Rainy weather cleared soon enough for a successful 100th anniversary of the Iowa Veterans of Foreign Wars celebration on Aug. 28 at the Hancock County Fairgrounds in Britt.
The free event was hosted by Garner VFW Post 5515, but many other veterans’ organizations, Iowa National Guard members, and State of Iowa VFW commander Michael Braman also participated in the days’ festivities.
Braman asked Post 5515 Commander Herman Robinson to host one of multiple Iowa VFW 100-year celebrations after the post received All-American honors in 2019 for its success with community activities, promotion of VFW programs, and membership growth.
Many area families enjoyed the special occasion throughout the day with the VFW as well as military members and veterans. The veterans voted on the car show prize winners, which were labeled as “veterans’ choice” awards. Officials reported extremely close vote tallies in the top 10 spots.
One of the top 10 place winners was Ralph Eslinger of Forest City, who placed eighth for a 1959 Chevy Apache Napco Edition. Accompanied by wife Pauline Eslinger and father Alfred Dirks, also of Forest City, this family brought their shared enthusiasm for active and former military members plus car shows.
“This is a factory 4x4 with the original frame and body,” U.S. Navy veteran Ralph Eslinger said. “It is the first time we’ve had it in a VFW show. We brought it down from Montana this spring and that’s why it has Montana license plates. It has been in the family since it was new. We are the fourth generation owners. Each one of us adds a little tweak here or there to make it our own.”
He said his great grandfather, who served in the U.S. Army, became the original owner of the truck shortly after receiving GI bill benefits in 1960. Father Alfred served in the U.S. Air Force, grandfather Jim Dirks owned the truck before him.
“We’re all here for the veterans,” Pauline Eslinger said. “All our family has served in the military. Military members from our family have served in every branch.”
The Eslingers have been participating in car shows across Iowa, including other events in Britt, Forest City, and Clear Lake. They said their plans are for the same family treasure to be shown in Fort Dodge in September and at shows across the tristate area next year.
Thirty prizes were given for auto show participants judged to be among the best. Rick Bliss took first place in the car show for his 1969 AMS. Second place in the car show was awarded to Pat Jacobson with his 1964 Chevy Nova.
Travis Mericle of Garner, who had displayed his 1985 AMG reconstructed semi-tractor at the first Forest City Motor Night recently, was also among the VFW car show winners on Aug. 28. His vehicle was modified through some unique suspension work and repainted military green.
The Iowa National Guard set up a rock wall to provide a “rock climbing experience” for those willing and able to give it a try, equipped with harness and cables for safety. MacKenzie Brooks, 14, of Britt said she enjoys climbing and has done it before after coming down from the rock climbing wall. She said she is uncertain if she may pursue climbing or military service in the future.
The Whiskey Bizkit and Hold-On Bands performed in the fairground’s show ring pavilion. A large American flag that flew in Afghanistan was their backdrop. A Humvee and artillery gun of the Iowa Guard flanked either side of the stage. Later, the American Bombshells of New York City performed. They serve as a modern-day version of the Andrews Sisters. The American Bombshells’ stated mission is to serve and honor military veterans, first responders, and their families through patriotic programs.
An inflatable bouncy house and slides provided fun for kids. Alliant Energy boom truck operators hoisted an American flag. A fireworks display starting at dusk capped the evening.
“Thank you to the VFW 5515 members, staff, and volunteers,” State VFW Commander Braman said in a social media post. “This was a successful event and you all went above and beyond. I knew I made a good choice for asking your Post Commander Herman Robinson to host a 100-year celebration for the State. It was an awesome time. Again, thank you all and everyone who came out and celebrated with us”
Rob Hillesland is community editor for the Summit-Tribune. He can be reached at 641-421-0534, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.