Hot dogs, bouncy houses and live music typically mean “celebration,” but yesterday’s festivities at the Edmonton Garrison marked a farewell.

Starting this week, 2,500 troops from CFB Edmonton will leave for a six-month tour of Afghan­istan. Canadian Forces threw a barbecue lunch to acknowledge the soldiers’ hard work, and to show their dedication to military families.

Many local businesses donated their services for the event, and country musician Ty Roberts performed pro bono.

“It’s absolutely essential to have events like this,” said Col. Andre Corbould. “We want to show the families (that) they’re our priority.”

Pamela Loewen has dealt with separation before; her husband, Master Cpl. Edward Loewen, has been on previous missions to Cyprus and Asia, but this is his first tour in Afghanistan.

“You align yourself to it,” she said while watching her three-year-old son, Eric, and one-year-old daughter, Kassidy, pet animals at the petting zoo.

“The first week is pretty traumatic, then after that (the kids) get used to it and so do you. The week before they come back you get really excited again, and when he gets home it’s like he hadn’t even left.”

Jason Schire said he’ll surround himself with friends and family to cope with his wife’s first deployment, plus he’ll have his hands full caring for his two-year-old son, Anderson.

The soldiers get a three-week vacation halfway through their tour, and the Schire family plans to go scuba diving in India.

The garrison has support programs onsite to help families cope with the separation.