In mid-December, Bastogne, Belgium, can get, well, a bit nutty.

The mayor likes to wing walnuts. A tank occupies the main square. People mill about in old, green-colored wool clothes from the early 1940s. Their vehicles are dated, too.

"The town is not that big, but it seems like it is crowded everywhere," said Marie-Lise Baneton, a spokeswoman for U.S. Army Garrison Benelux.

It’s crowded because every December the city and various groups host a two-day affair to commemorate the Battle of the Bulge, the largest land battle in U.S. Army history.

Thousands of people descend on Bastogne in tribute to the nearly 77,000 Americans killed, missing, wounded or taken prisoner during the epic World War II battle.

This year’s festivities will fall on Dec. 13-14, with Saturday, the 13th, being the primary day. The city of Bastogne also holds its annual Christmas market that weekend.

An integral part of the weekend is the memorial walk. During the battle, Bastogne was encircled by German soldiers, who tried but failed to dislodge elements of the 101st Airborne Division. Though battered and burnt, the city never fell into enemy hands.

Each year, a different section of the old perimeter line around Bastogne is highlighted during the walk.

This year, organizers have chosen the west and southwest flank, an area that includes the towns of Mande-Saint-Etienne and Senonchamps.

"This is the place where the 101st de-trucked coming from France," said Maurice Sperandieu, a member of the Belgian resistance, war volunteer and founder of the annual march. "They got off the trucks and marched to Noville, about five kilometers away."

The scene was immortalized in the HBO television series, "Band of Brothers." The paratroops marched into the fray as they cajoled and demanded weapons from dispirited troops heading in the opposite direction.

"We are walking in the tracks of these guys, some of whom gave their lives," said Baneton, who is one of the organizers.

There are four distances people can walk: six, 12, 20 or 30 kilometers. For 5 or 6 euros, depending on when you register, participants will receive a certificate of participation, a souvenir patch and free hot drinks at rest stops.

"This is a remembrance walk," Sperandieu said. "There is no competition."

The walk, which last year drew about 2,750 participants, ends near the town’s main plaza, renamed McAuliffe Square after the war. The tribute is to Army Brig. Gen. Anthony McAuliffe. He was the commander in Bastogne in December 1944, the guy who uttered the famous one-word reply — "Nuts!" — to a demand for surrender.

The siege ended a few days later when Gen. George S. Patton’s forces punched their way through to Bastogne.

Events after Saturday’s walk include the ceremonial walnut toss from the city hall balcony, wreath-laying ceremonies and music by U.S. military musicians. The next day there will be a parade of vintage vehicles by scores of WWII re-enactors.

U.S. servicemembers routinely turn out in the hundreds, many accompanied by family. American flags hang from windows and doors, and townspeople are eager to thank the military members for their service.

"I know it makes them feel good," said Baneton. "The people of Bastogne like to see American soldiers. And it’s not just old people. It’s kids, too."

The walk’s Web site,, has details on the events and a link to a few local sites.

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