Council approves living history event
Proposal changed after feedback
By Angie Landsverk
Negative comments about a proposed Vietnam War re-enactment at Waupaca’s Swan Park resulted in the organizer proposing a living history event instead.
“Some were positive. Others were negative,” Aaron Jenson said of the feedback city staff and Eric Percy received after Percy presented his proposal to the Waupaca Common Council last month.
Vietnam veterans were among those expressing concerns about how the re-enactment of a Vietnam War battle would affect those who served in the war.
Therefore, Percy decided to propose a timeline event spanning World War II through current conflicts. The Aug. 26-27 event will not include any battle re-enactments.
When the common council met on Wednesday, April 5, it approved Percy’s latest plan by a vote of 5-4.
Steve Hackett, Paul Hagen, Paul Mayou, Eric Olson and Dave Peterson voted in favor of the proposal, while Lori Chesnut, Alan Kjelland, Jillian Petersen and Scott Purchatzke voted against it.
Chuck Whitman was absent.
The council’s vote will allow blanks to be discharged from firearms as part of demonstrations, as well as for the participants to camp overnight.
Those two aspects of the event violate two different city ordinances.
The event’s conflicts with city ordinances is why the common council did not take action when Percy presented his idea in March.
City Attorney John Hart addressed those concerns last week.
“In the past, council has found a way to approve events like this without changing a ordinance,” he said.
As examples, Hart cited an overnight camping event that took place on the city square to make people aware of the homeless and a time when firearms were allowed to be discharged on Foxfire Golf Course to scare away geese.
In both of those instances, ordinances were not changed.
The council granted permission for both to occur, he said.
While Percy changed the scope of his proposal, some members of the common council questioned why weapons need to be discharged at all as part of the event.
Kjelland, who served in the Vietnam War, said he sees no reason as to why weapons need to be discharged.
“I’m not opposed to the event, just the discharging,” he said.
Purchatzke agreed, saying for some, it may bring back experiences they do not want to remember.
Chesnut also said firearms should not be discharged at all.
Percy said it is not something needing to be done.
It is normal for weapons to be discharged during living history events, he said.
The drills and demonstrations give those who attend an idea of how tactics changed from World War II up until the present, according to Percy.
“The event does have the support of the Waupaca VFW. They were in support of either idea. Most are Vietnam vets,” he said.
A Vietnam War veteran, who lives in the Manawa area, attended the council meeting and said Swan Park is not a place where such an event should be held.
“No one wants to talk about war,” he said. “War is where fathers bury sons.
Chesnut also did not want to see the event take place at the park, saying it is a place where families go to play and have picnics.
Kjelland made a motion to allow the event to occur. but with no battle re-enactments or discharging of firearms.
That motion failed by a vote of 4-5, with Chesnut, Hackett, Kjelland and Petersen in favor of it and Hagen, Mayou, Olson, Peterson and Purchatzke against it.
Hagen said he supported the idea, as he does not remember that era.
Peterson, who also served in the Vietnam War, said he believed the living history event should include weapons being discharged so people realize the sound of it.
Mayou understood the concerns of other council members and said, “To not discharge would detract from the event.”