By: Kay Appenfeldt
The American Hero Music Festival is co-sponsored by the Exchange Club of Beaver Dam. It originated to promote Americanism, which is one of the missions of the Exchange Club. Joe Cantafio, uncle of fallen Marine Pfc. Ryan Cantafio, presented the idea to the club to honor his nephew and other fallen servicemen and servicewomen serving in the military. Through the efforts of the members/volunteers of the Exchange Club, the event became a reality. The event was expanded to honor and remember the 3,000 victims killed at three locations on 9/11/2001. Those who assisted and helped during and after the attack were also to be honored. Additional honors are extended to all American Heroes (firefighters, police, EMS, gold star families, first responders and veterans). This year, POWs and MIAs will also be remembered. The event is always held close to 9/11. The musical performances at the event have always been free; there is no cover charge. The event is organized, staffed and managed each day by members of the Exchange Club of Beaver Dam.
Muriel Harper Exchange Club President shared, “When the Red Cross sent me to New York in the fall of 2001, I had not yet joined the Exchange Club of Beaver Dam. My heart wrenching assignment was counseling the surviving parents, widows and widowers, and the children of the heroic firefighters and police officers who ran into the inferno of the twin towers attempting to save lives while losing their own. When I was invited to become a member of the Exchange Club of Beaver Dam, which was honoring that sacrifice along with those of our brave military and their families, I was proud to join.”
A parade was added to the event in 2010 and continues. Parade entries stress patriotism and feature American Heroes in firefighting, police, military, veterans, EMS, Dodge County Sheriff’s personnel, patriotic floats, and Beaver Dam Gold Star families. Any patriotic-themed entry is welcome to be in the parade. The parade starts at 11 a.m. on Saturday and moves through downtown Beaver Dam to its destination at Swan City Park. Children’s events are provided on Saturday including a petting zoo, touring a fire truck, face painting, games and other activities.
The music of the festival features local, statewide and nationally known bands. Bands perform on Friday evening and begin mid-afternoon on Saturday. Joe Cantafio and the 101st Rock Division Band round out the entertainment on Saturday evening. The band has toured U.S. bases in Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Djibouti, Africa and Bahrain. Joe says, “We plan on returning to Iraq and any other place on Earth where Americans are serving to preserve our rights and our freedom if only to give them a slight break and bring them a little taste of home.”
Last year the Exchange Club provided a banner during the event, which was signed with well wishes for a departing company of Wisconsin Guard troops during their upcoming tour of duty. The signed banner was presented by the President and President-elect of the Exchange Club to the following Wisconsin Guard units on September 15, 2011, as they deployed to Kosovo: the 157th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, the 32nd Military Police (MP) Company and Company F 2nd Battalion 238th Aviation Regiment.
Chair of the American Hero Music Festival Dawn Klockow stated, “The Exchange Club of Beaver Dam is proud to co-sponsor this family friendly and patriotic event and is excited to honor all persons who give of their time, energy, and sacrifice to serve our community and country in the armed forces, law enforcement, and fire and EMS professions.”
This year’s American Hero Music Festival will be held at Swan City Park on September 7 and 8. An opening ceremony on Saturday at noon honors fallen firefighters and offers a patriotic tribute to all Americans and to local Gold Star families. WBEV/WXRO provided a live broadcast of the ceremony last year, and we anticipate this will occur again this year.
Proceeds from the American Hero Music Festival go to Exchange Club charitable projects including a new scholarship.