I sit as Design Chair on the Buckeye Main Street Coalition in Buckeye, Arizona. Our group is made up of local business leaders in the Buckeye community.
Our focus is revitalization of historic downtown Buckeye. When I say revitalization I mean projects like designing Wayfinding Signage, paving a park with bricks and adding benches or brainstorming about the pinch point along mainstreet to hang a street banner. When we are not working on architectural or landscape improvements we are working on community events that will help attract more visitors to Main Street. A few weeks ago the BMSC had the opportunity to host the AVTT or American Veterans Traveling Tribute in our Buckeye. It is a 5 day event open to the public for 24 hours that honors an 80% replica of the black granite Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington DC that Maya Lin designed.
The site plan on the left is the original layout of the wall configuration at the Edgar Park along Beloat/Irwin and Miller Road about 15 minutes south of Interstate 10. In the planning phases of this event I started laying out the basic pieces of what was going to arrive on trucks to be set up. This event proved that drawing up a site plan for planning any event is critical to success. It reminds me of one of my favorite movies Home Alone when Kevin who gets left behind by his family is planning his final attack against the Wet Bandits. You know the drill, Kevin lays out the plan in crayon with the broken ornaments for the bandits to step on, a huge nail sitting upright in black goo on a step in the basement for them to step on, hot iron and door knob. Before I settled into the delicious macaroni and cheese dinner or the AVTT coming to Buckeye I had to get everything on a sheet of paper and pass it to the team.
As you can see from comparing plans, things changed. I had the layout set based on AVTT standard horse shoe configuration they had sent 6 months prior. I worked the tents, stage, trees and chairs around their wall configuration. On the day of set up, that all changed. When you are planning like this you have to ask questions of your team. Are you going to have a booth at the event? How close are the motorcycle riders going to ride up to the wall? Where is the power. How much power will we need? How does one sit and honor, respect and remember? Do veterans want to sit on a bench together or in their own chair with some distance?
Thanks to Dave at Jack Rabbit Nursery who let us borrow his 15 gallon trees for the the event! The mass of volunteers from Keller Williams were wonderful on Thursday May 9th our set up day. We only had a window of about 4 hours to get everything set up. Since the plan had changed in an instant, I was scrambling to re-configure the tree layout. It all worked out great. We measured with soft tape measures about 30 feet from the black wall and arranged the trees with the new layout. The loose chairs were set in between the trees so visitors could have some space and be alone if they wanted.
Even though the marine green tents donated by the Prison did smell I liked the look of them. When I sat under it I felt like I was kind of roughing it under the hot sun in some army camp out. Most of the veterans who visited with me liked the look and feel of the tents too. Desert Oasis in Goodyear donated a POW MIA, Gold Star, and Blue Star floral wreaths. The wreaths really added elegance and color. We set them next to the trees and put heavy sand bags around the tree bases and easels since the wind was so strong during the four days. The loose carnations were from Crazy Daisies in Buckeye and given out on the last day of the event, Mothers Day.
I think the line by line agenda with times for each of the set up times, daily activity sheets and of course the site plan made this event really cohesive. Even though there were changes in the layout we were able to roll with them quickly and adapt. The Town of Buckeye was a huge part of the success as well with the use of the stage, sound system and water. They were there at a moments notice for whatever we needed. If a tent was not throwing enough shade for the locator computer station to look up a fallen soldier for a visitor, the next day there was a new tent with side flaps to replace it. If we ran out of water bottles for the bus loads of school kids a bobcat tractor would pull up with bags of ice and cases of water bottles. Thank you to all who participated.
At the end of the event on Sunday I did feel like gliding along a rope hanging onto a bicycle handle bar and screaming, “Whee!” into my tree house! The veterans who I met and the experience of working together with my team is a great memory that will stay with me for a long time. I send special thanks to Buckeye Main Street Coalition, VFW, American Legion, Doris Goetz, Town of Buckeye, Buckeye Fire Department, AVTT, Jack Rabbit Nursery, Desert Oasis, Crazy Daisies, Daughters of American Revolution and Mike Malcom for playing the bagpipes and wearing a wool kilt for hours on end for five days.