By Kyle LoJacono
ZEPHYRHILLS — John Bolender never served in any branch of the U.S. military and yet each year he organizes the Bivouac & Barracks event, a World War II reenactment that draws thousands of people.
“My interest in World War II started back when I was just collecting historic guns used in WWII and WWI,” Bolender said. “I collected other things like canteens and compasses, and eventually bought an Army Jeep from 1945. I have seven or eight Army vehicles now that all still run. They will be on display at Bivouac & Barracks this year.”
The free event is Feb. 19 to 21 at the Zephyrhills Airport Restored Barracks Museum, located next to the Zephyrhills Municipal Airport.
Bolender, who has lived in Zephyrhills for 25 years, has been organizing the event since it started four years ago.
“This year it will be even bigger than ever,” Bolender said. “We had about 3,000 people from all over Pasco County and even from Tampa, and we expect to have even more this year.”
Bivouac is a military term for camping out, and guests will be able to see exactly what WWII encampments looked like at the event. There will be military tents and gear on display with several different vehicles and aircraft.
“A couple other guys will be bringing their vehicles too, and History of Flights will be bringing three airplanes and letting people fly in them,” Bolender said.
History of Flights is a nonprofit organization that raises money to try and find U.S. soldiers still missing in action overseas. The organization takes its aircrafts to different shows along the east coast and as far west as Colorado selling rides.
“There will be a B-25 H model bomber, which can carry 67 people at a time,” said Cathy Kornfield, spokesperson for History of Flights. “It is the only H model still flying in the world.”
Kornfield said flights are scheduled from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Feb. 20 and 21. To schedule a flight in advance, call (888) 743-3311. For more information on the organization, visit www.historyflight.com.
“We were able to locate, identify and survey five large American burial sites and three individual sites that had more than 200 U.S. Marines left behind after WWII in the Tarawa Atoll,” said Mark Noah, History of Flights founder and director. “It is the largest single MIA find in the history of the American Armed Forces.”
The atoll is located in the Pacific Ocean southwest of the Marshall Islands.
Other aircrafts at the event will include an AT6-Texan trainer and a Stearman. A weapons demonstration and battle re-enactment will also be Feb. 20 and 21.
“We have the weapons demonstration around 10 in the morning and the battle re-enactment is usually around 2 (p.m.),” Bolender said. “We don’t set a hard time for the battle re-enactment because we want to do it when the most people are there. That is usually in the mid afternoon.”
The Zephyrhills Fire Department is currently using the museum while Fire Station No. 2 is being renovated, but Bolender said the center room will be open to the public during the event.
The Zephyrhills Airport was originally built in the 1940s to train pilots during WWII.
“At the time there was a civilian airport over by Zephyr Park,” said Margaret Seppanen, treasure and former president of the Zephyrhills Historical Association. “Shortly after WWII, the military donated the airport to the citizens and also donated the barracks to the airport.”
Bolender said he is still looking for volunteers to help during the event. To volunteer or for more information, call (813) 788-5969.
If You Go
- What Bivouac & Barracks
- When10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 19 and 20 and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Feb. 21
- Where The Zephyrhills Airport Restored Barracks Museum
- Cost Free
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