- Gerry Brandt
The Fairbury American Legion Cruise In at the speedway was started in 2009 as a fundraising event to enable the Post to buy supplies to be used to decorate the Fairbury area cemeteries, Graceland, Avoca and The Catholic Cemetery, on Memorial Day.
Since the inception of Memorial Day, the Post has always put the small American flags on the graves of veterans. Prior to 2009 the members of the Post had located the graves of veterans by checking both the front and the back of the headstones, looking for a foot marker or by trying to remember the veterans’ graves that were not marked. It usually took a crew of eight or more two to three hours to locate the graves and place the flags and, unfortunately, no matter how hard we tried there were always some veterans missed, something we all deeply regretted.
The Post had long discussed getting some permanent markers to put on the graves at a cost of approximately $12.00 each. However, after replacing the flags that are damaged by weather every year, we simply did not have the funds that would be needed to purchase the then over 700 (we put out over 800 this year) markers that we would need.
We were again discussing this in the winter of 2009 when a couple of us who were on the Fairboard came up with the idea of trying a “Cruise In”. We reasoned that we would have minimal expense if we did not charge admission, simply took donations, opened the beverage (including adult beverages) stand, sold 50/50 tickets and grilled and sold precooked brats and hot dogs as the Fair Corporation (which we own) had the licensing and permits that would enable us to do so.
So, with the full support of the Post and the Fairboard and the addition of Pizzas by Marchelloni on the food side our first Cruise In was held in May of 2009. In the years since, this being our 12th Annual Cruise In (we skipped the “covid” year), through the generous support of the community and the car enthusiasts in the area, we have generated enough funds to maintain the flags, buy the needed grave markers, replace the 20 to 50 grave markers that get damaged or disappear each year (for the past two years we have had to replace a total of close to $800.00 worth) and along with a matching donation purchased the speaker system that we now use at the Memorial Day Ceremony.
This year, for the first time, we dedicated the Cruise In to Jim “Smitty” Smith, John Luttrell and all of the Honor Guard members of the joint Fairbury VFW and Fairbury American Legion Post. Both Jim and John were not only long-standing members of the Honor Guard, but both were initial and avid supporters of the Cruise In.
They, along with all the past Honor Guard members, are greatly missed. We would like to thank our sponsors Matt Curl and the FALS LLC and his staff and The Fairbury Fair and board president John “Gunner” Sullivan. We would also like to thank John Strong and Pizzas by Marchelloni for supplying pizza, FALS, The Fairbury Fair and Cook Automotive for supplying door prizes and a special thanks to Rich Sullens and the Midwest Real Street Outlaws for helping to promote this year’s event.
Lastly, on behalf of the Fairbury American Legion Post, a sincere thank you to everyone who came out to support us this year and to all who have supported us throughout the years.
-Post Commander Gerry Brandt