NORFOLK, Va. — It's a celebration! The Hampton Roads community is celebrating their connection with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, also known as NATO, with the return of the annual Norfolk NATO Festival.
The City of Norfolk is celebrating until Saturday. One of the events happening now at the Norfolk Scope is the Virginia International Tattoo.
Performers from around the world came together to celebrate through music.
Thursday night, thousands of people returned to the Norfolk NATO Festival after a two-year delay.
"It's a show of unity - not just between the 30 nations, but also with the local community," said U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Rochell Rieger.
NATO's mark has been felt for decades in Hampton Roads. It highlights NATO's influence and impact and the two commands that call Norfolk home in North America.
"It's another clear demonstration of how truly strong the 30 allied nations are today, especially given everything going on in the world," said Rieger.
After two years without the event, due to COVID-19, this year's theme is a "Show of Unity." For one veteran, he said this festival is a priority for him.
"We have the greatest military in the world, and everybody ought to be proud of them," said Col. Walter Creves, Ret. U.S. Army veteran.
The Hampton Roads native has attended the Norfolk NATO festival for three years before the pandemic hit, and it brings back old memories for him.
"I love to hear military bands and military music," said Col. Creves.
The festivities kicked off with the annual flag raising ceremony, representing NATO's 30 member nations, while the United States Fleet Forces Band performed, demonstrating strength and diversity.
Although Ukraine is not a part of NATO's 30 nations, military leaders said unity couldn't come at a better time with Russia at war with Ukraine.
"NATO will continue to stand by Ukraine as a partner, and all the individual nations continue to supply Ukraine with armament, relief money, taking in refugees, things like that. The support will never go away," said Rieger.
Below are the key timings of this year’s Norfolk NATO Festival:
- Thursday, April 28 at 5 p.m. ‒ NATO Flag Raising Ceremony (Downtown Norfolk, Scope Plaza)
- Thursday, April 28 at 7:30 p.m. – NATO Night at the Virginia International Tattoo
- Saturday, April 30 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. ‒ Parade of Nations and International Village (Downtown Norfolk, Town Point Park)