Sanborn Veterans Park to be dedicated on July 3
The site includes names of the living and the dead who served in the military.
SANBORN, N.D. - About 2 1/2 years after it was just an idea in the making, the Sanborn Veterans Park will be dedicated on Saturday, July 3. The event will be held during the annual Fourth of July activities that will be celebrated this year on July 3 in Sanborn.
Late in 2018, Jim Drong told fellow members of the Eckelson-Sanborn American Legion Post 202 that he wanted to donate land in Sanborn for some type of veterans memorial but he wasn’t sure what kind of project to do. Joe Pesek of Spiritwood, who was present that day, said he thought about it for a few months.
Pesek noted the VFW in Valley City had closed and the Legion Club there had been sold. There are not a lot of younger people interested in the organizations, he said.
“I thought it was just the last hurrah ... that we needed to do this in our community to remember everybody for what they’ve done for the military service and I don’t want to see that fade away,” he said.
Pesek contacted a few of his friends. Could they take on such a project?
“They said, ‘Well, if we don’t try, it will never happen,’” he said.
The work begins
With a small committee of men who had all served in the military, including Pesek as chair, the group set out to build the park on land that Drong donated for that purpose to the city of Sanborn.
Figuring out what to do took some creative thinking and hands-on work.
“We went out to Urbana, North Dakota, where Cole Conley’s farm is ... he had a grain bin blow away in 2016, and so I asked him, ‘Could we go out there so we could visualize what we wanted to build?’” Pesek said. “It was a 50-foot-diameter concrete slab (where the grain bin had been), and we made two separate trips up there and set up mock statues and we used some folding chairs for granite benches …”
And so what would eventually become the park was figured out, from tablets (monuments), to benches and the hexagon-shaped concrete that they would stand on. The project cost almost $100,000, paid for through fundraising and donations.
The project would not have been possible without people's support, said Sanborn Mayor Charlie Brandenberg, who is also a member of the committee.
“It was just a big joint effort,” he said. “People came out and donated to it.”
At the site, plenty of labor was needed to turn it into the Sanborn Veterans Park.
“It was overgrown with trees,” Pesek said. “We spent many volunteer hours cutting down trees, chopping them up, hauling the wood away. And bringing dirt and fill into the park area.”
An area farmer offered dirt from his land for fill at the park.
“I think we moved 240 yards of black dirt off the field into the site and shaped it up,” Pesek said, with the help of someone else’s equipment that had been offered to assist with the work.
“Quite a process,” he said.
By the fall of 2020, the concrete was poured for the project, Pesek said. Last week, the flagpole, tablets and benches were placed.
“It just came together like it was supposed to be there,” Pesek said.
Sanborn Veterans Park
Sanborn Veterans Park is located at the intersection of Barnes County Road 11 and 5th Avenue, one block north of Main Street on the west side of Sanborn.
“The reason that’s called the Sanborn Veterans Park and it’s not the Sanborn Veterans Memorial Park is because it’s open to all living who have served and also the ones that have passed away,” Pesek said.
More than 600 names are already inscribed on six tablets representing the Army, Marines, Air Force and National Guard, and the tablets are designed for more names to be added. There are two tablets for the Army, which has the most names of the branches of service, Pesek said. While it's open to all, about 95 percent of the names on the tablets have some connection to Sanborn and communities in the surrounding area, Pesek said.
“It is designed to be a perpetual program ... and the monuments are polished on both sides so when the front side fills up we can turn around and put them on the backside,” Pesek said. “So we have room for a lot. If that fills up, there’s room to add more tablets.”
Each of the six tablets is 36 inches wide, 79 inches tall and 8 inches thick.
“They’re made of Mesabi black granite and that granite comes from Babbitt, Minnesota, where it’s mined right there. We call it homegrown granite,” Pesek said.
It was important to have granite from America versus something that was imported, he said.
Each of the tablets has a granite bench facing it, what Pesek calls reflection benches where people can sit and read the names. There are two other benches at the site as well. Pesek said seven families with a military history each purchased a bench to place in the park and the eighth one was purchased by Eckelson-Sanborn American Legion Post 202.
There are also dedication and donation tablets near the entrance of the Sanborn Veterans Park.
Don Schlotman, a member of the committee, said while it's named for veterans, the support from others made it possible.
“My gut feeling is it puts Sanborn on the map,” Brandenburg said. “... I was kind of skeptical at first that it was going to fly. But it just started snowballing and the community response has just been tremendous for donations and bringing names.”
Dedication for park
The dedication for Sanborn Veterans Park is at noon on Saturday, July 3. The event includes a flyover from Toby McPherson of Page, N.D., in a P-51 Mustang fighter plane from World War II, guest speakers and music by the Jamestown Drum and Bugle Corps. Lunch will be provided after the dedication.
Members of the committee for the project in addition to Pesek, Brandenberg and Schlotman are Dan Wieland, Travis Podoll and Wayne Becker, treasurer. Connie Becker serves as the secretary.
If you go
What: Dedication of Sanborn Veterans Park
When: Noon Saturday, July 3
Where: Sanborn, at the intersection of Barnes County Road 11 and 5th Avenue
Sanborn July 3 celebration events
10 a.m.: Parade, followed by children's races
Noon: dedication of Sanborn Veterans Park