The Highground's 30th Anniversary Celebration and the Yellow Ribbon Campaign
Monday, September 10th, 2018 -- 1:11 pm
Posted by Riley Hebert-News Director
-The Highground is holding a 30th Anniversary Celebration and the Yellow Ribbon Campaign on Saturday, September 22nd.
I spoke with Jon Weiler, General Manager of The Highground, and he talked about how this celebration and campaign began.
“The Highground originally incorporated in 1984. However, in 1988 is when they actually did the dedication of the plaza, Fragments and the park itself. The park as a whole was dedicated in 1988. So, we’re looking at this being the 30th Anniversary of that dedication.”
“Fragments is our Vietnam Tribute. When we originally started this, it was just going to be a welcome home. They’ve gotten some, like the event at Lambeau in 2010 and some welcome home parades; however, I don’t know if one has ever really been done around here. So, that is what this was supposed to be. And since then, it’s gone to extremes.”
After working with the Clark County Economic Development Corporation and Tourism Bureau, the event grew to include the Yellow Ribbon Campaign and Jon explained that in more detail.
“The original idea about that was, every community would have an opportunity to honor their veterans. And we wanted every community to be decorated in yellow ribbons. Our hope was that the community would have certain events on Friday night or Saturday morning as a way to honor their veterans, maybe even raise a little money, and then be here in Neillsville and come here for the parade.”
“It's kind of turned into, all of these communities with this Yellow Ribbon Campaign, to honor everybody. All veterans. Not just Vietnam. Now it’s all veterans because our park, all though it was originally started as a Vietnam tribute, now it’s honoring all veterans. So, we need to make sure that every veteran has the opportunity to be a part of this too.”
Besides the parade, there are many other activities happening at The Highground that day.
“The parade, coming through Neillsville, we will be meeting at the fairgrounds at 11am. All veterans will be put on buses, put in vehicles. We’re hoping to get some military vehicles from the National Guard. We’re hopeful, we don’t know if that’s going to be happening yet. Veterans would be riding these vehicles. They will then be transported out to The Highground in the parade. It’s not a walking parade. It’s not any kind of parade like that. It’s a vehicle parade. And then they’ll be going out to The Highground. There will be shuttles from The Highground back and forth all day long. The parade starts at Noon and will be going through Neillsville. The parade route, we have that online. People can check that out. The parade route will be going through Neillsville, coming into The Highground and get there sometime around 12:45pm/1pm.”
“Then, at 2pm, we’ll begin our ceremony. That will go until about 3pm, maybe 3:15pm. We have a few speakers. Jake Leinenkugel is one of our speakers. We’re working on Tommy Thompson coming back. He was the original keynote speaker in 1988. We should have a few other speakers. One of our Board of Directors who was involved in the project since the beginning, Don Quicker, will be speaking. We’ll have some performances, a group singing a couple different songs during the ceremony.”
“After the conclusion of the ceremony, it will be a family fun day. We’ll have kids events, we’ll have different displays, static displays set up around the park. The main parking lot will be closed. Our hope is that people will park at the fairgrounds and we’ll shuttle them back in forth all day.”
“At 4pm, we’ll be starting a chicken dinner from the American Legion. And they’ll be going until around 8pm. At 5pm, the music will start. It is the Promise Courtet from Medford from 5pm-6pm. From 6pm-8pm will be Red Higgins. And then the Promise Courtet will come up and do a couple more songs after that at the end. And then around, roughly, 8pm, will be the fireworks. And that will conclude the day.”
“The biggest thing that I’m trying to get out to people is that this is not my park. This is not the Board of Directors’ park. This is all of our park. We have 150,000 people that come through that park every year and they’re the ones that pay for it. We don’t, and I know that everyone in the area knows this, be we are nonprofit. We don’t get money from the state or federal government unless they want to give us a grant without restrictions. But I need everyone to understand, a lot of people think this all about Vietnam Vets. It’s not. This all veterans. And if you have a veteran that you want to honor in your family, bring them along. If you just want to honor veterans as a whole, come out and enjoy the day. Have fun. Speak to these veterans. Talk to these veterans. Let them know how appreciative you are of what they’ve done for us. I just need everybody to know that.”
Jon said that support for this event that he’s seen from Clark County’s communities has been amazing.
“It is really good to see! Like I said, it’s not my park. It’s the community’s park. And the community needs to take pride, or should, and I believe they do, take pride in the fact that this park is here. It’s a special place. And those veterans that come here, they know that. If people from our area say, ‘I’m not a veteran, so why would I bother going?’ I need them to understand, you need to be there. You need to come there and see it. I’ve had people come from all over the world and tell me they’ve been to tribute parks all over the world and this is by far on the top. This is people coming from France where Normandy is and I’m thinking, ‘you’ve got to be kidding me?’ They say, as far as a veterans’ tribute, not a veterans’ memorial where it’s a cemetery, this is at the top. We’re very fortunate to have this here in Neillsville.”
It’s no secret that many veterans that came home from Vietnam didn’t receive the ‘welcome home’ they deserved and many people didn’t offer that welcome and thank you. Jon said this event is a great way for people to make that right.
“And the other aspect of this is that a lot of those people that were treating some of these veterans that way, this could be an opportunity for them to say, ‘you know, I screwed up. I made a mistake. You deserve a welcome home.’”
“One of the statistics that I found out, there’s always this old myth about Vietnam Veterans that they’re just a bunch of nut jobs. They went crazy while they went to Vietnam. 99% of the Vietnam veterans that actually got out of the military came out with a honorable discharge. So, there’s a small 1% that made mistakes and got dishonorable discharge. 98% of the Vietnam vets, who actually left Vietnam and got out of the military, did better financially than those they graduated with and didn’t got to Vietnam. They did better financially, which was a real surprise for me to hear that because a lot of them are struggling, but financially, 98% are doing better than those that didn’t get to Vietnam, which was a shocker to me.”
“I need people to understand that this event is not only about the Vietnam veterans, it’s for all veterans. And those Vietnam veterans, they need to hear from everyone that they are still honored.”
Jon ended our interview by reminding everyone when and where this amazing event is.
“So, on September 22nd, will be The Highground Veterans Memorial Park’s 30th Anniversary Celebration. The event will begin, all veterans are requested to be at the Clark County Fairgrounds at 11am on that Saturday for a Noon parade. I would ask community members to be ready, be on the route and the route is online and posted in many different places. Be on the route and let these veterans know you appreciate what they did for you. And the parade will go from Noon until around 1pm/1:30pm. And everything starts at 2pm and will be going throughout the day. It will be a family day as well. There will be a lot of events going on. A lot of displays, so just come one out. And it will be ending at night with fireworks.”
The Highground is looking for many volunteers for this event, so if you can help in anyway or would like to learn more, you can contact The Highground.