By Darren HarpDaddy Smith
Webster defines patriotism as love for or devotion to one’s country. As a child growing up in Upstate New York I was fascinated by visiting Revolutionary War forts and battlegrounds. I was probably 10 years old when I formed a historical ‘society’ with a neighbor friend as we went around to a few local cemeteries that were in need of a bit of love. I would rub the rotting spring snow onto the fallen and faded tombstones. Names and dates would appear. We documented the granite slabs that told of young men that gave their lives at Gettysburg and Shiloh and we archived the stones of their families that mourned for them. I feel that I was raised with a strong desire to serve and an appreciation for how others had sacrificed so that I can live a relatively free lifestyle.
We have always been divided as a nation. That internal conflict is what has helped drive us to progress as we have. Conflict creates change. It also helps create great music. Music sparks us at a cellular level. It flows through us and synchronizes together our right foot with our left; allowing us to shed our differences for a minute to dance, stomp, jump up and down… Community. That’s what made us great.
Community. That’s what I feel every time I walk into an American Legion, VWF, or AmVets post. There is a common passion to serve and assist others in need. These posts are somewhat hidden gems within our communities. It goes way beyond having a place to grab a few beers after work and throw some darts. It’s family. I’m blessed to have become part of the Post 15 family out in Palmer. These local service organizations support our Armed Forces, but they have also been great supporters of the local music scene for years, holding benefits, open mics, top-notch karaoke, and music festivals.
This Saturday, July 27, American Legion Post 28, located at 7001 Brayton Drive in Anchorage, is holding the 6th Annual AlaskaFest. Events kick off at noon with an open mic on the outdoor stage with an emphasis on getting young musicians on stage. AlaskaFest VI is open to the public, family-friendly, and admission and parking are free. This is truly a family-friendly event with all sorts of games for kids and adults, including dart and cornhole tournaments.
David Todd, Vice-Commander and head of Entertainment and Events at Post 28, has been involved for the past three AlaskaFests. “This year we have really focused on the musicians involved being members,” Todd said. “We want to put it out there that there is a vibrant community of veterans that are contributing to the local music scene and it’s a really good lineup.”
There is an outdoor stage and an indoor stage at this year’s AlaskaFest. This year’s schedule includes:
12:00 PM — 3:00 PM Open Mic — Outdoor Stage
3:00 PM — 3:30 PM CryoCajuns — Indoor Stage
3:30 PM — 4:00 PM Todd Long — Outdoor Stage
4:00 PM — 4:30 PM JJ Shockley — Indoor Stage
4:30 PM — 5:30 PM Wreck in the Roundabout — Outdoor Stage
5:30 PM — 6:00 PM Stephen Hendricks — Indoor Stage
6:00 PM — 7:00 PM Lost Smoke — Outdoor Stage
7:00 PM — 7:30 PM Gary Stedman — Indoor Stage
7:30 PM — 8:30 PM Hwy9 — Outdoor Stage
8:30 PM — 9:00 PM Broc Read — Indoor Stage
9:00 PM Karaoke Contest — Indoor Stage
“The whole objective really is to open people’s eyes to the fact that we exist with a really great facility here and what we want is membership and involvement of the veteran and veteran-family community.” Todd added. “We also have a great space to rent to other organizations. This outdoor facility here is probably the most unknown concert space in Anchorage.”
“I think people just picture a bunch of old vets drinking beer and grousing about the government, as well they should be, but there are people here doing all kinds of things. We have the open mic nights that have been very successful. We hold them the first and third Tuesday of every month. We start early at 6:30 p.m. and go until 10 or so.” Todd continues. “We’ve got Boy Scout Troop #216 that have their troop meetings here and use it as a home base and they do all sorts of good things… We will also be doing our first focused concert on August 18th. Blackwater Railroad Company is doing a fundraiser benefit for us.”
Todd returns our conversation back to membership in these community organizations. “Membership is important because membership means more support for Veterans and active duty personnel and their families,” he said.
In a day when showing one’s patriotic pride can get you railed all over social media, and when our government is pulling back on funding for those that need it, I urge you to look into becoming part of one of these organizations and take an active role in serving others and becoming more a part of our community.