Fort Bragg, North Carolina: Fort Bragg Builds Community Bridges Through Fun, Relaxing Outdoor Movie Events

Open Air Cinema's Screen is used at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.

A story was recently featured in Cross-Walk magazine, a publication for military families in the SE region.

Here is what the article said: Fort Bragg has about 30,000 residents who are all in on a secret. They have access to one of the most relaxing, family friendly venues around. Fort Bragg is now home to a giant 30-foot tall inflatable movie screen that the Family and Morale Welfare and Recre- ation (MWR) team uses to show movies on the sandy beach at Smith Lake.

Marilyn Flynn is the business manager for the Smith Lake Army Travel Campground at Fort Bragg. She and her team wanted to make Smith Lake the main destination of choice for the Fort Bragg community. The Campground hosts an event called Movie Night at the Beach once a month. It is open to the public, anybody can attend, and it is free for campground customers.

We have hundreds of people who come out to Movie Night at the Beach, Flynn said. We have people from the campgrounds, on the base and even from the surrounding community join us. Before each event, we pass out comment cards to the attendees. The feedback we have received has been nothing but glowing, positive responses. The biggest critique we have is that we should have it more often than once a month, which we just might start doing.

The events are especially popular with families with children because they can sit to watch the movie or run around on the sand. The point is for everyone to simply enjoy spending time together. In fact, one of the main objectives for the movie program is to provide a relaxing venue that brings people together. It is often the case that when a Soldier gets deployed their family remains here at Fort Bragg, she said.

We feel a tremendous obligation to host activities that can bring people together with other Families. Because our park is open to the general public, it helps build bridges between the outside community and the military community.

The size of the screen is a big draw it is so large, it can be seen from the other side of the lake. The visitors set up their towels and lawn chairs in the shadow of the screen on the beach before it gets dark. Logistically, the giant screen from Open Air Cinema takes just a few minutes to inflate; the entire system with the audio and projection equipment, takes less than an hour to set up. While they visitors are lounging on the beach waiting for the movie, they get to listen to music playing and watch the sun set over the lake. It's just an amazing, absolutely beautiful setting. Flynn added.

The kids come in their PJ's with their snacks and their blankets. It is such a nice, open, friendly environment that it helps people relax and feel welcome in what can be an otherwise stressful, hectic life. The team uses the movie event as an opportunity to introduce people to the rest of the amazing facility.

Visitors see the swimming area, where they rent paddle boats, canoes and other programs. It gives us a chance to talk about our campground and it opens up discussions about what else we have to offer, she said. Some creative thought by the team at Fort Bragg in combining natural resources with a growing trend in out- door entertainment has provided the community with a family-friendly venue where they can relax and enjoy the North Carolina evenings.

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