A Thank You Festival to honor all veterans will take place on Sept. 20, beginning at 2 p.m., rain or shine, at the Iredell County Fairgrounds in Troutman. The four-hour event is free and will feature special vendors, food and speakers. It is designed especially for veterans, according to Pam Navey, event coordinator for the Iredell County Veterans Council Assistance Commission, which is sponsoring the festival.
“We wanted to generate more community awareness of the needs of our veterans and how we can work together to help address those needs,” Navey said. “We also wanted to have the opportunity to say, ‘Thank you,’ to so many who have often times felt less than appreciated for the incredible sacrifices they have made for our country.”
Guest speakers will include Maj. Gen. James Mallory, Col. Joseph Crosswhite and Gen. Frank Panter Jr. One of the highlights of the festival will be a flag retirement ceremony near the end of the program. “Many citizens have old flags in their possession and don’t know how to dispose of them” Navey said. “The proper way is to burn the flag in a retirement ceremony, and we invite all citizens to bring their old flags for this moving event.”
Burning a tattered American flag is the preferred method of disposal according to the Flag Code, approved by Congress.
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Music during the festival will be provided by national recording star Rockie Lynne and Dale Beatty and his band, Outlaw 21. Lynne was raised in Iredell County, and his debut single, “Lipstick,” spent 10 weeks on Billboard’s Hot Country Singles in 2005. Beatty was deployed in Iraq when he lost both legs to anti-tank mines in 2004. Thanks to the Iredell Home Builders Association, along with many other community members, Beatty now lives in a specially-adapted, barrier-free home in Statesville. Both performers are dedicating their time on behalf of the veterans and their families.
“I have seen many far too many veterans overlooked after coming home from active duty,” said veteran Leon Ijames, 70, of Statesville. “This event is one way for us ‘older’ veterans to encourage the younger generation of veterans to get involved in community efforts. Not only will we be thanking our veterans, but it will also help educate the community of the needs, as well as the many attributes of our honored heroes.”
The veterans council is also enlisting support from local schools through a “Thank-you Veterans" poster contest. Students, with the assistance of veterans and school personnel with knowledge of the military, will be asked to put their own words of gratitude on posters that will be displayed at the festival.
The Iredell Veterans Assistance Committee was formed in the 1970s; their mission is to create more community awareness of veterans’ needs and how the community can work together to help address those needs.
The number of vendors participating in the event is growing daily. Navey, 57, is a community resource coordinator for the Statesville Police Department, and she has been overwhelmed by the interest and enthusiasm displayed.
“Even though I am not a veteran, I have had the honor to live in a family influenced by many veterans. Without their service and countless others like them, I would not have the freedoms and luxuries I have today. Through my involvement planning this festival, I have gained an even deeper respect for our veterans. We look forward to having the community come together where we can all say to our veterans, ‘Thank you! Your service to our country is honored and greatly appreciated!’ ”