Post officials said Fort McCoy’s first Armed Forces Day Open House since 2019 can be considered a great success as nearly 2,000 people visited the installation.

The day’s activities were centered on the Commemorative Area, which features the History Center; five World War II-era buildings filled with historical equipment and displays, the outdoor Equipment Park, and Veterans Memorial Plaza. Visitors were treated to cooler temps and partly sunny skies as well.

“Within the Commemorative Area, we had 35 displays set up under tents for a lot of interactive fun,” said Public Affairs Specialist Kaleen Holliday with the Fort McCoy Public Affairs Office. “We also had guided installation bus tours, a sandbag-filling station, personalized ID tags, camouflage face painting, military equipment displays, marksmanship galleries, and more.”

The free event ran from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and people appeared to enjoy everything that was available, said Christopher Hanson, also a public affairs specialist with the Fort McCoy Public Affairs Office. “We had a great turnout and excellent weather,” he said.

Mary Gerdes, general manager for WWIS 99.7 FM radio in Black River Falls, Wis., was among the visitors to the open house. Gerdes did a short Facebook Live announcement to her station’s listeners inviting people to come to the event. She also said she and her family had a wonderful time.

“It was great,” Gerdes said. “The grandkids had so much fun. … What a fantastic event! There was just so much, but I think that the family friendly environment was the best overall part. Everyone in the booths, by the vehicles, and in the museum were engaging with everyone both young and old.

“I also did really enjoy seeing all the vehicles set up,” Gerdes said. “I would certainly encourage everyone to go. It’s an excellent experience and so close to home.”

Holliday said more than 60 people supported the setup and operation of the open house.

“A lot of people worked hard to provide the best experience possible,” Holliday said. “Thank you to everyone who supported this event, and thank you to everyone who took part.”

Among the most popular stops for the open house is often the natural resources and wildlife exhibit organized by the Fort McCoy Directorate of Public Works Environmental Division Natural Resources Branch where they have live turtles and snakes for people to see.

Forestry Technician Nick Randall said dozens of visitors stopped by to see the animals and to talk about them.

“It was actually really nice,” Randall said. “It was fun showing the kids the turtles and snakes. I wish people were more interested in asking about forestry, but I had tough competition. … It was a great time.”

And many people also visited the many things to offer at the historic Commemorative Area. The Commemorative Area features five historic World War II-era buildings, artifacts ranging from Fort McCoy’s inception to modern times, an Equipment Park with more than 70 military vehicles and equipment, and Veterans Memorial Plaza. A picnic pavilion is on site and had plenty of use during the event.

And just as one open house is completed, Holliday said work has already begun on planning for the 2023 Fort McCoy Armed Forces Day Open House. “That event will take place on May 20, 2023,” she said.

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