July 11, 2018 — Oregon Coast Military Museum (OCMM) started eight years ago with a vision to honor the Florence area’s military heritage. Now, it has blossomed into a venerable organization recognizing every branch of the U.S. military and many of its conflicts.
On Saturday, the museum celebrated its third anniversary at 2145 Kingwood St., right next door to Wings and Wheels at the Florence Municipal Airport.
“We chose July 4, 2015, as our opening day for two reasons,” said OCMM Executive Director Cal Applebee. “Firstly, it’s the most patriotic day in American history and society, and secondly, it coincided with the Wings and Wheels event.”
The two events are very different — one focuses on classic cars and vintage airplanes, one on people and military heritage — but they remain intertwined, with a mutual celebration of small town Americana, cross promotion of both events, repeat visitors and the use of Rhody Express and its special shuttle service.
“Saturday was just phenomenal for the whole community,” Applebee said. “The mere fact that more than 2,000 people came out to Wings and Wheels, and 633 people stopped by the museum, shows how the community is growing to appreciate these annual events.”
Inside the museum, guests signed the guest book, roamed the detailed displays created by local artists and sat in the small theater to watch short features.
Next door, OCMM and local military jeeps had a presence at Wings and Wheels as the museum’s U.S. Air Force Jeep led a convoy of military vehicles.
“With such a strong partnership, it’s hard to separate the two events now,” Applebee said.
Turnout seemed above average, he said, as cars were parked on Kingwood Street from Burns’s Riverside Chapel Florence Funeral Home down to Florence Senior Center and the Singing Pines Dog Park.
“The whole day was a success,” Applebee said.
OCMM pulled out all the stops at its anniversary with a raffle, reduced admission and the tantalizing smells of Smokin’ Pops Carolina Barbecue, which provided sandwiches and coleslaw by donation to the museum, to draw people in.
Florence Mayor Joe Henry serves on the board of OCMM. During Wings and Wheels, he stood on stage to welcome people to both events.
“We’ve got a lot of sweet rides out there with the car show, a bunch of jeeps leading convoys, several awesome aircraft, some great model aircraft and our military museum’s anniversary next door,” he said. “As you probably know, our community boasts a large number of retired and active military. Almost 20 percent of our population is military. … We’re very proud, as a city, of our military community. We’re also very fortunate to have an active military here on the Siuslaw River, and that’s our awesome Coast Guard Station.”
In August 2017, Florence was designated as a Coast Guard City, one of 25 in the United States and one of three in Oregon.
“That is a very prestigious designation that is not given to a lot of communities, and is really in recognition of our support for our Coast Guard community,” Henry said.
He invited Senior Chief Jay Nilles, was sworn as commander of the Coast Guard Station Siuslaw River on June 1, to the stage and to the community.
Henry then presented Nilles with a challenge coin with the logos of the Coast Guard and the City of Florence on either side, saying, “Thank you very much, and welcome to you and your family.”
Nilles said, “Thank you to the city for hosting such a great event today. The weather is beautiful — mayor you did a great job at getting some sunshine today, so I give all the sunshine credit to you.”
He said it “is very honorable” that the City of Florence became a Coast Guard City last year through efforts of the OCMM and community volunteers.
“Even though I think, by population, Florence is the smallest CG City, it has the largest heart of all of them,” Nilles said. “I’d like to thank the city for welcoming myself and my family to Florence, and I appreciate everything everyone does to support us here, including the mayor and his team.”
Applebee said the weather was a big part in both events’ success on Saturday, allowing a record number of planes to take to the skies. This included Terry Tomeny giving 16 rides in his AeroLegends Biplane, the Ericson Aircraft Collection’s AT6 Texan Trainer giving seven rides and local pilots giving demonstrations to please the crowds.
Dozens of people also took the military jeep convoy.
“This was like a nine-day holiday week for people,” Applebee said. “My wife and I took the weekend off before the Fourth of July, and event organizers picked July 7 as the closest Saturday to the holiday. That keeps people celebrating all week.”
According to OCMM volunteers, many visitors who took advantage of the reduced admission were repeat guests who came to see the updated displays.
One couple, which made their first visit to the museum, said they enjoyed sharing memories with OCMM volunteers and veterans.
Special highlights were music by the Old Time Fiddlers Association and Civil War historian Dave Burkett, an OCMM ex-officio board member, dressed in full 1860s uniform.
“We were amazed at how many people showed for this special event,” the couple said. “Everyone seemed to be smiling and having a pretty good time, enjoying the perfect weather, listening to the live music and checking out the cars and airplanes. We plan to visit the museum again in the future when it’s a little less busy. Many thanks to all of the vendors, volunteers and Rhody Express.”
Applebee extended his thanks to the Wings and Wheels for their partnership, but also to the staff, board members and volunteers who worked to make the museum’s anniversary possible.
“I’m so appreciative of everyone who worked so hard to make this day work. It’s a one-day event, but it involves a lot,” he said. “It’s important to our mission of ‘Honoring Our Veterans by Educating Our Public’ to hold this event, and we appreciate everyone who came out and attended.”
The annual anniversary celebration isn’t the only program the museum holds throughout the year. In August, it celebrates its next Military Heritage Day by honoring Women in the military. The Aug. 25 event will feature local Coast Guard veteran Sharon Armstrong and Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs’ “I Am Not Invisible” exhibit.
In September, OCMM will hold its first golf tournament.
In November, the museum will host the Festival of Trees after Thanksgiving.
“There’s a lot going on, and volunteers are working in earnest,” Applebee said. “But time flies when you’re having fun!”
For more information about the OCMM, or to volunteer at the museum or for an upcoming event, stop into the museum, visit oregoncoastmilitarymuseum.com or call 541-902-5150.