Downed two days shy of a year by a tornado, the Museum of Veterans and Military History in Vilonia will open the doors Saturday, April 25, at 53 N. Mt. Olive.
“It has been a long year,” said brigade member Paul Hicks, who has coordinated the build of the new museum which began in June on two acres of land donate by Vilonia resident Charlie Weaver. The land had to be cleared and leveled for the building.
Through fundraising and donations about $65,000 was raised for the project. The building is constructed of hybrid blocks that were trucked in from Missouri. CompleteBlock Company in St. Louis, provided the materials at cost and donated the labor to install.
“Herb Walters, owner of CompleteBlock and his crew were here for three weeks doing the block work.
Their stay was paid for out of the company’s pocket. It was just something they did to help us,” Hicks said. That part of the project cost museum officials about $26,000 including the shipping costs.
“The blocks are made to withstand 220 miles per hour,” Hicks said. However, the roof is metal, he added. “We couldn’t afford a concrete one or that’s the way we would have gone.”
Several local companies also helped with the project providing labor and supplies. For instance, Charles Fulmer, owner of Fulmer Electric in Vilonia, handled the wiring of the building at no cost to museum officials.
“That was a huge donation to the project,” Hicks said. “We couldn’t have built this and opened this quick without Charles and that donation.”
Inside, museum visitors will see about 75 percent of the inventory that was recovered from the old museum. As well as, additional items are being added as they are donated.
Activities on April 25, will include a Ride to Rebuild at about 11:15 a.m. Museum member Marty Gustafson, who is also a member of the Combat Vets Motorcycle Association, anticipates there will be more than 100 motorcycles from many different organizations participating. Naming some, he anticipates seeing Combat Vets, Rolling Thunder, Patriot Guard and Freedom Warriors represented as well as other types of vehicles. The Ride In is open to the public.
It will begin at Polaris in Jacksonville. The proceeds will go to the museum. This is the second Ride to Rebuild. In July, Gustafson coordinated a ride with about $2,500 being donated to the rebuild.
On that note, Hicks said the Freedom Warriors have also donated a security system for the museum including a year’s worth of monitoring.
“We are grateful to everyone who has been a part of this project,” Hicks said. “The list is too long to thank everyone. We hesitate naming any one person or business because we know we will miss some. We have also had a lot of support from Mayor James Firestone and the city of Vilonia.”
The doors will open at 9 a.m. with the touring of the museum. Other activities for the day will include a Museum USO Show beginning at noon with local talent including some veterans.
Several agencies will also be on hand. The Salvation Army will be set up, as they did at many USO Shows, handing out free coffee and donuts. There is no charge for attending or touring.
Because of construction on the city’s new ballpark, N. Mt. Olive Rd. is anticipated to be shut down on that day. Those attending will be asked to take an alternative route by taking Highway 64 to Marshall Road to Weaver St. Turning onto Weaver Street you can see the museum at the end.
For information, call 501-796-8181. Hicks’ wife, Linda, museum director.