Bury St. Edmunds prepares to celebrate with 'America 400' parade

The Freedom of the Borough is an honorary freedom given to those of distinction, or who have provided eminent services to the Borough, or have served the community in a very distinguished way. The Freedom of the Borough proclamation shown here is displayed in the 3rd Air Force Headquarters.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Karen Abeyasekere)

The Freedom of the Borough is an honorary freedom given to those of distinction, or who have provided eminent services to the Borough, or have served the community in a very distinguished way. The Freedom of the Borough proclamation shown here is displayed in the 3rd Air Force Headquarters. (U.S. Air Force photo by Karen Abeyasekere)

RAF MILDENHALL, England -- The city of Bury St. Edmunds is hosting the America 400 parade beginning at noon May 6, and everyone is invited to enjoy a day of celebration and entertainment. 

The event commemorates the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown, Va., by Bartholomew Gosnold, an English explorer who was born in Suffolk in the 1500s and died in Jamestown in 1607. 

In 1602, Gosnold sailed to the future New England, and in 1607 he was instrumental in establishing the first permanent English colony in North America. 

During the May 6 parade and local community event, the U.S. Air Force will exercise its Freedom of the Borough (conferred in 2000) in Bury St. Edmunds. 

"This is a huge joint event between the local community and us," said Maj. John Haynes, 3rd Air Force-United Kingdom Public Affairs chief. "Most of our involvement will include both (RAFs Mildenhall and Lakenheath). Airmen from both bases will march together in one large formation. 

"First they'll march (along Angel Hill) up to the podium, where the Mayor of St. Edmundsbury and Maj. Gen. (Paul) Fletcher, 3rd Air Force commander, will review the troops," he added. "Then they'll march to a large service at the cathedral which everyone is invited to attend." 

British and American fly-bys are planned, the Lakenheath High School Band is slated to play and both base honor guards will participate. 

"There will be a number of static displays, including a fire truck, military working dog demonstration team, weapons display and HUMVEEs," Major Haynes said. "More than 120 U.S. Airmen will take part in the parade, and the honor guard will carry the actual Freedom of the Borough proclamation at the front of the procession." 

The local community has also organized events including Punch and Judy (puppet) shows, vintage vehicle displays and a bird of prey demonstration. Those events will be held in the Abbey Gardens from noon until 6 p.m. 

"This event has been organized to celebrate the unique and special relationship which our borough has shared with our American neighbors for many years," said Deborah Cadman, St. Edmundsbury Borough Council chief executive." It will bring together families from both communities to share our heritage, while marking an important anniversary in America's heritage." 

Major Haynes said he encourages everyone to attend the event. 

"This is a terrific opportunity for people; it's not often you get to be involved in such a huge joint U.S. and British event while you're assigned to this country," he said. "It's a very unique and exciting tradition they have here - exercising the Freedom of the Borough. It's got some really exciting historical ties." 

Ms. Cadman echoed his sentiments. 

"Our connections with America stretch back over years, and were cemented in 2000, when the 3rd Air Force became the first organization from outside Britain to be awarded the Freedom of the Borough," she added. "Bestowing this honor reflects the affection and respect which the borough and the U.S. Air Force share, and I hope this will continue for years to come."

What to Know: Limited free transportation to the event will be provided by ITT. A bus will leave ITT at RAF Mildenhall at 11:30 a.m. May 6. It will depart from Bury St. Edmunds at 5:30 p.m. and return to base. There will only be one bus from RAF Mildenhall and one from RAF Lakenheath, so seats are very limited. Passengers wishing to ride the bus must sign up through ITT.