Reporting live from the fields of Iola, Wisconsin, this blog is coming from the 23rd Annual Iola Military Vehicle and Gun Show with Live Working Wheels. With anticipation of around 9,000 visitors over the two-day event, I have often regarded this show the best of all our collecting and military enthusiasts aspects.
Iola isn’t the easiest place to find. Located in the dead-center of Wisconsin, it is a town of a few thousand folks. To lure upwards of 10,000 visitors to the show for nearly a quarter of a century is no accident. It has been a careful evolution that keeps family activity as the focus.
Founded by entrepreneur and publisher, Chet Krause, the Iola Military Vehicle Show emerged out of the desire to represent the vehicles that he serviced during WWII while an NCO in anti-aircraft battery. The first show functioned as a rendezvous point for his battery’s reunion. From there, Chet incorporated his other interests into the show: Guns, tractors, and early civilian trucks.
After turning over the show’s management to the Iola Old Car Show Office, other family-friendly aspects were added to the show. In past years, there have been helicopter rides, radio-controlled airplane demonstrations, firearms safety training and orientation, Red Cross Bloodmobile, trail rides, tractor pulls, and driving competitions. The success of the show has been built on this variety of activities that focus on a “whole-family inclusion.”
The Iola Vintage Military Show promotes the conservation, preservation and display of historic military equipment. This event invites the display of military history as an important role military veterans and their equipment have made for peace and freedom.
The array of other collector’s vintage military vehicles and equipment of the past will continue along with Vintage Tractors and Equipment which played such a big part of the past. This year will feature a variety of plows from various eras that our farmers used to till the soil for planting crops.
For comparative and educational purposes living encampments will set up near the swap area with re-enactors. They will be involved in living history and weapon demonstrations. On Saturday, The Community Blood Center will be present for a blood drive.
Brooke Burich from the Veterans Administration Center in Green Bay will bring a Mobile Veteran Center, a 38’ motor coach which is converted into a confidential counseling area. V.A. Centers provide readjustment counseling and outreach services to all veterans who served in any combat zone or experienced sexual trauma including bereavement counseling for family members at no cost. This will be here on Saturday.
Though Chet had always regarded reenactors as a fringe of the hobby, the Iola Military Vehicle Show has embraced them. Each day, scripted public battles and open encampments draw large audiences. Meet-and-greet with veterans from WWII, Korean War, and Vietnam help families appreciate that reenacting represents real human sacrifice. The reverence for veterans’ service is paramount through the weekend.
If you haven’t been to the event, I encourage you to consider marking it on your 2015 calendar. If you are involved in event planning, I encourage to look at the show as a model of how to attract non-vehicle owners to attend your event.
Okay, as I said at the beginning of this report, I am scribbling it in the field. To see photos and videos from the event, check on Military Trader and Military Vehicles’ Facebook pages. I will be posting throughout the weekend.
Live from the Field,
Military Trader and Military Vehicles Magazine