Chris Blockburger is director of the Easton Veterans Association, a group hosting the Thunder in the Valley Benefit for Veterans on Friday and Saturday in Easton. Here, he shares details about the event.
1. Chris, why did the Easton Veterans Association decide to host the Thunder in the Valley Benefit for Veterans?
"The planning for the Thunder in the Valley event started a month after the Easton Veterans Memorial was dedicated. The Thunder in the Valley event is a way to continue giving back to my fellow veterans and further taking care of the memorial for years to come.
"It helps cover the cost of maintenance and the lighting of the memorial, while helping veterans through local service organizations and through funds and donations raised during the event.
"In October, I formed the Easton Veterans Association and added two more veterans on the board, to help better serve the memorial and veterans in need, and to assist in the planning for the upcoming event."
2. Tell us about the activities that will be offered at the event, including the car and bike show?
"The Association contacted several car clubs, and had fliers made and distributed throughout the county. We have the car and bike show that is open to all makes and models. We have door prizes and raffles on Friday evening, from 3-8 p.m., entry fees for cars are $20 and bikes are $10.
"On Friday, from 8-11:30 p.m., we have a free street dance in front of the memorial, free to the public, featuring the Good Sam Club Band from Merriam, Kan. Also on Friday, we have the swap meet/flea market that will be going on the same time as the car and bike show. "The vendor's entry fees are $15 for one day or $25 for both days. The swap meet/flea market will continue on Saturday for 8 a.m.-6 p.m. on Saturday evening. There are currently 45 flea market and direct sales vendors registered for this event with many more expected on the days of the event. There will be food vendors present both days — Black Belt BBQ, Papa Joes Kettle Corn, Fire and Ice Concessions.
"O'Reilly's, AutoZone, Car Quest, Advanced Auto Parts, Walmart, and S & S Customs & Performance, are our sponsors for this year's event.
"Mission of this show: Show your car and show you care. Motorcycles, too. To show respect and provide material support for America's veterans. Showing respect and consideration for the veterans of the Armed Forces — active or retired, wounded, recovering, injured or aging, at home or under long-term care.
"Sharing our love of the automotive hobby with veterans, their families, their friends and their caregivers through the display of our beloved cars and motorcycles.
"Raising the awareness of the general public regarding the concerns of veterans who might otherwise endure isolation and neglect, if not for the efforts of volunteer outreach programs."
3. Where will proceeds go?
"All entry fee proceeds from vendors and car and bike entries are going to help veterans in need directly, through the local VFWs, American Legions and the Leavenworth and Easton veterans memorials.
4. Now that the local area has two new veteran memorials, how can people help maintain them, and why is it important for the community to always keep in mind the sacrifices our veterans have made and continue to make?
"The public can help maintain them by continuing to support local veterans, and helping through donations or volunteering to veteran service organizations, like VFWs and American Legions. Each memorial is different in their own way.
"Each memorial reminds us that wherever and whenever we see them that we have those that are, have and will serve."
5. As director of the Easton Veterans Association, what has been the most gratifying part of helping bring about the memorial in Easton that honors and thanks veterans for their service?
"The honor and privilege of building the memorial, and that future generations will have a place to remember those that have served, in the Easton area, that gives me the most gratification."
Call Chris Blockburger at (913) 683-2419 for more information about the event.