If you were asked to name the site for the largest veterans’ reunion in the country, you might understandably guess Boston, Philadelphia or another large metropolitan area.
You would be wrong.
The largest meeting of veterans in the United States happens annually in Melbourne, at Wickham Park, to be precise, with the Florida Vietnam and All Veterans Annual Reunion.
Although the pandemic has added uncertainty to the massive event, organizers are optimistic that the reunion will go as planned April 11, thanks to the success of the Brevard Renaissance Fair, another major event that recently took place at the same venue.
It will be the 33rd year for a reunion that launched with less than 100 attendees and has mushroomed to more than 80,000 participants in its four-day duration.
“A lot of military groups have their reunion at the reunion,” said Doc Russo, one of the reunion organizers and manager for the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall, one of the reunion’s highlights.
Attendees from as far as Australia and England visit the reunion. Wickham Park Campground is booked a year in advance by those who prefer to rough it rather than stay in a hotel. Even the park’s rustic tent facilities are in high demand during the reunion.
“For many vets, it’s their vacation,” added Russo.
One of the “babies”’ in the corps of organizers, Russo served in Panama and Grenada. From April to November, the Melbourne resident is usually on the road with the Traveling Wall as it visits towns around the country. The rest of the year, the Wall rests inside a trailer in Brevard.
In addition to the Wall, the event will feature helicopter fly-ins, vendors, food and plenty of music. Admission is free.
Life is fluid these days because of the threat of COVID-19, but Russo believes the reunion is a done deal.
“I think we’re good,” he said.
The Florida Vietnam and All Veterans Annual Reunion begins with an escort of the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall on April 11 and continues April 15 to 18 at Wickham Park. For more details, go to floridaveteransreunion.com.