Cape Fourth of July celebration begins with washers, Arenacross

Sunday, July 3, 2011
Floyd Sullivan, left, and Lester Barger compete in the washers tournament during the USA Veterans' July 4th celebration on Saturday, July 2, 2011, at Arena Park in Cape Girardeau. (Kristin Eberts)

Much of Arena Park was quiet early Saturday afternoon, but the washers tournament doubles competition at the USA Veterans Fourth of July celebration was well underway in the shady area on the north side of the Arena Building.

During a celebration when traditions dominate, Justin Fornkohl of Cape Girardeau was one of several players who were breaking a particular tradition.

Washers are normally tossed underhand, but Fornkohl and partner Jason Weaver of Rockview, Mo., are among of a growing number of players who throw overhand.

Tucker Williams rides ahead of Bret Crites during Arenacross 2011 Saturday, July 2, 2011 at Arena Park in Cape Girardeau. The event was part of the USA Veterans Fourth of July celebration. (Fred Lynch)

Fornkohl said he tried the overhand method at Weaver's suggestion after a bad day of throwing.

Now, Fornkohl said, "I'm more consistent throwing overhand."

Weaver said overhand tossing is especially an advantage in windy conditions.

"When you throw overhand you get a backspin that keeps the wind from affecting the washer as much as an underhand throw, which comes in more flat," Weaver said.

Contestants for Saturday evening's Arenacross event practiced on the dirt track in front of the grandstand in preparation for the competition. Campus Scooters owner Todd Rapp, who sponsored the Arenacross, said there was an explosion of two-wheel entries into this year's event. Last year's event had fewer than 50 entries. This year there are 85 entries.

Box office attendant Jane Mungle said ticket sales for the Arenacross would be primarily walk-up sales but that early sales for Monday evening's grandstand event were strong. Monday evening's program includes a demolition derby, the presentation of the Southeast Missourian Spirit of America Award and a fireworks display.

"Demolition derby early sales are going tremendous, and we're expecting a blowout crowd," Mungle said. Organizers expect attendance to exceed the grandstand capacity of 3,000.

According to USA Veterans commander Rodger Brown, the cost of putting on this year's event is $60,000, including costs for the grandstand entertainment events such as the John D. Hale Band at 8 p.m. Sunday and the demolition derby at 6 p.m. Monday. The price tag for the fireworks display alone is $10,000.

Proceeds for the event in excess of costs will go to support the work of USA Veterans, which Brown describes as a group that tries to fill a void not satisfied by other veterans organizations. USA Veterans supplies emergency relief to veterans and their families where traditional means of assistance fail.

Brown said the organization has given over $5,000 to help veterans who have fallen on hard times or need temporary help.

According to Brown, USA Veterans has grown from six members in 2009 to more than 100 today. The original six members had been part of a national veterans organization called VietNow, which put up the Vietnam veterans monument at the Common Pleas Courthouse Park in 2007.

"It's mostly people that have seen what we're doing and liked what we're doing and want to get involved because their heart is in a similar place where ours is," Brown said about the growth in the organization. "They want to do the things that aren't getting done."

An upcoming project of the organization will be restoring old monuments at local cemeteries, Brown said.

Brown describes USA Veterans, which is not affiliated with any national veterans organization, as "a very different kind of veterans organization." Nonveterans are welcome to join the group as "Patriot" members, and the group's weekly meetings are open to the public.

"From the time of our inception we have always met in a tavern," Brown said. "Anyone who wants to sit and listen, whether they're a member or not, or anyone who wants to offer a suggestion is welcome to do so."

Brown said a long-range goal of USA Veterans is to help construct a local rehabilitation facility for veterans who have undergone amputations. He said amputees now have to travel to Houston or to Maryland for rehabilitation. Those facilities fit the amputee with a prosthetic limb and train them to use it but offer no recreational or occupational rehabilitation.

Brown said the project is nothing more than a vision right now.

"We've never made enough profit to go forward with it," he said.

Pertinent address:

Arena Park, Cape Girardeau MO

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