Legion building available to public

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Members seek new ways to raise funds, revive interest in 80-year-old building

Built in the 1930s, the American Legion building on Highway 112 in Cassville has been a meeting place for veterans, a venue for community activities and a historic landmark for generations.

“It used to be the hub of activity,” said Pete Landstad, vice commander at the Irwin Easley Post 118 American Legion. “That’s where proms were held, weddings, community meetings, square dancing, all kinds of things went on. Bingo was held there for 35 years. It meant a lot to the people in Cassville. Now, it’s just a dinosaur.”

When interest in bingo games dwindled over the last several years and aging members were lost, so did the organization’s funding and labor pool.

“When we had bingo, we were pretty well flush with money,” Landstad said. “But, when that dropped off, our finances dropped considerably.”

Now, with the changing times, members are looking for new ways to revive interest in the legion and want families, groups and community organizations to know the building and grounds are available as a venue to be utilized for a variety of events.

“If there’s an organization that would like to use the building or grounds, there’s a wide array of things it can be used for, from car shows to weddings to various events,” said Darrell Hovland, post commander.

“If anyone wants to get married there, they can contact me, and we can work it out,” Landstad said. “A couple of months ago, we had a vow renewal.”

The building features a large room on its main upper level with wooden floors that can be used for meetings, dances, reunions and events. It also has a stage and kitchen for entertaining, as well as tables and chairs for use.

Landstad said members discussed doing something different with the building last year, but now are open to trying something new.

“We had a meeting and the vote was to continue [as is] and review the issue in another year,” Landstad said. “We would like to have people know the building and grounds are available for rent, as well as the two shelters on either side, one in Memorial park and the other in the auxiliary park.”

Legion members had approached the city about buying the building to utilize for city-related functions, but said they declined the offer.

“The city of Cassville didn’t want it,” Landstad said. “They had no interest in acquiring it. We actually talked to them about the possibility of donating it, too. The city’s really not in a position financially to take on the upkeep and care of the property, with the amount it costs to keep it in operation. It’s an expensive building, and the city really had no need for it.”

One local man, Ollie Morgan, owner of Ollie’s Flea Market, has taken up the legion on its offer to make public use of the facilities and grounds by hosting a bi-annual swap meet, which is gaining ground.

“Ollie had two swap meets,” Landstad said. “The second was really successful and we’re planning on doing it again this May. As far as any other organization that would want to have a yard sale or auction sale or other event, we would be more than happy to rent the building and/or grounds.”

The rent, depending on the activity and details, is negotiable.

“We can rent it by day or even for a couple of hours,” Landstad said. “We will work with people to work something out.”

The only thing legion members ask is whoever rents the building or grounds does the activity themselves and picks up after themselves.

“If we can rent the building and they put on the activity, that works out really well,” he said.

The legion hosts a circus and a carnival on the grounds, which they expect to return this spring, and will be hosting a tractor pull in early July.

“That’s our big fundraiser,” Landstad said. “If we have a good tractor pull we should make about $10,000 to $12,000 that we hope gets us through the year.”

One idea members have discussed is opening the building to the public for a monthly or quarterly community sale as a way for families to sell items they no longer need and pocket a little cash. For instance, families could rent a 10-by-10 area, for an indoor or outdoor sale, depending on the season, for approximately $10, Hovland said.

“I wanted to do one every month, so people would know if they had things to sell,” he said. “There would be a community-wide sale the third weekend of the month.”

While the legion still hosts some fundraisers, such as the circus and tractor pull, members agree they need to do something different, rather than waiting for funds to run out.

“We still do some things, but there’s not a lot of participation within the legion which makes it hard when there’s only a few people who can do things,” Hovland said. “We’ll be able to continue a few years before money runs out, and I guess people are hoping something will take place that will raise our funds before that happens.

“I’m all for a community sale. It’s fairly simple. We just have to provide the space.”

For more information about renting the legion building or grounds for events or activities, or participating in a community sale, people may call Landstad at 417-847-7312 or Hovland at 931-624-4994.

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  • The American Legion Building was not built in the 1930s. It was built in approximately 1953. My family lived directly across the street when it was built. I remember because some of us in the neighborhood decided to go swimming in the newly dug basement. It had rained and the hole was full of water. My mother had told me not to go over there. When she found I had, I got the whipping of my life in my wet bathing suit!

    -- Posted by lmaaron43@gmail.com on Thu, Feb 16, 2017, at 5:53 PM
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