SPAMTOWN USA Festival in three weeks

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 15, 2001

It’s only three weeks away.

Friday, June 15, 2001

It’s only three weeks away.

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The 2001 SPAMTOWN USA Festival, that is.

This year, five days of family fun and excitement are planned, beginning Independence Day, July 4, and concluding Sunday, July 8.

This marks the 16th annual celebration in Austin and it may be the biggest yet.

The focus this year is U.S. military veterans, who will be the grand marshals of the parade.

Also present will be a contingent of Minnesota Army National Guard soldiers and "Old Glory."

No less than 10,000 U.S. flags will be distributed along the 44-block parade route on the opening day of the celebration.

Another 2,500 will be handed out at the popular Concert in the Park event on July 8.

Plus, the Austin Daily Herald’s "Memory Book" salute to veterans will be distributed in advance of the celebration with additional copies handed out during the parade.

Also, the stars and stripes are displayed on the official 2001 SPAMTOWN USA Festival commemorative buttons.

There’s a special dedication of the new Veterans Pavilion in the former St. Paul’s Lutheran Church building along Ninth Place SW at the Bandshell Park.

And, a special flag-raising ceremony by the Disabled American Veterans local organization will take place in Horace Austin Park on Independence Day with a 21-gun salute rendered by members of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 1216.

If visitors to Austin see America’s Stars and Stripes in their dreams, there will be a reason – thousands of them to be sure as Austin’s summertime celebration takes on its most patriotic theme in its history.

Of course, there’s also the SPAM Jam 2001 family events at East Side Lake Park on July 7. Annually more than 20,000 people crowd into the city park for a daylong celebration inspired by the world’s most famous luncheon meat.

When the twin celebrations end, another one begins. This year, a multicultural festival is being planned to recognize the rainbow of colors now dotting the Austin landscape.

"It’s hard to pick a favorite event, because there’s just so many, many fun things going on during the festival," said Dave Dammen, chairman of the festival’s board of directors.

"My own family and my wife Diane and I enjoy everything. It’s just hard to get to all the things, because there are so many," he said.

"I would venture to say, the SPAMTOWN USA Festival has something for everyone. If you go to it, you will find something you like to do," Dammen said. "That’s what we want it to be: a festival for everyone."

Dammen presided at the last meeting of the board of directors before the celebration kicks off in three weeks. Held Wednesday at the festival’s offices at the Austin Area Chamber of Commerce, the board members and festival director, Cindy Samuel, were crowded into a conference room filled, literally, from the floor to the ceiling with boxes of SPAMTOWN USA Festival paraphernalia.

Dammen opened the meeting praising the board members for a "job well done."

Then, one by one, the board members and chairpersons reported on festival plans.

Renee Wangen said an advertising campaign starts this week to promote the festival and radio and television interviews with festival volunteers, too.

Jim Ruud said the games and other competitions are "under control."

Mike Bednar and Mike Landherr said plans to recruit 100 or more veterans to ride in National Guard troop transport trucks are proceeding.

Both Bednar and Landherr said the National Guard has been "extremely cooperative" in assuming its prominent role in the July 4 parade.

Also, they were excited that many of the veterans indicated they would wear their uniforms from World War II, the Korean War and other conflicts.

"We welcome all veterans to join us in the parade," Landherr said. "Any veteran interested in being a part of this year’s celebration may call the Chamber office (437-4561) for more information."

Dennis Maschka, also a board member, was singled out for special praise for his role as the city’s Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department director. Maschka has watched over the frantic efforts to prepare the former Lutheran church for the rededication as the Veterans Pavilion.

Bob Mithuen, another board member, earned his peers’ praise for assisting in the parade’s "veterans" connection.

According to Mithuen, Tom Forstner, father of Chamber executive director Sandy Forstner, will call the "Cadence" as the veterans march along the parade route. The elder Forstner is 87 years old.

Mary Mueske said the Downtown Family Fun Day events planned for July 6 indicate a variety of attractions for celebrants.

Sandy Underwood and Stan Coughlin also reported everything is a "go" in their share of the festival’s responsibilities and Greg Brown said 10 area radio stations will be filling their airways with commercials promoting the street dance on July 6 in downtown Austin.

Tammy Fett, festival secretary, and Deb Joel, festival bookkeeper, have the task of keeping track of the daily deliveries of trophies, ribbons, banners, T-shirts, prizes and other items that will be distributed July 4-8.

Festival director Samuel said 85 entries already have registered for the parade, which will include nine different musical units.

Then, Dammen and Samuel distributed the "official" 2001 SPAMTOWN USA Festival T-shirts to the volunteers, expressed appreciation for their efforts and bid them "good luck."

Last year, the festival attracted people from 46 states and 17 foreign countries. The amazing ability of the one-day SPAM Jam events to attract so many people help bolster the entire festival’s participation and image.

"Every SPAMTOWN USA Festival is the best," Samuel said. "It does so much for the image and the economy of the city."

"Every day holds its own memories for me that give me that special feeling to last until the next festival," Samuel said.

Call Lee Bonorden at 434-2232 or e-mail him at