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Holiday weekend starts with concert, exhibition

SUWANEE - Maria Nuedling and Antonia Hafner describe themselves as Air Force brats.

Although the sisters have lived in Gwinnett County for more than 20 years, they remember the days of moving from base to base. Their ties to the military have continued, as Nuedling's daughter is dating a man in the U.S. Air Force Academy, and Hafner's husband and son served in the Navy.

Friday night, Nuedling and Hafner decided to seek out a patriotic way to kick off Memorial Day weekend, so they joined about 3,000 other people who gathered in Suwanee for the annual Memorial Day Weekend Concert, sponsored by the Gwinnett Daily Post.

"The patriotic music brings back memories," Nuedling said. "We recognize all of the military songs. It's really neat to hear all of the songs."

The event began at 7:30 p.m. when the Silver Wings, Fort Benning's command exhibition parachute team, landed in Suwanee Town Center Park. The Sugar Hill LDS Choir of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sang patriotic tunes such as "Anchors Aweigh" for about 30 minutes, and the Old Flint River Dixieland Band paraded in at 8:30 p.m. while playing "When the Saints Come Marching In."

Buford residents Ron and Carolynne Cort came to the concert dressed in red, white and blue and sat in chairs of the same colors. Carolynne said they always dress up for Memorial Day and the Fourth of July.

The couple said they feel it's important to celebrate such holidays.

"It's a great thing because it gives us an opportunity to recognize those people who suffered and gave their lives for us to be able to be here," said Ron Cort, who served for two years in the Army when he was drafted several years ago.

Len Garrison of Suwanee said he talked to his children about the meaning of Memorial Day before they came to the park for the concert.

His 9-year-old daughter, Megan, recalled why it's important to celebrate Memorial Day: "To remember all the men and women who died for us."

Several people said they came to the concert to relax and enjoy the beautiful weather.

Lawrenceville resident Carla Hossack said she came to the concert because it seemed like a fun way to start the weekend.

"I wanted to get out on Memorial Day weekend," Hossack said. "Just get out and have fun."