Once again this year, Country Depot and a host of community sponsors will present the 3rd Annual Salute to First Responders, benefitting the Off Road United Foundation. The event will take place on Oct. 1 from 10 am to 6 pm at 36 North Broad St., Brooksville.
“We have so much going on this year,” said Event Organizer Cristy Smith. There will be a parade, a kids zone, live demonstrations, live music, food trucks, exhibitors, and vendors. This will be a large-scale community display of incredible support for those who serve and protect us every day. In explaining her own keen appreciation of first responders, Smith shares a very special Yuletide story in which a man dressed in red came to the aid of her and her family. Only this hero wasn’t Santa Claus, it was Fire Chief KC Linder. “My family’s home burned down just before Christmas,” she explained. “The fire chief and his wife Dodi reset Christmas for us; bringing gifts, toys, and clothes.”
The opening ceremonies (featuring a Hernando High color guard presentation and a presentation by Sheriff Al Nienhuis), parade, and event will feature a host of first responders and their vehicles, including the Brooksville Fire Dept., Hernando County Sheriff, mounted police units, the Med-Trans team, and more. “We’re trying to bridge the gap between the community and the first responders,” Smith said. “We want the community to support and get to know them.”
Also honored and represented at the 3rd Annual Salute to First Responders will
be the United States military. “We want to show support for our men and women in uniform,”
Live music will be delivered via vibrant performances from the family bluegrass band known as Williamson Branch, Stormbringer of Tampa Bay, which has performed iconic rock songs internationally for more than two decades, and Elvis/Johnny Cash impersonator Keith Coleman, who has won the Ultimate Elvis contest, was selected the best Johnny Cash Impersonator by the NBC Television show The Next Best Thing, and was a principle actor for 20th Century Fox in the show ” The Finder.” “He’ll be performing a Johnny Cash revue,” said Smith.
Williamson Branch is an award-winning Nashville bluegrass group known for its high-energy performances and gifted, richly melodic musical stylings. “We’re both a family and a family-friendly band,” said Kevin Williamson, band member and spokesperson. “We play an upbeat and exciting show of bluegrass music and clog dancing. My daughters have been trained in clog dancing by dancers at the Grand Ole’ Opry. We love to engage an audience and we especially love supporting the first responders.”
John Vasalakis, lead singer of Stormbringer, says that his band is honored to be a part of the Salute to First Responders. “We feel blessed to be part of something so special; to salute our first responders. Showing our appreciation for their service to all of us is an incredible honor,” he said. “We hope the classic rock sounds of Stormbringer, a band that has been together 28 years, helps in some way display our gratitude. We could not and cannot do it without them.”
Also at this event, the younger set will enjoy a soak-zone activity, courtesy of the Hernando County Fire Department, a visit from Smokey the Bear, who will be joining the salute with his team from the Withlacoochee Forestry Service to teach about fire safety, and more. “We’ll have a little bit of everything,” said Smith.
Proceeds from this event will benefit the Off Road United. “They help the families of first responders that have fallen,” said Smith. For more details, contact 813-297-6276. To register your vehicle for the parade, contact [email protected]