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Perhaps it’s fitting the annual “Aviators March” in Chièvres, Belgium, on Saturday will find folks scanning the skies for a sense as to whether they should just wing it and walk.

Last year, Mother Nature wasn’t at all cooperative. She rained on the parade of people taking part in the annual walk at Chievres Air Base in Belgium.

By the looks of things, the weather this time around may not be all that different.

“It’s not always raining in Belgium,” said Cis Spook of the 80th Area Support Group, which is co-hosting the event with a local Volksmarch club.

“Although,” she added, “the forecast for Saturday is not good; we’re expecting showers.”

That’s fine, said base spokeswoman Marie-Lise Benton, given that folks are happy enough to have the event back where it belongs. Organizers are expecting about 900 people now that the event is returning to its home.

Security concerns last year led officials to move the Volksmarch off Chièvres. Traditionally, the course encompasses sections of the base.

Founded in 2000, the march gives the military and community officials the chance to share with local residents and visitors the base’s storied past, from a World War I Belgian army air field to a Luftwaffe base to a U.S. military installation. The rich history helped give Chièvres its nickname, the “City of Aviators.”

Today, the base, south of SHAPE Headquarters, is home to the 80th ASG and the Air Force’s 309th Airlift Squadron.

“This is the only event that allows outsiders to come on base,” Spook said.

The short march takes walkers past historical sites, such as the old control tower and firehouse, the last World War II structures built by the German air force. The 20-kilometer route includes many other sites, from the ruins of a 19th-century convent to a place on base where German authorities arrested two members of the Belgian Resistance during WWII. One was later executed, while the other was sent to a concentration camp.

Walkers have the option of taking the 5-, 10-, 15- or 20-kilometer course, Baneton said. The fee is nominal: .75 euros, or about $1.

The event runs from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Visitors must enter Daumerie Casern through Gate 1 and then follow the signs to the Community Activity Center. There will be food and beverage booths, music and a 1 p.m. magic show.


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