Parkston honors veterans starting Wednesday with Vietnam memorial replica's arrival
360-foot wall will be up in Parkston's City Park from June 30 to July 4
PARKSTON, S.D. — Starting Wednesday, a six-day “Celebration of Freedom” will take place in Parkston culminating around the setup and display of a replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
The event will kick off Wednesday afternoon, with the American Veterans Traveling Tribute truck and trailer being escorted from Dimock to Parkston starting at 3:30 p.m. When the convoy reaches Parkston, convertibles with Vietnam veterans will join the parade down Main Street in Parkston to the East City Park, where the majority of the weekend’s activities will take place.
At 1 p.m. Thursday, the display and the celebration will formally open with a ceremony led by former Parkston resident and former Sioux Falls mayor Mike Huether.
The American Veterans Traveling Tribute, based in Bullard, Texas, honors veterans from every major conflict since World War I, with the Vietnam traveling wall among the organization’s featured displays. It is 360 feet long, 8 feet tall at its peak and is formed through 144 panels, with more than 58,000 names engraved. The wall exhibit will be erected in Parkston until 3 p.m. on Monday, July 4.
When the truck and trailer carrying the Vietnam Wall pulls into Parkston on Wednesday, it will be a culmination of about nine months of intensive planning for the event, said Rob Monson, one of the leading planners of the event.
“The idea was hatched last year when we‘d done the summer series of concerts in the park,” Monson said, noting the town had completed a popular amphitheater in 2021. “We had the idea of what could we do that’s bigger and better and we landed on bringing in the traveling Vietnam wall. We talked about some fundraising and we got some matching pledges and we thought, ‘We can make this thing work and put on a great event. We started planning in September and we’ve been working hard since then.”
The expected convoy tally of vehicles includes 300 motorcycles, up to 50 Corvettes, other classic cars, military and law enforcement vehicles, plus the recognition of Vietnam veterans for their efforts for their country in the 1960s and 1970s who were mostly unheralded when they returned home.
Live music will be played throughout the weekend, along with military recognition and tributes. The free music is highlighted by Nashville country music recording artist Anna McElroy at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 2. Local veterans service officers and mobile outreach from the Department of Veterans Affairs will be on hand, as well.
Monson said he made a concerted effort to get nearby communities involved for what will be a rare event for the region, he said.
“We wanted them to have some ownership in it, too,” Monson said. “We have a number of regional color guards and rifle teams that are going to be involved throughout the weekend, and we have speakers, authors and entertainers. We think there’s going to be something for everyone.”
All attendees should plan to bring a lawn chair for the events in the Parkston City Park, where seating is limited.
“For people who will never have the chance to go to Washington, D.C., this is a rare chance to see a part of history in our community, in our corner of southeastern South Dakota,” Monson said. “It’s a little bit smaller than the real thing but it’s 360 feet long. That’s as long as a football field with both endzones. To have it in our backyard, we’d just encourage folks to come out and enjoy it.
Rides from Mitchell are available
Bus rides are being organized from Mitchell on July 2 for those interested in seeing the Vietnam memorial wall in Parkston. A pair of buses will leave from Holy Family Catholic Church in Mitchell, with one leaving at 9:30 a.m. and returning at 1 p.m., followed by a 1:30 p.m. departure with a 4:30 p.m. return to Mitchell.
The buses are accessible for wheelchairs and individuals with disabilities. The rides are available to all, including veterans and their families. To schedule a ride, call the Davison County Veterans Service Office at 605-995-8619.