The threat of rain failed to dampen the spirits of more than 750 people in attendance Saturday night at the Red River Valley Veterans Memorial fundraiser with country star Neal McCoy as the night’s live auction brought in a record $40,250 dollars.
Drake’s Party Barn host Richard Drake pitched in an additional $5,000 to dedicate the concert in memory of United States veterans Travis Coston, Hubert Drake and Alan Heilberg, donated a set of Drake Construction pocket knives that fetched $4,400 and paid $13,750 for the high dollar auction item, an 8-foot charcoal grill.
“It was a fantastic night,” event spokesperson Johnny Williams said, noting that McCoy, as usual, gave 110% to his more than an hour-and-a-half performance, and the opening act of Kristyn Harris and Haley Sandoz did not disappoint in their return performance by popular demand from a year ago.
To a question about an encore fundraiser next year, Williams quickly responded, “We’re having the Oak Ridge Boys on Oct. 1, 2022.”
Williams talked about the “overwhelming support” the veterans memorial continues to receive from the community.
“The community support that we have is absolutely overwhelming,” Williams said of the support for the veterans memorial, which first broke ground in 2009 after U.S. Air Force veteran Doug Weiberg returned to Paris from a visit to his hometown in Rochester, Minnesota, with a vision for a granite memorial surrounded by walkways constructed of pavers to honor war veterans.
“I think that people realize what we are doing here, and why we are doing it,” Williams added. “We are not doing it for us. We are doing it for future generations, and that’s why that thing is concrete and granite. We want it to be here 100 years from now.”
Immediate plans for the memorial’s expansion call for several static displays to include a Howitzer M2 Cannon from World War II, and a Cobra helicopter from the Vietnam era, an War II armoured tank and a Humvee.
“All our concrete and brick work is done on the phase four construction and we’re fixing to put sod down in the not-too-distant future,” Williams said. “Then we’ll be ready to start moving some stuff in, probably next spring.”
Before bringing McCoy to the stage, Williams introduced Gene Ray of Reno, who donated two vintage Chevrolets, one a 1957 convertible and another a red two-door 1957 hardtop to be raffled with ticket sales on the convertible kicking off Saturday night.
“We’re going to run that raffle for a couple of years and then we’re going to give it away and turn around and we’re going to raffle off the other one,” Williams said before crediting Ray for “doing more for the Red River Valley Veterans Memorial than any one single individual.”
A final tally on Saturday night’s fundraiser is expected within a week, Williams said Monday afternoon.