The weekend festivities began with a flag raising ceremony held inside the Norfolk Scope Arena due to the wet weather, but where each of the 28 NATO Nations presented their flags while their national anthems were performed by the U.S. Navy Fleet Forces Band.
The Mayor of the City of Norfolk, Mr. Paul D. Fraim commented on the pride that Norfolk has in its military and transatlantic partners.
“We are proud to serve as NATO’s North American headquarters,” said Mayor Fraim. “It is this sense of pride and distinction that led us to organize the first festival in 1953 and since then the festival has become a well-loved tradition.”
During the ceremony, ACT’s Senior Military Member of the Year, Chief Petty Officer David Britchford, and Junior Military Member of the Year, Leading Hand Michael Bethwaite were presented as guests of honour.
“In Norfolk, considerable efforts are made to foster deep and enduring friendships,” said Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, French Air Force General Denis Mercier. “We feel at home here and enjoy the hospitality extended to us by this great city and the state of Virginia.”
Following the flag raising ceremony, ACT members and their families had the opportunity to watch the Virginia International Tattoo, which featured a cast of more than 1500 performers, including military bands, drill teams, bagpipers, drummers, Celtic dancers, and choirs, with General Mercier taking the salute at the end of the performance.
The festival continued on April 23 with the 63rd annual parade of nations, featuring dozens of handcrafted floats, each adorned with the colours and symbols representative of each of the 28 countries of NATO, along with marching bands, dancing troupes and other exhibitors in a glorious spectacle. After the parade, Town Point Park opened up to over 9000 guests to explore the NATO village and experience the culture and heritage of NATO’s international community.
The longest running festival in the Hampton Roads region, the Norfolk NATO Festival is an annual event which recognises and celebrates the contributions and international influence of the more than 2800 international staff members and their families that live in Hampton Roads.