'It really is a community event.' Ethan comes together to support veterans

·6 min read

Sep. 11—ETHAN, S.D. — Scott Weinzetl has lived in Ethan for four years, and the town of 330 people approximately 13 miles southeast of Mitchell is usually quite peaceful.

"It's quiet. Very quiet," the former Marine and National Guard member said of living in the small town as he walked down Main Street admiring the dozens of cars gathered for the car show. "It's nice to see people coming in."

Weinzetl was one of hundreds of people mingling at the

Heroes Helping with Horsepower

organization's event. The event is in its second official year and is held to support the organization and

the equine therapy program at Reclamation Ranch.

The day of activities included a ribs cookoff, car show, silent auction and a giveaway of a custom motorcycle that was customized by veterans.

The event attracted locals, like Weinzetl, who operates

The Board Veterans

making custom artwork designs with a focus on themes of military and public service. One of his pieces was part of the silent auction held at the local American Legion hall.

But it also drew in people from around the region, and even for those who don't often find themselves in Ethan, the event was a pleasant way to spend the day while supporting veterans and local small-town businesses.

Catina Kost, of Mitchell, was at the car show helping her parents, Emile and Nancy Laurendeau, show off their 1968 Camaro. The car was previously owned by her uncle Darwin Lester, who died in 2009, and was on display at a car show for the very first time.

The event was a good excuse to get out and enjoy a nice day in a small town while also supporting area veterans, she said. As

a small business owner herself,

she also understands the benefit an event like this can have in bringing awareness to the community and its businesses.

"(It's nice) having events like this where you can bring people to your town and bring awareness to your businesses and the community in general and what's available," Kost said. "We do a lot of camping and traveling from small town to small town throughout the summer and we're always looking for things like this."

Deono and Lonna Miller, of Mitchell, were both taking in the mild late-summer weather as they made their way down Main Street. Deono is a Vietnam veteran with an affinity for classic cars, and he and Lonna had both driven a vehicle down from Mitchell to take part in the car show.

Like Kost, it was a good chance to spend a Saturday under sunny skies while also supporting local and area veterans.

"For a small town, they do a great job," Lonna said. "(We came) to be with the veterans, because he's a Vietnam veteran and we like to support veteran activities."

Deono, 74, who served as a sniper during the Vietnam War, admitted he had not spent a lot of time in Ethan prior to Saturday, but it was good to see a nice turnout and the support for men and women in uniform. As a veteran he remembers a time

when Vietnam veterans were given a harsh welcome home by some members of the public,

and it is heartening to see that attitude has changed over the years.

"(The event) is really interesting. We're only 10 miles away and I've only been here one other time," Deono chuckled. "(Vietnam veterans) are getting a lot more appreciation from different places than we did before."

Active military personnel were also on hand taking in the day. United States Army staff sergeant Henry George, originally of Littleton, Colorado, and sergeant Levi Zavala, originally of Wakonda, were in uniform and working their way up and down the street, admiring the vintage cars and chatting with people as they went.

They work at the

Army Recruiting Station in Sioux Falls.

That was part of the reason they were on hand Saturday in Ethan, but simply getting out and visiting with residents in area communities is also a big part of their work.

"It's a good event, there are a lot of really nice cars and there's a good turnout," George said. "We're just happy to be here and be a part of the community. We're always looking to be a part of the community and help out any way we can. A big part of our job is community outreach."

Farther down the street, teams involved with the rib cookoff were preparing their entries for the competition. Joe Brandt, of Emery, and Kurt McBrayer, of Mitchell, were firing up their coals at the POET booth.

They had competed at the Ethan event before, and like others, they enjoyed the small-town atmosphere and well-organized activities. Doing well in the competition is nice, they said, but interacting with people from the community and the area is the main reason they like to participate.

"Oh yeah, it's a fun event. Well organized," Brandt said. "(And) it's community outreach for POET. We just like to show our presence, which is the big thing."

It was a full day of things to do, running from 8 a.m. with a separate pancake breakfast fundraiser for the local high school clay target team to live music at

The Ammo Box,

the local bar and grill, at night.

It's a lot of work to keep everything coordinated, but the community rallies around the event and continually delivers its trademark small-town support, said Laura Klock, founder of Heroes Helping with Horsepower and co-owner o

f Farm Life Creamery in Ethan.

She said the entire Ethan community has been more than supportive of the event, noting that the local chapter of the FFA volunteered in droves to help out on Saturday. And that was just one group he donated their time to the effort.

For Klock? Holding the event in Ethan was a natural choice, she said.

"We placed it in Ethan because I live in Ethan and the town has really embraced us," Klock said. "Ethan is really small, and they totally support veterans."

Klock described the event as a win-win situation — it's for the good of veterans in the area while also giving a boost to the local community. As a partner in a local business herself, she knows the benefit of bringing outside people in to see what a small town like Ethan has to offer.

"It really is a community event. It draws attention to the new stuff in town and the stuff that has always been here. Not all small towns have their own events anymore," Klock said. "When those of us in the community go ahead and do this and join in, we all benefit."

More information on Heroes Helping with Horsepower and the equine therapy for veterans program can be found on

their website.