The inaugural Tree Town Music Festival in Forest City, Iowa, drew more than 10,000 fans last Memorial Day weekend to see country music stars like Toby Keith and Brad Paisley. And there, among all the fans, was The American Legion in the form of a booth manned by Legionnaires from the Departments of Iowa and Minnesota.
This year’s event, which kicked off May 21, will be even bigger. The festival has been expanded to four days and has a big name headlining each of the final three nights. And the Legion’s presence has expanded along with the festival.
May 21 saw the debut of The American Legion Stage at Tree Town. The structure served as the festival’s main stage in 2014 and will host performances by multiple artists this year. And the Legion’s booth is just a few dozen feet from the stage.
“There’s a lot of prestige (here),” Department of Iowa Commander Ron Struble said. “It’s fantastic. “It should bring a lot (of exposure to the Legion). We’re right up front. It gives us a chance to get out and mingle with some of the crowd."
On its first night, the Legion stage saw 38 Special play in front of more than 7,000 fans. Hairball – which covers rock and roll icons like Van Halen, KISS, Journey, Prince and Aerosmith – also played the Legion stage, as the Tree Town Sliders and the Executives. Tonight, Morgan Frazier will play an after-party on the Legion stage this evening.
“To have our own American Legion stage, and to have it be last year’s main stage … this event is just going to continue to grow,” said American Legion Past National Commander Dave Rehbein, a member of the Department of Iowa who will spend a few days at this year’s festival. “As it continues to grow, the vision of The American Legion out in the community is going to grow right along with it. This is really something.
“It’s important to be associated with something like (Tree Town) because … many of the eligible veterans coming home are coming to events like this. They’re country music fans, patriotic people, and they fit right in with The American Legion. But they need to know who The American Legion is, and being associated with something like this makes that connection between us and them – through the patriotism, through the country music, through all of the things that are going to go on this weekend.”
Starting today, American Legion service officers from Iowa and Minnesota will be onsite to meet with veterans and their families to help them with their Department of Veterans Affairs benefits and health-care interests. Soldier’s Wish has the booth next to the Legion and will be granting wishes to soldiers, veterans and their families as a way to honor them for their bravery and sacrifice to the country. The Legion and Soldier’s Wish also are raffling off a Fender guitar signed by Toby Keith.
“If anybody’s having any trouble getting into the VA system at all, they need to be talking to a service officer,” Struble said.
Today’s headliner is Dierks Bentley. Acts begin performing at 4 p.m. The complete lineup of artists can be found here.