Veterans Day celebrations include first annual VetFest

The color guard leads the Veterans Day parade through downtown last year.

Veterans Day Celebrations involve a long list of events this year, including the 28th annual parade and first ever VetFest by the Flint Hills Veterans Coalition.

The theme of this year’s celebration is “30 Years After the Storm,” to give special thanks to the veterans who served during Operation Desert Storm in 1991.

“People forget about what happened 10 years ago, much less 20, 30, 40 or 50 years ago,” Melody Sexton, publicity director, said. “Veterans are part of the community, and the community has sacrificed a lot for the freedoms that we enjoy today. … We don’t want to take that for granted and forget that freedom isn’t free.”

The celebrations on Nov. 11 start with a breakfast from 7-9 a.m. at the American Legion Pearce-Keller Post 17 at 114 McCall Road in Manhattan, where veterans and active-duty military members eat for free and others are $5. Limited seating will be available as well as to-go boxes.

From 9:30-10:30 a.m., Sexton said participants in “the state’s largest” Veterans Day Parade will march, walk and drive from Manhattan Town Center Mall on Poyntz Avenue to Manhattan City Hall. Junction City elementary students, Junction City JROTC and its band will participate in the parade, along with many organizations and businesses from the area.

Those who cannot see the parade in person will be able to see it through cityofmhk.com on a live-stream or on COX Cable Channel 3. 1350AM KMAN Radio will record the audio for people to listen to through radio or on their website at 1350kman.com.

Sexton said the organization will hand out flags to the senior centers and make sure seniors who are unable to come out to the event know how to see it from their own homes.

The first annual VetFest will begin at 10 a.m. in City Park on Poyntz Avenue in Manhattan with activities for people of all ages. Military vehicles from Fort Riley, including a tank and a Bradley, as well as police and fire department vehicles, will be on display. People can visit festive booths and purchase food from food truck venders. Children can enjoy time in four different bouncy houses. The event ends at 2 p.m.

At 11 a.m., community members can watch the Ceremony of Honor at Peace Auditorium in City Hall in Manhattan. Local Schools Poster and Essay Contest winners will be announced, and Dr. Andrew Orr, professor of military history at Kansas State University, will speak about the impact of Desert Storm veterans and the impact of the Vietnam veterans on the Gulf War.

During the day, attendees can look at veteran displays at the mall or visit the Riley County Senior Center to see historic artifacts and displays related to past military activity.

Sexton said if their first VetFest attracts many people and is well-liked, the organization will continue to hold it along with the parade each year. So far, she said the organization has received a large amount of support, perhaps more than in past years.

“We’ve had extraordinary support. Every year, we have support, but this year seems to be up a notch,” she said. “Being able to be a part of that support and love for the difficult mission that our soldiers and families not only did in the past but are doing right now is really a wonderful feeling.”

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