Adler Pothast, 8, checks out the 9/11 Never Forget Mobile exhibit. (DHI Media/Dena Martz)
Adler Pothast, 8, checks out the 9/11 Never Forget Mobile exhibit. (DHI Media/Dena Martz)
FORT JENNINGS — Once again the dust whipped up by the blades of Huey helicopters has settled on a successful Fort Fest in Fort Jennings.

Three days of food, celebrating military heritage and more nearly quadruples the small village’s population for the weekend

Special exhibits this year included the Ohio POW/MIA display, 9/11 Never Forget mobile exhibit with Fueled by the Fallen 9/11 Angel Cars and the Unknown Soldier Tribute. The Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall is scheduled to return in 2019.

“If you can’t make it to Washington, D.C., to see some of these exhibits, you can come to Fort Fest and see miniature versions,” co-chair Wes Klir said.

Local displays also chronicle Fort Jennings’ rich military history, including the 1812 fort which once stood by the Auglaize River, which was the catalyst for the festival.

Mary Lou Vetter, 91, enjoyed the live entertainment by the 338th Army concert Band on Sunday, which closed the festival.

“It means a lot to us here to have such a big festival in little Fort Jennings,” Vetter said. “It makes my day to ride my golf cart uptown or to the park. There are so many interesting things to see and do and learn about our country and the different branches of the military and the equipment.”

Resident Karen Heitmeyer agreed.

“This is a great festival. Two years ago when they had the Vietnam Memorial it was just so sobering to see all those names. It seemed to go on for ever,” she said. “This year, the 9/11 Memorial was really neat. Everone does a really nice job putting this together.”

The Huey helicopter rides are a big attraction. Heitmeyer has also taken a ride several times.

“That is really something,” she added.

Klir said the Huey crew fight over who gets to come to Fort Jennings every year.

“We must be doing something right,” he said. “Everyone who comes here, including the 1812 encampment, really like what we do.”

According to Klir, plans are already underway for 2019’s event and beyond.

“Some of these attractions take several years to get here,” Klir said. “There aren’t a whole lot of them so you have to get your name on the list.”

The festival, which marked seven years this year, helps fund improvements to Fort Jennings Park, including the new shelterhouse, which used proceeds from 2107 and 2016. Memorial Hall has also seen improvements with the funds and the festival also puts money in the coffers for the American Legion with its steak dinner, the Lions Club with its car show and duck races, the schools, whose students help run the food tent and other local veteran groups.

“There’s enough to go around. And there’s absolutely enough work to go around. We couldn’t do it without everyone pitching in,” Klir added.

Klir’s co-chair is Jerry Siefker of the Fort Jennings Park Board.