With kickstands up and engines started, motorcyclists will thunder into Vilonia around 10:30 a.m. on Aug. 9 to help raise funds to rebuild the Museum of Veterans and Military History in the city.
The event, “Ride to Rebuild,” is sponsored by the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association, said Marty Gustafson with the CVMA and also a member of the museum.
“We’ve just got to get this museum back up and running. It means so much to a lot of people around here and really all over the place,” he said. “We are inviting not only motorcycle riders, but also cars, to join the ride. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Riders will pay a $10 fee to participate, with all the proceeds going to the museum. The ride will begin at 10 a.m. at Gregory Polaris in Jacksonville and end at the Vilonia Fire Department. The fee will include coffee, donuts, a hot dog lunch and door prizes. For information, call Gustafson at (501) 259-2951.
Vilonia residents are encouraged to line the streets along the route and wave the parade of bikes through, while showing support for the rebuild of the museum. Many participating in the ride will be veterans, Gustafson said.
The museum, located at 13 S. College, was in the direct path of the April 27 tornado and sustained extensive damage, requiring it to be torn down. The use of the house, for the museum, had been donated by Centark Investments, LLC, which includes three families: Ralph and Sherri Lachowsky, Johnnie and Kelli Wells and Stanley Gordon Jr. and his wife Melanie, for nearly three years.
Military relics, as well as office equipment, display cases and the security system were lost as a result of the tornado, but many artifacts also were saved according to Sharon McGraw, vice president of the museum board. The artifacts will remain in private storage until the museum opens at the end of N. Mt. Olive in November on two acres of land donated by Vilonia resident Charlie Weaver.
“We were able to save a lot, and we plan to open bigger and better with the help of everyone,” she said. Since opening in 2012, the museum has hosted 4,500 visitors from 28 states and three continents. The inventory of artifacts was extensive.
In June, museum officials launched a campaign to raise $50,000 for building. Since then, many private donations have been made, including a $5,000 donation in honor of Sgt. Jason Swindle of Cabot, who died Sept. 20, 2012, in Afghanistan of injuries suffered when he encountered enemy fire. Several fundraisers have been held, and others are currently under way, including the selling of sponsorship bricks for $50 each which will be used to line walkways. Bricks are also being sold for a “Walk of Honor” that will display the names of veterans.
“We are going to incorporate that into our flagpole area,” McGraw added.
For more information, visit VeteransMuseumVilonia on Facebook or call McGraw at 501-796-4895 or Linda Hicks at 501-796-8181.
Chief Brad McNew of the Vilonia Police Department said a couple of intersections will be blocked for a short time on Aug. 9, allowing the motorcyclist to make the ride without stopping. Mayor James Firestone will be among the riders.
Also, the Arkansas Fallen Heroes Memorial will be in place in the memorial park at the senior citizens building the week prior and will be taken down by the Freedom Warriors after the Ride.