BayFest, military members honor nation's birthday

Emmett Haney
Emmett Haney
Lt. Gabe Szekely
Lt. Gabe Szekely

By Leland Kim - bio | email

KANEOHE (KHNL) - Marine Corps Base Hawaii celebrates America's birthday, and they're doing it the old fashioned way with carnival rides, food, and music.

BayFest 2008 has been going strong for 19 years, and this year is bigger than ever. It started Friday, and more than 48,000 visitors are expected to enjoy all the fun activities this weekend.

Thrilling carnival rides bring Oahu families to Marine Corps Base Hawaii on this Fourth of July. First timers like Tina Hamayasu say, it's a day of reflection.

"Independence, fireworks, lots of fun, and national spirit," said Hamayasu, who lives in Manoa.

That national spirit shines especially brightly among Hawaii's military members, like Lt. Gabe Szekely, a Navy pilot who flies this Navy Seahawk helicopter.

"We have the P-3's here," he said. "We've got helicopters. We've got jets. We cover all sorts of different missions."

Besides active duty members, retired veterans are also here. Emmett Haney was last stationed at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in 1974. Now, 34 years later, he's back in Hawaii, volunteering at BayFest.

"We've always loved it out here, if we had known in '74 what we know now, we would've stayed here," said the 72-year-old retired Marine captain.

He says a lot has changed over the years.

"I was visiting with one of the (company officers) in one of the units, and mentioned when I was here, we were using a specific type of equipment," said Haney. "And he said, 'Well, we're in the fourteenth generation of that equipment now.' And I had the first generation of it."

Haney's also noticed a change in public support, a growing appreciation of the military.

"The fact that the Base is able to do this and get all of the participation from the entire state, really, and the commercial enterprises here, it just shows the support the military has here in Hawaii," he said.

The younger generation of military members agrees.

"Everybody that's coming out here kind of shows that they're showing their appreciation for what we do," said Szekely. "And we really appreciate that."

Appreciation from those who fight for our country on the nation's birthday.

And it wouldn't be BayFest without music. Friday night, country stars Rodney Atkins and Little Big Town hit the stage. And this weekend, the fun continues with 3 Doors Down, Live, and Everclear.

BayFest is open until 1 am Friday and Saturday nights, and midnight on Sunday.