Event to feature re-enactors from 7 wars

Photo ProvidedDon Smith of Oakwood has been refurbishing this armored Jeep from World War II. It will be on display Saturday during an Armed Forces Day event at the Vermilion County War Museum.

DANVILLE — It’s one thing to admire military uniforms displayed at the Vermilion County War Museum. But it’s quite another to see those uniforms in action.

“We’re bringing some of our uniforms to life,” said Susan Miceli, development director for the museum. “They have a story to tell.”

In honor of Armed Forces Day on Saturday, the museum at 307 N. Vermilion St. will have a variety of activities offered from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Re-enactors from the Revolutionary War to the Vietnam War will be on hand to talk about their time period, and show their uniforms and equipment. Encampments and military vehicles will be on display outside, weather permitting.

At least one re-enactor will represent each of the seven wars: Revolutionary, Civil War, Spanish-American, World War I and II, Korean and Vietnam.

The vehicles and encampments will be set up on the front and side lawns of the museum. Madison Street from Vermilion to Hazel will be closed to through traffic during this time.

Indoors, museum volunteers will give tours. Also, someone from the Army recruitment office will give away items for the children, and Heavenly Sno Cones will be for sale.

“This is an event that has been offered in the past,” Miceli said, “and we are excited to bring back this event and show off the many new features of the museum.”

The front and back doors will be open, and visitors will have a chance to admire the new front doors — which have been re-created to match the museum’s 1903 décor.

A lot of the exhibits have changed indoors, Miceli said, adding, “We have a lot of brand spanking new things.” A lot of WWI items will be on permanent display due to the war’s 100th anniversary.

Also on view will be an almost 200-pound Finnish Lahti semi-automatic anti-tank rifle from WWII — which takes up most of a 6-foot table.

Larry Weatherford, a volunteer at the War Museum and a Civil War re-enactor, said the exhibits outdoors will be set up in order.

“You’ll walk through a military timeline,” he said, from one period in history to another. “The re-enactors from each period will talk about not only the military at the time, but life during that part of American history.”

Visitors will be able to see how weapons and uniforms have changed throughout the centuries.

The re-enactors will be in their own uniforms from a particular period.

Weatherford will be portraying Maj. John Beveridge, commander of the 8th Illinois Calvary at Gettysburg, who later became governor. He also was a school teacher and attorney.

He also will portray that same officer at a living history event in late June or early July at Gettysburg. Weatherford will give a speech as Beveridge.

Weatherford said a lot of the vehicles on display will be from WWI and II.

One of the more unusual will be a WWII Jeep belonging to Don Smith of Oakwood, who turned it into an armored vehicle.

Smith said the vehicle, which is street-legal, is getting a lot of attention from people. He acquired it in August 2014, and has been working on it as time permits. It’s operational, but not finished.

The armored Jeep already has a lot of appearances coming up, including a WWII re-enactment in Peoria, Arts in the Park on June 23, Oakwood Fourth of July parade, Balloon Fest and Westville Labor Day parade.

It operates well for a vehicle that’s more than 70 years old, he said.


The Armed Forces Day event is free; however, a suggested donation of $5 for adults and $2 for students will be accepted. Children younger than 6 are admitted free.

For more information, call the museum at 431-0034 or email vcwm@comcast.net. There’s also a Facebook page.

The museum is always seeking new members and volunteers.