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Farmington community gathers to thank its Veterans

The Farmington High School Wind Ensemble helped open the 2012 Patriotic Day celebration by playing the National Anthem, The Star Spangled Banner.1 / 2
The keynote speaker for the Patriotic Day ceremony was Way Uptagrafft, a Korean War veteran. This year's Patriotic Day ceremony was dedicated to Korean Conflict veterans.2 / 2

Farmington Veterans of Foreign Wars Sypal-Lundgren Post 7662 commander Ron Ersfeld summed up the 2012 Patriotic Day celebration in three simple words: "pretty jam-packed." And he was right.

More than 1,200 free dinners of pork chops and mashed potatoes were served during the Nov. 1 event, and all 800 seats in the recital hall at Farmington High School were filled.

This year's Patriotic Day celebration was dedicated to the community's Korean War veterans. Ersfeld, a Korean War veteran himself, led the Pledge of Allegiance. The featured speaker was Wayne Uptagrafft of Rochester, who helped establish the first Korean War Veterans Club in Rochester in 2001. Uptagrafft talked about his time in service, and about the struggles he and his family had to overcome when he returned.

"He was a really good speaker," Ersfeld said. "I was a little teary-eyed. He had a lot of troubles. He's not alone, but that he brought it up again, I knew what he was talking about."

Emcees for the evening were Farmington High School senior Brad Dow, and Christian Life School senior Anna Larson. Dow is the president of the FHS Yellow Ribbon Network chapter. Dow represented the Farmington American Legion Auxiliary Unit 189 as a citizen to the 2012 Girls State program last June.

"They did a phenomenal job," North Trail Elementary School principal Steven Geis said.

The program included music by the Farmington High School Concert Band, the Combined Fourth Grade Choir (made up of elementary school students from all five District 192 elementary schools), the FHS Men's Choir, and the Christian Life School vocal quartet, Peace Force. Guest vocalist was Kara Millerhagen, a professional entertainer in the Twin Cities-based trio Sister.

The Patriotic Day celebration is held prior to Veterans Day to avoid interfering with the activities planned by local veterans service groups. Planning for the ceremonies starts soon after the last one has passed Work on the 2013 Patriotic Day celebration will start next Monday, Nov. 12. Since the event is supported by volunteers from the school district, city of Farmington, several civic organizations, businesses and veterans' organizations, it does take a little time to pull things all together. But Geis wouldn't have it any other way.

"The community support and involvement couldn't have been any better. Farmington should be incredibly proud," he said. "This is a true collaboration between all of the community's constituents."

With a new Farmington Veterans Memorial now under construction, Geis expects it will be worked in to the theme for 2013. The Patriotic Day committee is always looking for new members with new ideas, he added. Interested volunteers can contact Geis at NTES by calling 651-460-1800; or by attending next week's meeting, which will be held at 4 p.m. at North Trail.

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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