CAMDEN — Preble County residents enjoyed a free performance by the popular music component of the United States Air Force Band of Flight on Saturday, July 26.
Classics such as Elton John’s “Bennie and the Jets” and Jim Croce’s “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” rang out across downtown Camden as Flight One delivered the inaugural performance at the new gazebo in Bicentennial Park. The gazebo was completed about two weeks earlier, according to Mayor Karen Moss, and was paid for using grant funds.
The Band of Flight previously performed during Camden’s bicentennial celebration in 2018, according to Moss.
“We were excited to get back out in the community, and everyone had just raved about their performance,” Moss said. “So we’re kicking off, and we invited them to be the first show.”
The theme of Saturday’s event was built around honoring the work of Ohio’s medical professionals and first responders during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Moss.
“They’ve been on the front lines this past year, and we want to recognize them as well,” Moss said. “We thought it would be a nice thing to do, just to thank them and show them some appreciation.”
The concert was also intended to promote local businesses such as Ron’s Pizza, The Depot, 4J’s and Powerhouse Pizza & Subs.
“We’ve encouraged the public, mostly through social media, to come out, grab a bite to eat and enjoy the show,” Moss said.
The Band of Flight provides music for a wide variety of military, recruiting and community relations events, according to the group’s website. The 15-member band is stationed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, and serves Ohio exclusively.
Flight One is the band’s popular music component, which consists of five members and performs during military ceremonies and events year-round. Flight One also maintains an extensive community outreach schedule, playing at schools, fairs, amusement parks, and a host of community-sponsored events throughout Ohio.
Vocalist and Senior Airman MeLan Smartt also had words of appreciation for America’s first responders.
“They were the heroes during that time,” Smartt said of the sacrifices made by medical professionals during the past year.
Smartt has been performing with Flight One for about three and a half years. She worked as a high school music teacher after earning her bachelor’s degree in Vocal Performance, and also participated in JROTC and ROTC programs while in high school and college.
Smartt, who is also an expert marksman, went through basic training after auditioning for Flight One and being offered the job. The group will be deployed to the Middle East at the end of September, according to Smartt.
“We’ll be providing morale for the troops who are over there keeping us safe and preserving our freedoms,” Smartt said.
Though Flight One often performs overseas and at various foreign embassies, according to Smartt, they spend most of their time playing for audiences in rural Ohio.
“This is usually what we do,” Smartt said of Flight One’s performance in Camden. “Most of our gigs are in small towns, and that’s the beauty of it. We can connect with music in a way that no one else can.”
“That’s what we’re always trying to do – to honor, inspire, and connect,” Smartt said. “Whether it’s on a huge stage or a small town with just a few people, it’s all the same. It’s just great to know that you’re bringing people that joy.”
Mayor Moss stressed that, above all, Saturday’s concert was for the benefit of the community.
“We want to get out and get together again,” Moss said. “We’re just so excited to be together again.”
Reach Anthony Baker at 937-683-4057 or on Facebook @mproperenglish