A performance by the twin sons of the late, great Ricky Nelson was the highlight of the Fourth of July celebration on board Naval Support Facility (NSF) Dahlgren that featured music, outdoor activities and of course, fireworks.
Matthew and Gunnar Nelson delighted the crowd that packed the parade field for Ricky Nelson Remembered, a set list that included Ricky Nelson's top hits as well as short films about his career and the Nelson family's early days on the Ozzie and Harriet Show.
The celebration was possible through a partnership between officials from King George County, Naval Support Activity South Potomac (NSASP) and several sponsors. "This is a partnership between the installation and the county," said Capt. Pete Nette, NSASP commanding officer. "It's a great partnership... it's great for the Navy and it's great for King George."
Nette welcomed the crowd and thanked sponsors. "For those who reside in the community, if this is your first time on the installation, welcome aboard. For those who work here, welcome back. I hope you guys have a good time and enjoy yourselves."
Nette also thanked the Pentagon Division Sea Cadets, the King George High School NJROTC, staff from Dahlgren's Branch Medical Clinic and members of the Aegis Training and Readiness Center (ATRC) and Naval Facilities Command Washington (NAVFACWASH) for supporting the celebration. "Thanks to my NSF Dahlgren team: security, MWR, fire, public affairs, special events, safety, emergency management for making the entire event a success!"
Cedell Brooks, chairman of the King George County Board of Supervisors, thanked attendees and sponsors. "Good evening to all," he said. "It's a beautiful day today. It's a little warm but we're grateful to be here today. It's good that we all come together as a community and celebrate on Independence Day."
"It is such a great event and partnership between the county and the base which is so much a part of our county," added Joe Grzeika, King George Board of Supervisors member, after the celebration.
"Captain Nette has gone above and beyond opening the base to the community and our private partners who have made the fireworks possible through their generous donations as we celebrate the birth of our nation. All are to be commended. God Bless America."
Despite sweltering heat, revelers enjoyed a long list of activities. The more adventurous among the crowd climbed a ladder to the zip line, where they sailed down the cable into a large inflatable backstop. For the more traditionally inclined, sack races ran around a portion of the field.
The Hunger Games came to life as a real competition, minus the death and destruction detailed in the book and movie. A car contest brought dozens of classic cars to the Navy Exchange parking lot. A misting tent and a misting truck provided by the NSASP Fire Department proved to be especially popular.
The heat was not enough to stop several couples from dancing during the performances by the Glass Onion Band and Ricky Nelson Remembered. The former got the crowd moving as they covered tunes by the Beatles, Led Zepplin, the Rolling Stones and Roy Orbison.
The dancing continued as service members competed in the Operation Rising Star Contest, judged by the Nelson Brothers, members of the Glass Onion Band and the crowd. James Curry, a military dependent, won over the judges and the audience with a rousing rendition of Barry White's "Let's Get it On."
Ricky Nelson Remembered thrilled audience members, who described the performance as a "great show" and "wonderful." The down-to-earth demeanor of the Nelson Brothers, seemingly oblivious to the heat, impressed the crowd.
"Happy Fourth of July!" said Gunnar Nelson. "It's great to be here. It's cooking and all I can say is I'm not going to whine because we have a lot of people sitting out in the sun waiting to see us play."
The film shown as part of the show detailed Ricky Nelson's career, from his early days on the small screen with his parents in Ozzie and Harriet, to the zenith of rock stardom, to lows in the latter half of the 1960s, to triumphant comebacks. "Our pop was about the most televised rock star in history," said Gunnar Nelson.
Then there were the hits, performed faithfully by Gunnar Nelson on the guitar and Matthew Nelson on the bass. "Hello Mary Lou," "Travelin' Man," "Stood Up," "I'm Walking" and "Lonesome Town," just to name a few.
Such anthems helped Ricky Nelson sell more albums than nearly any other artist in history. "This is obviously our family show," said Matthew Nelson. "The thing that impresses me is we get a chance to meet people, talk to people and kind of keep it going.
"Our pop managed in his career to sell 230 million records, Over 60 million albums. He's in the top five of all-time record-sellers in history and in spite of that, he was the nicest guy you'd ever want to meet - completely down-to-earth, a true gentleman. As Gunnar said, there's nothing more fun than being able to share these songs with you all and have a good time."
The young Nelson twins shared much about their early childhood in the Hollywood Hills with some rather extraordinary company. Bob Dylan was the guy who wouldn't leave the house; "Uncle" George next door was George Harrison; their babysitter was Mama Cass Elliot. Their father's new band, the Stone Canyon Band, was busy crafting the country rock sound that would dominate the airwaves decades later.
Little wonder that the Nelson twins would go on to find fame with their own band, Nelson, in the early 1990s. Though the self-admitted "hair farmers" laugh about their glam rock days, the music lives on. As requested by an audience member, the Nelson Twins performed "(Can't Live Without Your) Love and Affection," to the delight of a different generation of fans.
The songwriting and performing apple clearly did not fall far from the family tree. Respect for family is something the Nelsons said they have in common with military audiences. In fact several members of the Nelson family are currently serving.
"We got a chance to look around the base and we do as much as we possibly can for the military, for the families like the ones here," said Matthew Nelson. "Thank you for your service!"
After the show, the Nelsons signed autographs and mingled with fans. With the sun down and the heat more bearable, the crowd moved along the edge of the airfield to enjoy the fireworks.
The Fourth of July celebration in Dahlgren was sponsored by Birchwood Power Partners, Simventions, NSWC Federal Credit Union, Communication Specialists Inc., Waste Management, Lincoln Military Housing, the University of Phoenix, and WGRQ 95.9 and Thunder 104.5.