About two years ago, members of the Hattiesburg Disabled American Veterans Chapter No. 62 were working to put together a master list of all the organizations that could help veterans in the Hub City with issues like homelessness, food insecurity and mental health.
In doing so, they eventually settled on the idea of the inaugural VetFest, which will be held from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. May 21 at Town Square Park in downtown Hattiesburg. The event will feature live music, food vendors, and most importantly, businesses that can help veterans with information and other types of aid.
“”I couldn’t find (much help), so I figured if I couldn’t come to them, I’d have them come to us,” said DAV member Trey Stully. “I thought this would be a good idea to get all those businesses into one area, so we could figure out who they all are and see what the city has to offer its veteran population.
“Also, they can promote their businesses themselves, and it would be good for them to get their name and their recognition out there for themselves.”
The expo-style event will allow veteran owned-businesses to meet with each other and expand their brand, showcasing their products and services to the community. Veteran service providers also will share information on impacting the daily lives of veterans and their families.
“There are going to be some products that people can buy there, and there’s going to be food there as well,” Stully said. “But most of the places that are coming in are going to be businesses, like graphic design or mental health.
“Anybody that either owns or operates a business that is a veteran, or provides services to veterans, are going to be the vendors at this festival. We’ll have a couple of bouncy houses and an area for the kids.”
The event is family-friendly, free and open to the public. Entertainment will be provided by the 41st Army Band out of Jackson, the 73rd Army Band from the Virgin Islands, the Youth Challenge Program from Camp Shelby, and possibly USM’s ROTC.
“Our area of responsibility has expanded too, so this is going to be the first of many VetFests, and it will just grow from here,” Stully said. “With all the other areas we just inherited, next year we’re going to have to go up to them and try to bring them in.
“Hopefully, one day we can make this a state thing and not just a Hattiesburg thing. I’m hoping we have a couple thousand people – it’s a good event, and we have a lot planned, and we’re planning on 50 vendors for this event, so that should bring a good crowd.”
To register as a vendor for VetFest, visit https://bit.ly/35hdEui, or to register as a volunteer visit https://bit.ly/389CHAD. For more information on the event call (601) 596-5620 or email email@example.com.
“We’ve had excellent feedback from the community, and any organization or entity that we’ve come to and presented what we’re doing, we’ve had zero turndowns,” DAV member Mark Jordan said. “We’ve had bank support, credit union support, and we’re up to five or six sponsors that we’ve actually received checks from to help fund this.
“We’ve got community organizations that are volunteering, and we’re working hand-in-hand with the ADP. This is about bringing veteran businesses to get to know other veteran businesses, so that they can do vet-to-vet businesses. It also lets the community know what veterans businesses are out here in the Pine Belt, along with entities that provide services to our veterans. It’s all about connecting veterans to veterans, and from here we anticipate so much interaction – Hattiesburg is a huge veteran community, so we want to tap into that.”