Even the intermittent storms that turned the Tree Town Music Festival grounds into a virtual lake weren’t dampening the spirits of thousands of concertgoers.
American Legion Past National Commander Dave Rehbein, for one, was happy to see that.
“This is the opening day of Memorial Day weekend, and this is what Memorial Day weekend is all about,” Rehbein said Saturday at the concert festival in Forest City, Iowa. “It’s about remembering those people who made it possible for us to be here. So (do that) as you enjoy yourself, and you better enjoy yourself, because the folks who made it possible for you to be here expect you to enjoy yourself.”
Tree Town, in its third year, brings a number of country music acts to northern Iowa; this year’s lineup includes Miranda Lambert, Sam Hunt, Jake Owen and Tim McGraw, who will close out the festival Sunday night.
Immediately before McGraw takes the stage, Legion-supported Soldier’s Wish will be presenting a wheelchair to an injured veteran.
The American Legion has been the festival’s official charity each year. The Legion’s presence at Tree Town includes a major presence on the venue’s second stage as well as a tent at the front of the grounds, drawing concertgoers as they enter the grounds.
“We know that the folks that come to country music festivals, the vast majority of them, are America-loving patriotic people. So for us to have the opportunity to put the name and the purposes of The American Legion in front of those people, particularly when they’re excited about all being together and all celebrating the same thing, is important," Rehbein said.
The Legion conducts a 50/50 raffle each day of the four-day event, and also has service officers on hand to help Legion members and other veterans with VA benefits.
Denise Rohan, candidate for national commander, was also on hand for part of the weekend. Rehbein said Rohan drew “a favorable reception” from women excited about the prospect of a female national commander of The American Legion.
Events like Tree Town help the Legion reach the younger crowd whose membership is necessary for the organization’s growth.
“Getting those younger members is huge for us,” Rehbein said. “For us to be able to draw that connection out, it’s more than just what you can do one-on-one, it’s what you can do as a group to help the larger group, because that’s what we’re about.”