Veterans Day? November is Veterans Month around here
Just try to get through November without noticing the appreciation the Fort Smith area has for the U.S. Armed Forces. Veterans will be celebrated not only on the national holiday Nov. 11 but throughout the month with parades, honors and programs to show gratitude and respect for those who have served or are serving their country.
One of the biggest events is the Veterans Day Parade and Fall Festival to be held at noon Nov. 8 in the Chaffee Crossing Historic District. This will be the third year for the parade planned by military associations from Sebastian and Crawford counties and it is shaping up to be even larger than the first two, organizers say.
There is a “Mayberry” feeling to the parade and festivities because of the participants and the setting. The Northside High School marching band, UA-Fort Smith Athletic Drum Corps and Christ the King Elementary Choir will perform. Groups such as Barling Elementary students and uniformed Boy Scout troops march along.
The grounds of the Chaffee Historic District have a small-town feeling, with plenty of parking. The streets are lined with shade trees and World War II-era barracks. Vintage cars look at home here. A slower pace (no traffic!) allows the spectators to shout to friends on floats and raise cheers and applause for each group passing in review.
Both the Chaffee Barbershop Museum, where Pvt. Elvis Presley and thousands of others received their first G.I. haircut, and the Museum of Chaffee History have growing collections of exhibits and artifacts from Fort Chaffee regarding its use as an active military base for every war and conflict since World War II.
There will be practical service to veterans on parade day, as well. Area groups who assist military veterans will have tents and tables set up to offer all the help and benefits veterans have earned.
Among the organizations present will be Camp Hope for Heroes, a non-profit group with headquarters at Chaffee Crossing, assisting current servicemen and women transitioning out of the military. Programs at Camp Hope include tutoring for college or trade school entrance exams, VA benefit assistance, transitional housing, financial counseling, legal advice and even food and clothing, if needed.
This year, a Fall Festival follows the parade, stretching the festivities until 5 p.m. with helicopter rides ($25), free inflatable play equipment, lawn games and face-painting for kids. Free rides will be available on vintage military rail cars and a Fort Smith Trolley Museum car, pulled by a tractor. Vintage military equipment, classic cars and emergency response vehicles can be toured.
A tasty selection of food vendors will offer barbecue, chili, funnel cakes and baked treats. The River Valley Ale Raisers, brewing hobbyists, are hosting a craft beer garden for those 21 and older. Several groups will perform live music outdoors near the museum complex.
Take canned food or socks and warm clothes for veterans as admission to a 2 p.m. bingo game with prizes. Crea8ive Arts Network, a non-profit artists’ collective with a studio in the historic district, will exhibit artwork, some by veterans.
To enter the parade, registration forms can be found online at chaffeecrossing.org and should be filled out and returned immediately. All parade participants should enter on Roberts Avenue. They will be greeted by volunteers who will direct the line-up.
To attend the parade, arrive early and enter Chaffee Crossing from Arkansas 22. Turn left on Taylor Avenue and right on Terry Street to find a parking spot along the route. Shuttles will give rides from other lots.
Registration information available at chaffeecrossing.com.
AREA VETERANS DAY EVENTS
Float Rides for Veterans - Reservations Requested
The Fort Smith Museum of History will have a float in the Veterans Day Parade at Chaffee Crossing on Nov. 8. Veterans from all eras are invited to ride. Call the museum now to reserve a seat. Free. Fort Smith Museum of History, 320 Rogers Avenue, Fort Smith, Ark. 479-783-7841
Greenwood at War
Jerry Efurd will moderate this event, which features all-American food and the opportunity for World War II veterans and their families to share their stories. Topics will extend from personal accounts from the war to a history of how the war changed the home front in Greenwood. A meal of freshly grilled burgers, side dishes and Rozanne Sterling’s apple pie will be served. Tickets may be purchased at the Greenwood Chamber of Commerce and local businesses. $20. 6-8 p.m. Bell Park, North Main Street, Greenwood, Ark. 479-996-6357
Crawford County Chronicles: WWII Veteran Warren Blaylock
Warren Blaylock worked in the 67th Evacuation Hospital, which landed on Normandy days after D-Day and trailed Allied forces throughout Europe. Blaylock was promoted to first sergeant during his time in Europe and received numerous awards for his efforts, including two Bronze Stars, the Superior Unit Award and the Combat Medical Badge. Free, but make a reservation by phone. Programs at 1:30 and 3 p.m. Drennen-Scott Historic Site, 222 North 3rd Street, Van Buren, Ark. 479-262-2750
Veterans Day Pancake Breakfast
Celebrate Veterans Day with an all-you-can-eat breakfast of pancakes, bacon, juice, milk and coffee. $5. 7-10 a.m. LeFlore County Museum at Hotel Lowrey, 303 Dewey Avenue, Poteau, Okla. 918-647-9330
Veterans Day Parade at Chaffee Crossing
Held in the Historic District of Chaffee Crossing, the parade takes a comfortable pace around a long “U” route of Taylor Avenue, Roberts Boulevard and Terry Street with plenty of room for spectators and parking. The Chaffee Barbershop Museum (7313 Terry Street) and adjacent Museum of Chaffee History parking area will be the central point for activities, food vendors and entertainment all day. The parade begins at noon. Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority, 7020 Taylor Avenue, Fort Smith, Ark. 479-452-4554 chaffeecrossing.com
Veterans Day Ceremonies at Fort Smith National Cemetery
In homage to the official end of World War I, which came “at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month” of 1918, Veterans Day ceremonies will be held at the National Cemeteries. The cemetery will be lined with an avenue of flags. Wreaths will be placed during a formal ceremony with speakers and representatives of every branch of the Armed Services. 11 a.m. Fort Smith National Cemetery, 522 South 6th Street, Fort Smith, Ark.
Veterans Day Reception
Join the Fort Smith Museum of History in honoring local veterans. All veterans and their families are invited to share stories and refreshments. See photos, uniforms and artifacts from past Veterans Day exhibits and taped interviews with local veterans conducted by the Fort Smith Historical Society. Free. 1-3 p.m. Fort Smith Museum of History, 320 Rogers Avenue, Fort Smith, Ark. 479-783-7841 fortsmithmuseum.com
Van Buren Veterans Day Parade
An annual patriotic parade to honor veterans is held under the streetlights of historic Main Street. Free. 6:30 p.m. Main Street, Van Buren, Ark. 479-652-3374
Golden Corral Military Appreciation Monday Offers Free Meals to Veterans
Since 2000, Golden Corral restaurants have served more than 4.1 million “Thank You” meals to veteran and active members of the U.S. Armed Forces. Any person who has served in the U.S. military (retirees, veterans, active duty, National Guard or Reserves) is invited to dine free of charge as a guest of the restaurant. Free. 5-9 p.m. Golden Corral, 1801 South Waldron Road, Fort Smith, Ark. 479-484-1040
This article appears in the November 2014 issue of Entertainment Fort Smith magazine.