EVERETT, Wash. (NNS) -- USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), in conjunction with Naval Station (NAVSTA) Everett, Wash., opened its doors to the public July 4, in celebration of Independence Day as part of NAVSTA Everett's Family Freedom Festival.
Nearly 6,000 people crossed Abe's Quarterdeck in just four hours, proving that the public was eager to see the ship and have the opportunity to thank Sailors for their hard work and dedication.
Laurie Metcalf, a resident of Tacoma, Wash., brought her three children to see firsthand the ship that they've heard about in the news, and meet the Sailors who help to defend her family's freedom.
"We're just thrilled to be here," Metcalf said. "This is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and there's no other place we'd rather be on the Fourth of July than right here with these heroes."
Those who toured the ship waited in long lines in downtown Everett to board busses that would bring them through the front gates, and after numerous security checkpoints deliver them to the pier. Once in the ship's hangar bays, the guests were able to purchase souvenirs and participate in various interactive displays.
Kyle Munchin, a five-year-old from Arlington, Wash., donned a full Fire Fighter Ensemble (FFE) complete with an oversized helmet and boots, and had the chance to see what Lincoln Sailors wear during a fire.
"It's really heavy," he said. "Firefighters have to be strong to wear it."
Guests also had the chance to view some of the ship's weapons while in the hangar bays and even pose for some interesting pictures while holding an M-240 machine gun, standing next to a few bombs, or posing next to a stationary jet engine.
After a quick safety brief, guests were allowed the rare chance to take a ride on aircraft elevator number four, and were greeted by more Abe Sailors on the flight deck.
Usually reserved for earsplitting fighter jets, the visitors were able to walk the entire four-and-a-half acre flight deck on their own and see firsthand what a Sailor working on the deck would see.
Sailors were there, as well, answering questions and eagerly chatting about everything from their job aboard the carrier to how the catapults and arresting gear work.
Near the aircraft carrier's island, members of Lincoln's Crash and Salvage team provided demonstrations on how they go about rescuing a downed pilot from a burning F/A-18 Hornet, and were able to show the skills they've honed while in the Navy.
"It was great meeting these (Sailors)," said Robert Fletcher of Bend, Ore. A Navy veteran himself, Fletcher was honored to be given the chance to board the ship, something he never had the chance to do while serving.
"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be up here and meet with these wonderful men and women," he said. "Just to shake their hands and share some stories on this Independence Day is more than enough."
On base, guests enjoyed numerous food booths, a rock-climbing wall, miniature golf, go-kart racing, a beer garden and products from a variety of vendors from the local community.
"Something like this celebration absolutely brings our communities together," said Frank Stilwagner, director of marketing for the Village Theater at the Everett Performing Arts Center. "It's wonderful."
Heather Staller of Surrey, British Columbia echoed Stilwagner's enthusiasm about being on base. "Being Canadian, it's nice to be able to come down and see how Americans celebrate July 4th," she said, "and being able to come to Naval Station Everett and tour the Lincoln makes it that much more exciting."
As the Pacific Fleet's surge carrier, it's unknown where Lincoln and its crew of 3,100 Sailors will be this time next year, but Sailors were more than happy to volunteer their time should the doors open again to the community.
"This went off really well," said Machinist's Mate 3rd Class Andre Bradley, temporarily assigned to the ship's security force from A Division. "We had a lot of people from Security who came in and volunteered on their day off, and the people helped out a lot as they passed through our checkpoints. I would volunteer to help out again if we did this next year. It was fun."
For related news, visit the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn72.