The UK’s number one resort is masterminding the country’s largest ever celebration of HM forces veterans.

Blackpool is busy planning numerous high profile events for not only the official National Veterans’ Day on Friday 27 June 2008, but for a nine-day long event that will involve the whole town and draw in visitors from all over the UK.
 
Highlights of the festivities, which run 21-29 June 2008, will include a night time parachute drop onto the beach, military land, sea and air displays, the opportunity to get up close to vintage vehicles, veterans’ badge presentations, an evening parade and events for families and school groups.

The event aims to bring together veterans of all ages, backgrounds and experiences.    

Saturday 21 and Sunday 22 June 2008 will see land, sea and air military displays and exhibitions transform the promenade near North Pier with a buzz of activity. Take a closer look at the trades and equipment used by the Armed Forces and experience a Royal Marine beach landing. Enjoy a nostalgic journey back in time as the Battle of Britain Memorial Flights’ vintage WWII flying machines – Hurricane, Spitfire and Dakota – soar through the air.

The RAF Falcons’ parachute display team will be dropping in over the weekend to say hello from 12,000 feet and helicopter search and rescue teams will demonstrate their vital skills. Also showcased will be the agile Hawk Jet. In level-flying, this plane approaches the speed of sound. Other planes to be spotted over the weekend include the Tucano and Tutor training aircraft.

Activities planned for National Veterans’ Day, on Friday 27 June 2008, include a veterans’ parade through the town, followed by a spectacular illuminated beach-landing by the Red Devils parachute display team, who are serving military from the Parachute Regiment. The finale will include a massive firework display.     

The Veterans’ Badge Challenge, taking place throughout the nine-day event will see veterans young and old collecting their badges in unusual and daring ways. This will demonstrate the transferable skills learned in the forces, including diving, climbing and abseiling. On National Veterans’ Day itself, a young veteran will make a daring dive into the shark tank at Blackpool’s Sealife Centre to claim his badge

All ex-Service personnel are entitled to apply for the HM Armed Forces Veterans Badge and many veterans from all over the country will be presented with theirs on Veterans’ Day in Blackpool. The Veterans’ Badge was established in 2004 and over 550,000 have been issued to date.

A Gala Dinner on Wednesday 25th June 2008 at the stunning Empress Ballroom welcomes veterans and their friends and families to a five-course meal, including entertainment from the Lancashire Royal Artillery Band and post-dinner cabaret. Early booking is recommended and tickets are available at £16 a head on T: 01253 299 277.

Sunday 29 June 2008 is Sporting Sunday and will feature the Veterans’ Golf Tournament and Veterans’ Cricket Match, both in the town’s Stanley Park. The golf tournament will feature intergenerational teams, one of which must be a veteran, and the cricket, which runs alongside a family fun day and afternoon tea, will pit veterans of all ages against currently serving forces. To take part in the golf, contact Paul on T: 01253 478 435 or paul.latham@blackpool.gov.uk and the cricket, Julian on M: 07900 086 761.  

Free activities for schools throughout the event include tree planting in memory of conflicts, a schools’ Veterans’ Day tribute, schools’ visits by veterans and a war time cinema experience, featuring archive news footage of children being fitted for gas masks, plus a light-hearted Laurel and Hardy film.

 Blackpool is no newcomer to hosting veterans’ events and pioneered the country’s first festivities in 2005. It has run its own Veterans’ Week every year since then, as well as being a favourite resort for veterans’ get-togethers since WWII.

The third annual National Veterans’ Day is a chance for the nation to recognise the contribution made by veterans of all ages in conflicts both past and present.

A  large number of Veterans’ Day events, ranging in size, will be taking place across the UK during the summer, although Blackpool’s contribution will be the largest and will take the national focus. Events are being organised by Blackpool Council and the Fylde Ex-Service Liaison Committee.

The Ministry of Defence has pledged to provide £25,000 towards the cost of Blackpool’s celebrations, which are supported by the Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA). In June 2007 funding of £3.5 million was been approved by the NWDA to support a programme of signature events in Blackpool over a three year period.

Derek Twigg, Under Secretary of State for Defence and Veterans Minister, said: “Veterans are of all ages with a variety of different backgrounds, and they all deserve our recognition. Not only have they honoured their commitment to defend our country’s interests in Service, they have also used their skills and experiences to enrich their local communities.

“With the establishment of an annual Veterans Day, each year June 27 is our chance to recognise the achievements of those veterans who live amongst us.”

Mayor of Blackpool, Cllr Robert Wynne, said: “Blackpool is absolutely delighted to have been chosen as the host for National Veterans Day 2008, it’s a great honour for the town. “Blackpool has many historical links with the Armed Forces and has a special place in the hearts of many veterans. Every year we welcome a large number of Ex-Service Associations into the resort for their annual reunions.”

“We have been holding an annual Veterans Week here in Blackpool since 2005, and plans are already well underway to make this year’s celebration even more special.”

Peter Mearns, Executive Director of Marketing at the NWDA, said: “Blackpool is putting an enormous amount of effort into ensuring veterans and other visitors thoroughly enjoy National Veterans Day and the week’s festivities. The NWDA was delighted when Blackpool was announced as host of the celebrations and these exciting plans demonstrate the commitment the town has to creating a successful event.”

“Major events such as this are hugely important, both in terms of economic impact and in promoting Blackpool as a year-round resort.

Regular updates on events will be posted at www.veteransweek.co.uk, where you can also sign up for a newsletter or alternatively call 01253 478 2222