2024 VetFest offers services for those who served

Mary Christine Stevens/For the Mining Gazette

Houghton’s Second Annual VetFest, hosted by Houghton County, was held in the Student Development Complex on Michigan Tech’s campus Wednesday.

The festival welcomed hundreds of attendees and honored and thanked local veterans for their service. VetFest featured giveaways, discount cards, raffles, live music, never-ending rows of tasty catering and information from the VA and Veteran Service Office. A star-spangled photo booth provided a great picture opportunity for veterans attending with friends and family. Veterans could also win a $20 gas card when they presented proof of service. The event was supported through a grant from the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency. 

Volunteers on golf carts offering rides to and from the event for attending veterans. This offered an extra level of accessibility for those who may have struggled with mobility. Many of the neon orange-shirted volunteers were veterans themselves, including Greg Johnson, a U.S. Army veteran. He was assisting with rides and transportation during his first time at VetFest. Attendees were greeted by friendly faces who offered to help with prize registration and navigation of the event. A row of flags, featuring the U.S. flag and the flag of each military branch, stood at the center of the event space. 

Johnson said events like this are important, “to let the vets know  what is available out there, for support for them.”

Community support was a big theme this year at VetFest. Anyone from the Keweenaw was welcome, not just those who served. There were more than 70 local groups in attendance with information booths set up, including Vets for Jesus, the Army National Guard and the National Park Service, which handed out free lifetime passes to all veterans. The event also included live music from Tom Katalin and the band Highway-41.

“I think the Keweenaw does a pretty good job of supporting vets,” Johnson affirmed. “In my experience, (veteran benefits are) pretty adequate.”

One of the most important aspects of the event was an informational presentation from the Veterans Health Administration and the Veteran Service Office. The session focused on veteran rights and benefits and information for caregivers. Many found the presentation helpful, nodding along and taking notes.

VetFest’s organizers are hoping to be able to host the event at the SDC again next year. There are also plans to add a claims clinic to the festival to help veterans get a determination or near-determination for a claim for compensation through the Veteran Benefits Association. 

It’s possible benefits could also extend to the spouse of a veteran, not just the veterans themselves. For more information on the services and benefits available to veterans, visit www.VA.gov. 


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