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Column: An exciting event ahead

I'm getting pretty excited for next Thursday. Not this Thursday, because, frankly, I'm turning 43 and that's not really all that exciting.

But next Thursday? I've been looking forward to that since last spring.

I'm part of the group that is planning the Patriotic Day Celebration at the high school next week. There's about a dozen of us, give or take a few extras who have sat in here and there, and we've been meeting all summer and fall to get this event ready for our community.

Here's what we've got going on -- first off, we're going to have a free pork chop dinner for anyone and everyone who registers. That's from 5 to 6:30 p.m. The food is provided by the Farmington Lions Club, and they've been working really hard to get donations from businesses and organizations around the community. FHS kitchen staff will prepare it, and volunteers from the Farmington VFW Auxiliary will help serve it.

We've got a fantastic program starting at 7 p.m. It's going to be held in the recital hall, and we've made a big deal of involving our students -- a combined choir of fourth graders from every elementary school in District 192 will sing a few pieces, and the combined eighth grade band from the two middle schools will provide a few more musical selections.

The VFW's Voice of Democracy winner will be announced that night, and he or she will read his or her winning essay. On top of that, the American Legion Boys State delegate, Aaron Dahl, and Legion Auxiliary Girls State delegate, Natalie Cherne, will be the Master and Mistress of Ceremony.

We've asked Farmington mayor Todd Larson and School District 192 superintendent Brad Meeks to give a few opening remarks. Annette Kuyper, Farmington's Warrior to Citizen director, will talk a few minutes about how the community can serve veterans and active military men and women and their families. Our special guest speaker is John Kriesel, an veteran who lost his legs and a few friends when they encountered a roadside bomb in Iraq.

The date is one week before Veteran's Day. That's no accident. We planned it with the knowledge that there are other events scheduled for veterans on Nov. 11. But this event is not designed to be only about veterans. The event itself is a big ol' Thank You to every man and woman who has ever enlisted in the Armed Forces.

For a long time, Farmington Middle School West held a program for the community's veterans during the school day. And it was always a remarkable event that I believe had a tremendous effect on our students. I know the veterans appreciated the thanks they received.

I think the Patriotic Day Celebration takes things one step further. We're still saying thank you to all those who have served or are serving in the military. But we're doing it on a much larger scale. We've tried to bring together city, school district, veteran's organizations and community organization members. And we're doing it for one reason: to say Thank You.

Everything we have, here in Farmington, is because someone has stepped up and fought for our freedoms. Our merry band of planners are mostly civilians who have never served a day in our lives. But we've come to understand that though we can't fight for our freedom, we can show our appreciation for those who have.

For more information on the event or to make reservations visit the community education page,; or call Laura Abrams, 651-460-1805. We are also making arrangements for veterans and guests with physical limitations.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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