Convention center looking for luncheon sponsors

Published 9:58 am Monday, October 19, 2015

Vicksburg goes all out to support its veterans on Nov. 11, and now organizers need the community to give what they can to make the day a success.

The Vicksburg Convention Center is hosting its third annual Veterans Day luncheon at noon on Nov. 11, and they are in need of more sponsors to facilitate feeding more veterans.

“We could use any help that we could get,” Sue Bagby, administrative and special events coordinator at the VCC, said.

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Sixteen organizations have given money towards the event, but they are looking to raise at least $2,000 more. The more sponsors they have, the more veterans they can feed. Right now the VCC staff is prepared to serve around 200 people. Last year they had a crowd of close to 400 people attend the luncheon, and they would like to be able to serve at least that many people this year.

Veterans eat for free and nonveterans eat for $15. They plan to serve a barbecue lunch, but will have to change the menu to a cheaper option if they do not get enough donations.

“We don’t want to take away for the quality of the type of food that they have,” Annette Kirklin, VCC executive director, said. “We don’t want to turn someone down. So we might have to revisit what is offered for food to try to not be in that position to have to turn someone down.”

Bagby gives out admission tickets to organizations like the American Legion and to people who make reservations, but she can only give out tickets to cover the amount of people they can afford to feed.

The sponsorship money will go directly to purchasing meals for the luncheon. Kirklin said they aren’t charging for the building or using the sponsorship money for any other expenses.

Reservations are required to attend the luncheon. Knowing how many people are going to attend the event will greatly help the organizers plan what type of food they will be able to afford for the amount of people they are expecting. People with tickets will be served first and any extra plates they may have will be given to veterans or sold to nonveterans who did not make prior reservations.

“Through the sponsorships, we were able to cover even the extra that came through last year,” Kirklin said. “If we have extra and if we don’t have the sponsorship, we’re not going to be able to cover that.”

The organizers do not want to turn veterans away at the door, which makes reservations and donors a must to be able to serve everyone who wants to attend.

“I don’t want to turn anybody away,” Bagby said.

Booths will be set up at the luncheon by different veterans organizations like the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which will provide health screenings and information on eligibility for benefits. In addition to the booths, Patty Mekus from the Southern Heritage Air Foundation will be giving out free hugs to all veterans.

Bagby said the veterans had been organizing their own luncheon before the VCC took it over and she thought it wasn’t right.

“It’s like throwing your own birthday party,” Kirklin said.

Kirklin said it is a way for them to give back to the veterans who have given everything to their country. Her oldest son is a veteran, which makes the event all the more close to her heart.

“It’s just a small way to show gratitude,” Kirklin said.

Veterans Day kicks off with a 9:30 a.m. with the “Spirit of Vicksburg” parade in downtown and continues with an 11 a.m. ceremony at the Memorial Rose Garden. The Southern Heritage Air Foundation will do a flyover at the ceremony.

This year the luncheon will not have another ceremony in addition to the one at the rose garden and will only serve as a social or, as Kirklin called it, an after party.

“I just enjoy having all of them here,” Bagby said. “I think they feel appreciated, and I just love that they’re not having to do it for themselves, that we can do it for them. That was the biggest thing that bothered me.”

Attendees at any of the Veterans Day events are encouraged to post their photos to social media with the hashtag #VburgVetDay. The pictures will be displayed on the VCC’s website.