CONNEAUT – If all goes as planned, two members of Conneaut’s Boy Scout Troop 34 may be building sets for Conneaut’s 18th annual D-Day Event for their Eagle Scout projects.
Troop 34 Scoutmaster Jack Sabo came to the March 11 local D-Day planning meeting at the D-Day Administration Building to request permission for Life Scouts George Kroeger and Jacob Sabo to build the sets. Initially, the Scouts had proposed building a guard tower for the Allied camp and Belgian gates.
After discussion, Kroeger had decided to build one Allied and four Belgian gates, and Sabo will build the Allied guard tower, pending approval by the Boy Scouts Eagle board.
Sabo said the Scouts are excited to be contributing to the D-Day effort because the troop has been volunteering at the event for about six years, including the massive clean-up.
“Roy Pratt has this troop and they’re familiar with the event,” Sabo explained. “They’ve been here all week for so many years. They know a lot more about it than the Boy Scout volunteers who are visiting [from out of town].”
The Scouts are so proficient at putting up tents in the Allied camp that Allied Commander Rob Trumbull refuses to let others tackle the job.
“No one else seems to put them up right,” Sabo said.
The Scouts must present their plans in its entirety, from start to finish to a review board that will accept or reject them.
“Eagle Scout projects are not as much about the work as the overall management,” Sabo said. “They have to submit how they are going to do the project, and identify the costs.”
If the Boy Scouts’ Eagle Scout projects are approved, the work load of the 2017 D-Day construction crew will be eased, since the Allied camp had requested two gates and a guard tower.
Construction committee member Don Watts reported that Lake Erie Correctional Institution inmates will be help with construction again this year using materials purchased by D-Day Ohio.
Watts said he had not received a response from the prison yet regarding requests for four gates.
If the Scouts can handle the gates, the inmates will be able to focus their attention on more Information booths and others used in the park throughout the D-Day Event on Aug. 17, 18 and 19.
Kevin Meier, who has volunteered to handle grants for D-Day Ohio, would like a list of the 2017 D-Day Projects as soon as possible.
“We have to know what we need,” he said. “Some of these are matching grants.”
D-Day Ohio COO Lori McLaughlin told the local planning committee that horses will be part of D-Day this year as long as Conneaut Township Park officials give the okay. A local group has stepped forward and volunteered to clean up after them. McLaughlin said the horses are accustomed to living history, mostly Civil War events, and will represent a German cavalry group.
“Because they’ve been used in Civil War re-enactments, the horses are used to the noises and people. They should attract people to the German camp at the upper pavilion of the park,” McLaughlin said.
If Township Park board members approve the horses on Township Park property, the horses will be housed on Port Authority property.
Vendor Chair Jim Snyder reported that contracts for food and military supply vendors have been sent out and are due back April 15. Most of the 2016 vendors are expected to return. Six professional vendors are on a waiting list.
The D-Day committee is also considering giving all D-Day visitors wrist bands as a means of counting the number of people who attend.
“We need a ‘people count’ when we apply for grants,” McLaughlin said.
Training will also be required this year for D-Day volunteers who are driving Kubotas around the park, mostly to transport World War II veterans and other handicapped visitors.
“No training – no keys,” McLaughlin said.
In addition, all who will be issued short-wave radios dispensed by Sabo during the D-Day Event must be trained. Sabo will offer radio training at the D-Day meetings May 13 and June 10.
Volunteer Jean Woods is requesting more help making sack lunches on Aug. 17, 18 and 19. Every D-Day volunteer receives a free lunch. Last year, some 1,850 lunches were distributed.
“One day, we did 800 lunches,” Woods said.
This year, Woods proposes two shifts of volunteers – one morning and one early afternoon to begin prepping the following day’s lunches.
Girl Scout troops may be contacted.
“We have about 4,000 cookies that have to be bagged,” Woods said. “Last year, one of the troops gave us an overflow of their Girl Scout cookies.”
McLaughlin recounted how The Rock Church volunteered in 2016 with grilling hot dogs and providing lunch for volunteer clean-up crews on Sunday, Aug. 21, saying that without them, even more lunches would have been needed.
Connie Jury has volunteered to coordinate volunteers for this year’s D-Day Event.
Starting this month, she will contact persons who have signed up to volunteer, but who may not attend planning meetings, and ask how well they know the event and where they would like to work.
McLaughlin suggested giving some volunteers two assignments – one requiring a short time on their feet, and another that allows them to sit.
“Whether people want to be more active or less active, there’s always a place for someone,” McLaughlin said.
Karl Rowbotham reported on the D-Day Museum as well as the D-Day Administration Building.
The museum, at Harbor Street and Lake Avenue, has a new roof on the south side. A handicapped ramp has been started, both funded mainly by grants.
The museum basement is being prepared to accommodate more display space.
The Museum will be open noon to 5 p.m. weekends from Memorial Day through Labor Day, and during the D-Day Event Aug. 17, 18 and 19.
Rowbotham, who also volunteers to oversee maintenance at the D-Day Administration building, wrote on poster board a 15-item list of Administration Building projects that include painting, scraping, fixing a curtain, securing an LED bulb for a courtyard light, and more.
McLaughlin recommended an April work party at the Administration Building.
Because the D-Day Event is getting underway a day earlier this year – Thursday, Aug. 17 -- weapons and equipment demonstrations have been scheduled for that afternoon, along with a “pioneer demonstration” of mines and explosives used by the Axis forces to defend the beaches.
And because purchasing bleachers is costly, a suggestion was made to clear small trees from the Lakeview Park trailer park to allow hundreds of people to watch the Aug. 19 beach invasion re-enactment battle from that spot.
McLaughlin also announced that a C-47 will be part of the air show at this year’s D-Day Event.
McLaughlin reported that the Ashtabula County Airport is eager to work with the D-Day air show, but is uncertain how it will be affected by the summer runway reconstruction project.
The D-Day Ohio, Inc., planning committee will meet 11 a.m. Saturday, May 13, and the D-Day Administration Building, 283 Buffalo Street. All volunteers are welcome.