Traveling Wall Inspires 30,000 Visitors to Fire Department Event

Jeanne and Bob Kepple from Hilliards (Butler County) and Marcy Mason from Sligo (Clarion County) came to look for the name of a friend’s brother-in-law on the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall that was set up in Kittanning Riverfront Park. It was estimated that 30,000 visitors came to see the Wall and attend “Waves of Thunder“.


Families from all over western Pennsylvania came to Kittanning over the weekend to search for the names of loved ones that died in the Vietnam War.

The Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall, a miniature version of the one in Washington, D.C., shared Kittanning Riverfront Park with the Kittanning Hose, Hook, and Ladder #1 fire department’s “Waves of Thunder” motorcycle/classic car extravaganza.

Fire Chief Gene Stephens said this was “the best year ever” for the event.

“I think the community supports us a lot because they know the events that we have benefit more than just the fire department. Our trout derby, bike show, and Riverbration boat races bring people from outside the area into hotels, campgrounds, and eat here. So when we have a fund-raiser, we are not the only one who benefits from it. I think that is why a lot of business people sponsor our events, because everybody benefits.”

Stephens estimated as many as 2,000 bikes were on the streets during the event.

Stephens estimated the total number attending the show throughout the weekend to be approximately 30,000 people.

“The Vietnam Memorial Wall being here was a big plus for this year’s show. It’s been almost 25 years since it has been here and a lot of people enjoyed it and thanked us for doing it. My hat goes off to the VFW (Post 4843) because we worked together and they took it and ran with it. They did probably 90% of the work.”

Stephens said they originally began discussing bringing in the wall last October, but didn’t finalize plans until earlier this year.

Stephens also pointed to the motorcycle ride that was held this year in support of the Mechling-Shakley Veterans Center that drew over 100 riders.

Mechling-Shakley Veterans Center Director Sean Taladay shakes the hand of S&S Ride President Dan Saeler (right) after the motorcycle group raised $2,5000 for the Veterans Center in Cowansville during the “Waves of Thunder” event this past weekend.

S&S Ride President Dan Saeler also held a raffle for a television set as well as doing a ride for the benefit Veterans Center in Cowansville.

“It’s all one dollar at a time, and it is really appreciated,” Seylor said. “Because of that one-dollar at a time, we want to present to the Mechling-Shakley Veterans Center a check in the amount of $2,500. Thank you for making it happen.”

Sean Taladay, director at the Veterans Center, offered his sincere appreciation and already knows how it will be spent.

“We would like to say thank you to the riders for everything you have done and thinking of the guys and what we do out there,” Taladay said. “The funding that we are receiving, one-hundred percent, will be put into our generator fund. We are in the process of raising $60,000 for the generator, so this will go a long way in our efforts.”

Stephens said he wants to continue to build on the success the event has had over the years and continue to grow it.

“I hope we could have as many cars as they did 20 years ago when they were all over town,” Stephens said with a grin. “It’s just for one day, so I don’t think that would be a problem.”

Area bands provided music throughout the weekend. But further south in the park, the Wall commanded a solemn atmosphere and respect rarely seen at such a diversified event as this one.

The Wall will be dismantled and leave town today. Thanks for coming and giving us a memory of our nation’s past.