MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII --
As smoke from a barrage of colorful fireworks opening BayFest 2011 faded into the darkness over Kaneohe Bay, the crowd’s quiet enjoyment gave way to noisy excitement, transitioning Hangar 101’s airfield into a buzzing festival filled with ear-splitting guitar riffs, dizzying rides and camouflaged sniper rifles, July 15 through 17.
Celebrating its 22nd year as Hawaii’s largest summer music festival, the three-day BayFest — sponsored by Marine Corps Community Services — opened the base’s gates to the local community, drawing thousands to concerts by Cecilio and Kapono, Hoobastank, Puddle of Mudd and Joe Nichols, and featuring contests, carnival rides, food booths and military static displays.
“BayFest is a great event for the local community because it gives them an opportunity to see what Marines really do, instead of just going on what they hear or what somebody tells them,” Staff Sgt. Anthony Caputo, the supervisor of 3rd Marine Regiment’s Motor Vehicle Operator School, said.
Manning a row of static vehicle displays near the hangar’s entrance, Caputo and uniformed Marines from the base’s tenant units showcased armored tactical vehicles, heavy equipment and aircraft. Between explaining the vehicles’ purposes to passers-by, Marines hoisted hesitant youngsters into the seats, drawing smiles as they honked horns and spun in turrets. In front of the vehicles, visitors flocked to tables lined with sniper rifles, sighting into the lives of scout snipers from 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment.
While BayFest was valuable to the local community, Caputo, from Philadelphia, said the event offered Hawaii Marines an opportunity to trade stories with prior-service Marines, and showcase their job skills on a stage different from their day-to-day grind.
“BayFest is beneficial for Marines because it forces them to show their [military occupational specialty] proficiency, and teach civilians who don’t know about it,” Caputo said.
Visiting BayFest with her granddaughter, Kailua resident Judith Wilhoite — whose husband served as an active duty Marine — applauded the military aspect of the festival’s entertainment, saying it allowed people to enrich their lives by learning about different aspects of their world. Her 8-year-old granddaughter Milia echoed her excitement, saying it was exciting to meet Marines, and learn more about what her stepfather did during his time in the Corps.
Enjoying BayFest for the first time since moving from Okinawa, Japan, Staff Sgt. Chris Tomlin, squadron operations chief, Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 362, was impressed with the festival’s size and number of attendees. After experiencing misconceptions about Marines’ functions among the local populace in Okinawa, Tomlin lauded the benefits of the two entities converging for BayFest.
“Every time we get together like this, it helps the community see that we do a lot more than they think, or than they see on TV,” Tomlin, from Amarillo, Texas, said.
Moving through the vendor’s booths in Hangar 101 onto the airfield, visitors navigated through a slew of food booths and carnival rides. When darkness fell, hordes of lively concertgoers packed into the concert area on each of BayFest’s evenings, rocking out and singing along during the featured bands’ performances.
Building off a lengthy history of playing for troops in the U.S. and overseas, rock band Puddle of Mudd jumped at the opportunity to bring their frenzied, high-energy show to service members for their first time in Hawaii.
“We’re always willing to give back to the troops,” Puddle of Mudd guitarist Paul Phillips said. “Everybody has their own spin on the war, but the men and women over there are risking their lives on a daily basis. Seeing this makes us realize how fortunate we are in our living — the least we can do is to come out and play for our troops.”
Touring in Iraq, Kuwait and at several military hospitals around the country, Puddle of Mudd frontman Wes Scantlin said the experience has “opened my eyes,” and given the band a much deeper appreciation for the sacrifices made by military men, women and their families.
“We have the best military in the world,” Scantlin said. “Our service members are just fighters, warriors — and I love them for it.”