Area veterans organizations took over Walnut Creek Park for four hours on Sunday afternoon for the fifth annual Seas the Day event.
More than 200 people registered for the event, breaking the previous crowd record for Seas the Day. On Sunday, attendees talked with friends and representatives from different organizations that serve veterans, enjoyed lunch from Mission BBQ, listened to live music and participated in other activities such as kayaking and fishing.
“The number of people showing up this year has been outstanding,” said Rob Schuett, a board member of the West Point Society of Monticello, which organized the event. “… There is definitely a positive response to the event going on.”
About 140 people turned out for Seas the Day in 2019, Schuett said. Last year’s event was canceled because of the pandemic.
Phil Clark, also with the West Point Society, praised Albemarle County Parks and Recreation and county government overall for their support of the event, which played a role in the new location at Walnut Creek Park.
“In my 73 years on this planet, I’ve never seen a government support [veterans] with such thoroughness and enthusiasm,” Clark said.
The free family-friendly event started as the brainchild of a University of Virginia student, Grace Tuttle, who wanted to address the needs of UVa student veterans, Schuett said. After Tuttle graduated, the West Point Society of Monticello took the event over.
“The point is to bring the veterans and their families in contact with the different organizations that are available throughout the county and the state so they can meet them and see what’s available to them,” Schuett said.
More than 20 organizations were on hand Sunday, including Blue Star Families of Central Virginia, a group that sends care packages to service members from the area who are deployed and local Veterans of Foreign Wars posts.
New to this year’s event was the Albemarle County JROTC program, which started a year ago at Monticello High School but is open to high school students throughout the county school division.
First Sgt. David Wilcox said attending the event was a way to give back to veterans.
“And for these young men and ladies to see what veterans in Charlottesville did for them,” he said.
Seas the Day also helped to spread the word about the JROTC program.
So far, about 37 students have signed up. Wilcox said starting the program over Zoom was challenging but having in-person classes this year is already helping. Classes in Albemarle County started last week, and Wilcox said he’s slowly getting to know the students and figuring out uniforms.
Austin Zimmerman, a senior at Western Albemarle High School, joined JROTC last year and helped to staff the booth Sunday, sharing information about the program as folks stopped by. So far, he said he likes the morning extracurriculars such as physical training.
“The idea of the class is to make better citizens,” Wilcox said. “It’s not a recruiting thing.”