HOWELL, Mich. — Veterans from all over Michigan gathered last weekend to attend the largest free veteran festival in the state. The organizers/founders Joe Riker and Josh Parish said, “Over 2,800 people attended the event this past Saturday enjoying a free festival in honor of our military, veterans and their immediate families.” The attendees enjoyed the many wonderful free things such as entry, delicious food, several door prizes with values up to $1,500, bounce houses, live music, over 70 resource providers, face painting, superheroes and much more!
The purpose of Vet Fest is to bring veterans of all income levels together to enjoy comradery and hopefully take advantage of the resources there to assist them. “We’re making sure all veterans have access to the many resources available to them by bringing those resources directly to their feet while they enjoy family festivities,” said Parish. Livingston County Veteran Services Director Mary Durst said, “Vet Fest was a huge success, I was able to connect with numerous people that didn’t know my office was just down the road waiting to assist them.” We also heard from local Howell veteran Dave Roddy who said, “It was a wonderful show of community support for veterans and families, I picked up a lot of useful information.”
Livingston Vet Fest is only in its second year and nearly doubled the number of attendees since last year’s Vet Fest held down the road in Brighton. The stories being shared by the resource tables and veterans have proven this type of event is working and its time to move in this new direction. Riker stated, “That direction should be away from the stuffy old rooms from 9-5 during the weekdays and more towards events that will draw our veterans out in its masses on the weekend, it’s time for change.” Livingston Vet Fest is the product of two combat veterans being fed up with the same old outdated events that typically brings aging or unemployed veterans only. Those completely miss many of our younger veterans and their families, “We need more forward thinking not the status quo,” said Riker, while suggesting the old way is lucky to gather more than 30 veterans.
Livingston Vet Fest is successful because of the overwhelming support from the community. Working with a local non-profit called Region 9 VCAT, they have helped Vet Fest reach many veteran organizations and advocates around the state. Venue Host, Cleary University, played a vital role that made this year very special and helped stretch the dollar. The four presenting sponsors; Advance Metal Alloy, Chestnut Real Estate, Jeff Glover & Associates and Detroit area combat Veteran John James helped financially as well as many other smaller donors. But the true reason Vet Fest has been successful is due to the organizers and volunteers who all worked countless hours to make it happen. Parish stated, “We need more events like Livingston Vet Fest around the U.S. to make a huge impact on all the veteran issues that ale the nation, but it can be done!” Currently, Michigan is still behind the curve. Riker said, “Michigan needs to move forward by working harder to make it a top state for veterans to reside, Vet Fest is one of the roads in right direction.”
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