NATO's Strategic Warfare Development Command

Norfolk NATO Festival 2023 Shows Unity of 31 Allied Nations

April 24, 2023


NORFOLK, Va. – A week-long series of activities that celebrated the close collaboration between the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the citizens of Hampton Roads concluded Saturday. For the past week, the Norfolk NATO Festival brought together members of NATO’s 31 nations, as well as representatives from Sweden and Ukraine to honour the principles and values that shape the interests of the Alliance.

This annual tradition marked the 70th anniversary of the Norfolk NATO Festival, the only one of its kind in the United States. Notable events included a Flag Raising ceremony on April 20th that featured Gen. Philippe Lavigne, Mayor Kenneth Cooper Alexander and Gen. Chris Badia. The Flag Raising ceremony is a formal military tradition that serves to reflect on the history, people and cultures that bound the Alliance together and serve as a foundation of the longest lasting and strongest Alliance in history. The ceremony was followed by NATO Night at the Virginia International Tattoo.

“The Norfolk NATO Festival has always been a symbol of this international solidarity, and friendship. Today, this colourful display of 31 Nations flags and uniforms, also shows our diversity, our inclusiveness and our cohesion!” said General Lavigne, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Transformation. “Year after year, it strengthens the ties between the city of Norfolk and the NATO families living in Hampton Roads.”

On April 22nd, a Parade of Nations paraded through downtown Norfolk. The parade featured floats from NATO’s 31 nations, high school bands and cheers squads, civic leaders and groups, first responders and U.S. military representation from across Hampton Roads. This year, representatives Ukraine took part in the parade. The parade was followed by an International Village in Town Point Park where area residents visited and learned about NATO, visited the tents of NATO nations, enjoyed cultural dress and food. Over 5000 people from across the Eastern United States participated in the celebration.

“Since 1952, NATO’s presence in Norfolk has inspired our residents and citizens throughout the region to contribute to the Alliance’s success “ said Norfolk Mayor Kenny Alexander. “As the longest continuously running festival in Hampton Roads and the only one of its kind in the United States that recognizes the NATO alliance and its member nations, we are immensely proud of this honor and distinction. We are also thrilled to extend a warm welcome to our newest ally, Finland, to Norfolk and the greater Hampton Roads.”

The spirit of the Norfolk NATO Festival will continue through to June when Allied Command Transformation celebrates its 20th anniversary, June 7th – 9th.

Norfolk, Virginia is NATO’s Home in North America. NATO has three separate entities located in the city:

  • Headquarters, Supreme Allied Command Transformation is a Strategic Warfare Development Command that anticipates future security needs, designs military capabilities and educates Allied forces to ensure NATO maintains its warfighting edge.
    Following 9/11, the Command led NATO’s military transformation and developed concepts, created innovative processes, for new missions and roles that are now further challenged by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. For the next 20 years, thanks to the NATO Warfighting Capstone Concept (NWCC) and working closely with Allied Command Operations (ACO), Allied Command Transformation will be at the forefront of ensuring that NATO can continue to provide collective defence for one billion people.
  • Joint Force Command Norfolk defends NATO’s Allies in the North Atlantic and High North, from seabed to space.
  • NATO Centre of Excellence: Combined Joint Operations from the Sea is a pre-eminent source of innovative military advice on combined joint operations from the sea.