Although the Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall drew fewer visitors to Delta than anticipated, organizers feel the Salute to Armed Services Festival met its goal -- to pay tribute to the men and women who have fought for our country, and particularly those who lost their lives in the Vietnam Conflict.
"It was a very powerful and emotional weekend," said event director Mat Gallegos.
The four-day festival provided a forum for the community to pay tribute to veterans past and present.
"If the wall touched just one person, then it fulfilled its mission," said John Barron, who delivered the wall to Delta. The 80% replica is one of two traveling Vietnam walls owned by American Veterans Traveling Tribute, a small business owned and operated by veterans.
Barron noted a steady stream of visitors throughout the wall's stay in Confluence Park. Gallegos estimated visitors at 5,000 to 7,000. Thursday's opening ceremonies and recognition of the 75th anniversary of D-Day drew the biggest crowds, he said. Saturday was the second biggest day, although music offered in the park failed to draw a big crowd.
At 8 p.m. each night, Richard and Chris Weldon played "Taps." Throughout the festival, Loveland resident Ed Aiken shared his memories of Vietnam and put the events of 1955-1975 into perspective for visitors of all ages.
Other volunteers included Civil Air Patrol cadets and the Delta High School JROTC squad, both of whom were described as "phenomenal" help. Area veterans organizations pitched in to help, the American Legion's Department of Colorado color guard posted the colors, and Iraqi/Afghanistan veterans who make up Warriors First traveled from Colorado Springs to volunteer. The event would not have been possible without widespread support from individuals and sponsors. "It's been great to have so many people who wanted to be part of this event," said volunteer coordinator Donna Justin.
Gallegos said the intent is to establish an annual tribute to veterans, with a broader focus that does not entail the Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall. "I'm looking forward to seeing what next year brings," he said. "We want to continue to celebrate the men and women who have served our country."