Women’s Auxiliary President Karen Pack takes a turn on the mechanical bull at the William McKinley American  Legion Post 231’s hoedown picnic on Saturday, August 7, 2021.

McKinley Park American Legion Hosts Community Hoedown

Published August 18, 2021

A mechanical bull, music, games and lots of food and drink brought together local veterans and the community for the Country Western Hoedown Picnic, an annual summer party put on by the McKinley Park neighborhood’s William McKinley American Legion Post 231.

 
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“We hope that more people will join the American Legion through these events, to further the social cause for veterans,” said post Commander Patrick McGuire. “We welcome non-members as well as we reach out and partner with the neighborhood.”

 
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The picnic and hoedown, a day-long event hosted on Saturday, August 7, 2021, at the post’s parking lot and clubhouse at 1936 W. 35th St., Chicago, included DJing from members of the Women’s Auxiliary group, as well as a children’s art contest with Illinois 1st District State Senator Antonio “Tony” Muñoz presenting prizes to the winners.

McKinley Park American Legion BBQ Picnic Sen Tony Munoz Patrick McGuire winners 20210807From left, Sons of the American Legion Member Adage Rubio, Illinois 1st District State Senator Tony Muñoz and American Legion post Commander Patrick McGuire present the winners of the kids art contest.“I am proud to give back to the veteran community, especially as a resident of McKinley Park,” Muñoz said. He presented young winning artists with prizes that included five $50 gift cards and new bicycles.

A Space for Veterans

Veterans at the event said the post has been an important source of support. “This is a safe space for veterans with great facilities,” said Freddie, a post member and veteran of the Vietnam War. “It’s such a big social security for veterans.”

 
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“I came here to re-explore the camaraderie I share with my former colleagues,” said Michael Ratulowski, a post member and 23-year veteran of the U.S. Marines. “This is a space for us to discuss veteran’s rights.”

“We all have the same political belief: that America is first for us,” Ratulowski said. “We also believe in no discrimination and prejudice.”

Community Support and Engagement

The hoedown is one in a series of recent events and programs at the post that reach out to the community, McGuire said, including back-to-school and holiday events, and a scholarship program awarding $1,000 grants to local college students.

Local face painting artist Briana Bee helps decorate one of the kids enjoying the hoedown at the American Legion post.Local face painting artist Briana Bee helps decorate one of the kids enjoying the hoedown at the American Legion post.Although the COVID-19 pandemic forced closure of the club to veterans, members and supporters quickly jumped in to build a sheltered, outdoor clubhouse area, said Eddie Historian, a member of the Sons of the American Legion.

“The outer area of the club was built in five days,” Historian said, noting how McGuire led a team to solicit sponsorship help to fund the build-out.

 
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Riding the Bull

“Our sponsors have also been very kind with their donations,” Historian said. “They have helped us organize clothing drives and book drives.” He also lauded Stars and Stripes, a Bridgeview-based silk screening and embroidery company, for donating the new, large banner for the event.

In addition to post members and leadership, local members of the Sons of the American Legion and the Women’s Auxiliary also helped run the hoedown.

 
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“Kick up your heels and ride the mechanical bull,” said Women’s Auxiliary member Sandra Letten. “I can’t ride the bull myself because of a back issue, but I am excited to watch everyone fall off,” she said.

Except where noted, photos are by McKinley Park News Correspondent Ankita Mukhodpadhyay.


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