Proud to be An American Welcome & HistoryOn Saturday, July 6th, 2019 the 450 passenger Madam Carroll excursion boat filled with military veterans leads a line of 100+ patriotically decorated boats. The 15th annual PROUD TO BE AN AMERICAN Patriotic Boat Parade to honor our military. The Hooligans precision flight demo team salutes the event with five aircraft. Water skiers thrill the crowd gathered on the Sportsman Inn reviewing stand to see the parade.
What follows the parade is a good old fashioned small town America Independence Day weekend celebration in the city park attended by 2000. Flag bearing sky divers kick it off with free hot dogs, free watermelon, free ice cream, free chips and free family games. The Indiana University LifeLine Helicopter lands in the park and the Jordan Manufacturing Cannonball Express (train replica) is on hand for free rides. Truly a family event.
Monticello mayor Ken Houston said it best: “This is the only event of its kind in the State of Indiana. What makes it even more spectacular is the simple fact that everything is free. Corporate donors underwrite all expense and provide all food, games and entertainment to not only the veterans but for the general public as well. This event certainly speaks volumes about patriotism and American values.”
This year we will salute veterans and soldiers of World War II and the Korean Conflict as our grand marshals. Indiana National Guard has supplied a list of some 250+ from this part of Indiana. A personal invitation letter will go out to each just before Memorial Day. Additionally you will see regular email and Facebook broadcasts to some 18,000 promoting this event. Each year we present a commemorative letter to our grand marshals. Past letters have included former president George H.W. Bush, Senator John McCain, General David Petraeous, then Indiana governors Mitch Daniels and Mike Pence, Eric Holcomb, and more.
We just have one “committee” meeting attended by 45-50 toward the end of April. Most of the key players have been with me since inception and know what to do.
The Madam Carroll is very generous in offering to do this each year. As long as they will continue we will keep going.
Honoring Our Veterans! Here is how it all began:
In 2005 a group of us were cleaning up after the annual SFLECC Fish Fry when fellow board member Steve Jones said: “Know what we ought to do? We should have a red, white and blue All-American parade of boats on Lake Freeman on July 4. We could ask the Madam Carroll to lead the parade and fill it with military.”
Joe Crivello’s response was “Great idea, Steve but would you please think of this three months ago as the 4th of July was in 3 weeks.”
But we did it – just the two of us. We put up posters in every veterans’ organization in all of the surrounding counties and flyers at every location where people buy gas for their boat.
It was a limited success – about 80 people on the Madam Carroll and some 20 boats in the parade.
When it was all over with, Joe’s wife Sherill told him “You did it all wrong – you just put up a sign in a bar. You need to get to the veterans’ wives.”
So it was back to the Legion, AMVETS & VFW asking how to reach their membership. They responded by saying “would you like to have mailing labels?” That did it and ever since we send out a direct mail piece to veterans’ homes and fill the Madam Carroll to capacity. Tom Heckard and the Madam Carroll is very generous and continues to do this complimentary every year.
Celebration in the Park
In 2008, then Monticello mayor Jason Thompson asked if we would put something together in the park following the parade. Thus the Celebration in the Park was born and Joe’s wife again came to the rescue with the theme. What better for the 4th of July than Hot Dogs, Watermelon and Ice Cream. Monticello Parks director Mitch Billue organizes free family games and we draw some 2000 people for a fun afternoon. Flag bearing sky divers drop in to kick it off with the Indiana University Lifeline helicopter, the Jordan Manufacturing Cannonball Express (train replica), live music, free hot dogs, free watermelon and free ice cream. Local businessman Chris Venters described it best a few yews ago – “I brought my family, we had a great time and I did not have to spend any money.”
Steve Jones died in 2013 after a two year battle with cancer. For the 2014 Parade Russ McDonald and the Hooligans 5 plane demonstration military fly over dedicated a “missing man” formation to Steve. Steve’s family was with us to witness the event.
Five years ago, with Steve’s illness, Kean MacOwan stepped up to help us in the planning.
In 2008 we began honoring as parade grand marshals a particular group of veterans. World War II in ’08 followed by Korean War, Vietnam War, Cold War and Gulf Wars in subsequent years. We are now on the second cycle having saluted 39 World War II veterans in 2013 and 50 Korean War veterans in 2014 and more than100 Vietnam veterans in 2015 as our grand marshals. Each grand marshal is individually photographed professionally receiving a proclamation from Mayor Houston, medal and commemorative letter written especially for this event. Letters in past years have come from Senator Bob Dole, then Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, Senator John McCain, former President George H. W. Bush, former Indiana governor, World War II hero and Japanese POW Ed Whitcomb, US Army General David Petraeous, Indiana senator Dan Coats and Indiana Governor Mike Pence This year we have received a letter from Indiana governor Eric Holcomb and requested a letter from new Secretary of Defense, General “Mad Dog” Mattis. You can read these letters on the web at www.boats4vets.com under the “for military – grand marshal” tab.
It's Completely Free!
In order to keep everything “non-commercial” and essentially free we rely on corporate donors to underwrite some $8000 in expense and at least that amount donated “in kind” goods and services.
Some “in kind” donations include 2000 hot dogs and buns from Kroger, 400 blue fabric shopping bags for our veterans on the Madam Carroll from Walmart stuffed with “goodies” from Monticello Assisted Living and local businesses, sandwich condiments from the JH Saylor Company in Burnettesville, watermelon from the Bank of Wolcott, cups, fresh baked cookies and toys from McDonalds, Ice Cream from the Alliance Bank, 90 pounds (over 7500) of flag wrapped “midgees” from Tootsie Roll in Chicago and 2500+ bags of chips and snacks from Frito Lay in Frankfort. Other in kind contributions include the use of a pontoon boat from Tall Timbers for boat judging, 45 tee shirts for the committee from Wrede and Sons, 1000 small American Flags from state representative Don Lehe, 40 dozen Kinser donuts and coffee provided by AMVETS aboard Madam Carroll. Monticello mayor Ken Houston and his assistant Lori Cheever take care of all of the promotional mailings, The city of Monticello and parks director Mitch Billue for all activity in the park, WMRS radio in Monticello, WSAL radio in Logansport and WLFI-TV in Lafayette each provide hours of “air time” for promotional announcements throughout May and June, the Monticello Herald Journal and the News and Review for countless promotional articles, Jordan Manufacturing “hanging” the over the road banners on South 6th street, and of course the Madam Carroll for leading the parade.
Financial contributors have included Alliance Bank, AMVETS, APEX (Indiana Beach), Carroll County Community Foundation, Caterpillar, Carroll White REMC, Dye Lumber, Eagles (Lafayette), EDP Renewables (wind farm), Franciscan St. Elizabeth Health, Fraternal order of Police, Garmong Construction, Indiana University Health, Jefferson Township Trustee, Lafayette Bank and Trust, Liberty Township Trustee, Lightstream, Monsanto, NIPSCO, Oddfellows, Peoples Savings and Loan, SFLECC, State Farm, The Home Depot, The Walmart Foundation and Wessler Engineering.
Truly a community event. More than 200 individuals and organizations “touch” this project in the planning and implementation stage.
Written by Joe Crivello