events-1/crestviews-victory-ball. Limited tickets are on sale now through Aug. 21. Ticket includes buffet dinner, dancing to a live big band, WWII exhibits, soft drinks. Beer and wine available for purchase at the Main Street Crestview Association stand.
Table of Honor: Bring a framed, self-standing photo of WWII veteran ancestors or loved ones for display on the table throughout the event, including the Victory Ball. Tags will be available to identify each veteran.
Meet the Heroes: World War II veterans who are able to do so are invited to meet members of the public during an hour-long daily meet-and-greet. Social distancing will be practiced, and visitors will be required to wear face masks. Please contact event organizers (contact info below) to join us.
Community Collections: Residents may display World War II artifacts from their own collections at these tables. A hold-harmless agreement will be available to absolve the city and Sister City Program from any loss or damage. No firearms, please. Please contact event organizers (contact info below) to arrange exhibition.
World War II Re-enactors: Individual or group World War II re-enactors are invited to bivouac on the Community Center grounds and display uniforms, equipment, etc. Please contact event organizers (contact info below) to arrange participation.
Information, sponsorship opportunities: www.facebook.com/Crestview-WWII-Commemoration; Event coordinator, POC: Brian Hughes, office 850.398.5459, firstname.lastname@example.org