Dedication for renovated World War I Memorial at fairgrounds will be July 16

CHARLIE WARNER/NEWS LEADER Workers were busy last Saturday morning removing the old shingles and digging out concrete grout on the World War I Memorial at the Fillmore County Fairgrounds in Preston. The restoration project is scheduled to be completed by mid-July.
Charlie Warner

The hard work of the Fillmore County Fair Board and many volunteers will come to fruition soon, as the restoration project of the World War I Memorial at the entrance of the Fillmore County Fairgrounds will be dedicated on July 16. The event, which will be held on Tuesday, July 16, at 6 p.m. commemorates the celebration held 100 years ago on Aug. 26, 1919, that welcomed home the soldiers from WWI.

The celebration will include a parade of flag corps representing the various military organizations in Fillmore County. They will assemble at the Trailhead in Preston and march over the Fillmore Street bridge to the memorial entrance at the fairgrounds. All other military personnel, retired or active are asked to muster by the bleachers, which will be set up by the entrance.

A short program will include Staff Sargent Nathan Pike, Olmsted County Veteran’s Service Officer, as the emcee, sharing the history of the WWI Memorial. 

The National Anthem will be performed by Johnny Holliday (U.S. Air Force), who did the National Anthem at the Final Four in Minneapolis, earlier this year.

Speakers will be Sgt. Josh Krage of Preston representing recent veterans and Col. Joe O’Connor from  Arizona, representing older retired veterans.  The reading of “In Flanders Field” will be presented by Hannah Schneekloth, the Mabel Girl’s State representative.

Other displays during the July 16 event will include the Navy Riverine Forest display from Cresco, the SAC tow truck with flag from Preston, as well as posters of the veterans cemetery and the proposed veterans home to be built in Preston.

Refreshments will follow the program.

A donation drive to fund the restoration project for this piece of history was established last summer by the fair board. The majestic white block building, with a middle archway, has admitted hundreds of thousands of fairgoers for many decades and was in a state of disrepair. Area contractors were called in to make suggestions on how the project should be done and provided cost estimates.

“There are a number of things that need to be done to bring this piece of history back to its original shape,” said Sheila Craig, who is one of the individuals championing this project.

The roof was sagging and until workers pealed the singles off and examined the roof boards, they didn’t know if some of the roof trusses needed to be repaired or replaced. That work is currently being completed.

The two large concrete cupolas that serve as flagpoles, were also in need of repair. Much of the concrete mortar needed to be ground out and replaced and the wood-sash windows required some TLC as well. The original steel turnstiles were sandblasted and repainted.

Last summer the fair board applied for and received a $1,500 grant from the Clean Water Legacy Heritage Fund. Additional grants from the Harmony, Preston and Lanesboro Area Community Foundations, the Preston Historical Society and numerous American Legion and VFW posts in the county provided additional funding to make the restoration project a reality.

At the present time, volunteers are feverously working to complete the project on Saturdays and evenings to meet the July 16 deadline. Anyone wishing to donate their time and talents should call Craig at 507-273-1481.

Anyone wishing to contribute to this project can make their contributions to the Fillmore County Ag Society, Doug Lind, Treasurer, P.O. Box 364, Preston, MN 55965.