Albia’s Welcome Home Soldier Monument

Lee Greenwood will perform at Albia’s Welcome Home Soldier Monument Thursday night during WHO’s RVTV.

ALBIA — Bringing Lee Greenwood to Albia is a way to make RVTV’s stop in the town bigger and better, said Joe Milledge, owner of KIIC radio in Albia.

“This is our fourth time hosting RVTV,” Milledge said Tuesday, “And we just thought, we want to do something different. What can we do to make it bigger?”

Milledge and Jason Summers are heading up preparation for WHO TV Channel 13's sports team and its traveling tailgate party which arrive in Albia Thursday.

“Our theme is welcome home, tying in the Welcome Home Soldier Monument,” Milledge said, and because this is RVTV’s fourth time in Albia, so he feels like the WHO team is coming home.

Organizers thought, “Let’s go ahead and have our downtown street party and move everybody to the Welcome Home Soldier monument afterward,” Milledge said.

Albia’s Welcome Home Soldier Monument is located west of Albia on Highway 34. One hundred American Flags are lighted behind a sculpture of soldiers raising the flag. Twenty-one crosses marble crosses lead to a wall bearing the names of veterans from the heartland.

Since Operation Desert Storm in 1991, Greenwood’s song “God Bless the USA” has been a staple at patriotic events. Written in 1983, the song re-entered the country charts following 9/11 in 2001.

Activities at Welcome Home Soldier Memorial Thursday are sponsored by the Monroe County Farm Bureau. “We basically asked for sponsorships,” Milledge said, “and we sell T-shirts. The event is free, but we’re also providing some bleacher seating which carries a premium price.”

According to Milledge, Keith Murphy, sports anchor for WHO TV Channel 13 in Des Moines, indicated that RVTV was about to “get mothballed” in 2010. “And then it came to Albia.”

In a 2011 blog, Murphy wrote, “Joe Milledge and the guys down in Albia went all out to be (I’ll say it) the best stop every. Live music, a football field in the middle of the town square and a 10 p.m. pep rally are among the things that put that town over the top.”

In 2013, WHO reporter Andy Fales named Albia’s 2010 RVTV his fourth favorite of all-time. “Really the first town that really went all out for us while we were there.”

The football field built on the town square has become a staple of Albia’s RVTV stop. “Musco lighting trucks come down, and we have a lot of games,” Milledge said.

“When the crew comes into town, we’re going to welcome them with a flash mob dance,” Milledge said. “We’ve got a lot of people that have been working on a dance routine.”

Jennifer Hess with Shake your Sass teaches the dance at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bvDio69VRV8&feature=youtu.be.

“ We’re hoping to have a lot of people doing this flash mob dance,” Milledge said.

From 4-7 p.m. the Albia square will host a dodgeball tournament, inflatables for children and the band Nine Miles North. A couple of small houses, one a Cyclone home and one a Hawkeye home, will be built during the week and auctioned to raise money for charity, Milledge said.

A pep rally, performance by the dance team, an avid fan contest and “lots of little things” will entertain the crowd on the square.

“And, of course, the news,” Milledge said. “We’re getting a big video board from Des Moines. Folks that want to come downtown will be able to watch the news from the video board.”

At 8 p.m. events at the Welcome Home Soldier Monument begin. A veterans’ walk will honor veterans in attendance, Milledge said. Greenwood and his band will perform, and a big fireworks show will end the night.

In case of rain, the concert will move to the Albia High School gymnasium. “We’re praying for no rain,” Milledge said. “There’s a lot of work going into this.

“It’s always fun.”

Reporter Winona Whitaker can be contacted at wwhitaker@ottumwacourier.com and followed on Twitter @courierwinona.

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