Once people realized 2-year-old alligator “Izzy Real” was a live gator and not a prop, they either petted the baby reptile or jumped two steps back. Either way, Izzy seemed to pique folks’ interest in Gatorland, one of 72 vendors that exhibited Thursday at the 2011 Community Showcase & Travel Show at Fort Stewart’s Club Stewart. Gatorland is a wildlife attraction in Orlando, Fla.
Representatives from resorts and hotels across the Southeast, local cities and counties, chambers of commerce, nonprofit organizations and parks spoke to soldiers and military spouses about what they offer. The showcase is held twice a year, in the spring and fall.
“It’s the best (showcase) I’ve seen in six years,” Fort Stewart public affairs officer Pat Young said. Young said the showcase held Wednesday at Hunter Army Airfield also was well attended.
Prior to the showcase, an executive session of the Regional Information Sharing Forum was held at Club Stewart. Fort Stewart spokesman Kevin Larson said military commanders and county and city leaders were briefed on “what the leadership is doing, upcoming events and the new 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team complex.” The 4th IBCT moved into its new duty home off Highway 144 in July.
The 3rd Infantry Division headquarters is expected to deploy to Iraq in early November to assist with the U.S. military’s drawdown there, according to 3rd ID Commander Maj. Gen. Robert “Abe” Abrams. Abrams spoke to the Hinesville Rotary Club in August about the scheduled deployment. American troops currently are slated to leave Iraq by Dec. 31 unless the Iraqi government asks the United States to allow some troops to remain beyond the end of 2011, according to a report by Voice of America.
Recent arrivals to Fort Stewart and longtime area residents appeared to benefit from the showcase.
“We’re new here,” Lt. Col. Lee Overby said. Overby soon will assume command of the 1st Battalion, 76th Field Artillery Regiment, 4th IBCT, 3rd ID. Overby and his wife, Melissa Overby, wanted to see what family activities were available near their new duty station for themselves “and for our soldiers.”
“I was at the information-sharing forum this morning and Melissa attended an FRG (family readiness group) advisors’ course,” Overby said.
Cynthia Scott has lived in the area for three years but came to see what new travel and recreational opportunities were offered. Scott is a civilian employee at Fort Stewart. She browsed first-time vendor Charleston Tea Plantation’s table and took some sample teas.
“We’re North America’s only commercial tea plantation,” said Bryn Riley, a tours and events manager with Charleston Tea Plantation. The plantation is on Wadmalaw Island, near Charleston, S.C.