Eye On KELOLAND: Music & the military


SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — Sioux Falls’ newest music venue is hitting a high note with the launch of the Miles and Lisa Beacom Concert Series.

The South Dakota Military Heritage Alliance hosted its first concert of the series last weekend with a performance by the Eli Young Band. The concert drew a near capacity crowd. Next up: a performance by country singer Aaron Watson later this month.

VFW Post 628 moved into the South Dakota Military Heritage Alliance at the start of the pandemic last year. Yet, the assistant quartermaster is still getting settled into his office.

“We’ve been at our old facility there on south Minnesota Avenue, like for over 50-some years, so you have a lot of stuff to move, a lot of stuff. Well, what do we take? I think that was the biggest problem of all,” Rich Schwanke said.

The Alliance serves as a headquarters for several veterans and military groups. Having all these organizations under one roof has many built-in benefits.

“And it makes it nice, working together on projects. Maybe we got a joint funeral or helping on Memorial Day services,” Schwanke said.

Schwanke says the appeal of the building itself has led to new members joining the VFW at a time when it’s getting tougher to recruit younger veterans.

“This last month, I had actually five members that we signed up here, who came in and liked what they saw,” Schwanke said.

But in some ways, the Alliance has a bit of a branding dilemma.

“One of the biggest challenges is the awareness, because I get people every day that come in and say, oh, I thought this was just for military,” South Dakota Military Heritage Alliance Executive Director Brian Phelps said.

Executive Director Brian Phelps wants it known that everyone is welcome here, regardless of whether or not they have a military background.

“We always tell people you’re welcome at the Alliance as long as you support America and support those that serve this country, we’re open for everybody,” Phelps said.

And that now includes music fans. The Alliance launched its first in-house concert last weekend featuring the Eli Young Band as a way to reach a wider audience beyond the military.

“At the Alliance, you’re going to be able to stand five-feet from the national artists, you don’t get that at any other venue,” Phelps said.

The Alliance is located in the Old Badlands Pawn, which already came with a concert hall, so hosting performances here is a pretty smooth transition.

“We were fortunate. The building, for the most part, I don’t want to call it a turnkey, but when I talk it was built for a better purpose, for the most part, it was walk-in and go,” Phelps said.

Alliance members are looking forward to future concerts here.

“The setup is great. I’m looking to get tickets for Trace Atkins and maybe some of the other ones, too,” Alliance member Debra Van Briesen said.

Veterans groups say the concerts won’t steal the limelight from their presence in the Alliance.

“You’re going to see other things in here, some of the stuff, they have in the museum, the gun range and all the other stuff, I think it will draw that,” Schwanke said.

Schwanke thinks the publicity surrounding these national acts will enhance the VFW’s profile in the community and further boost memberships. Such is the power of music and singing the praises of those who serve their country.

In addition to Aaron Watson on August 27th, other performers at the Alliance will include Uncle Kracker on September 17th and Trace Adkins on November 12th.

The Alliance announced Friday that Jackyl will perform October 14th. Tickets go on sale August 20th.

For ticket information, click here

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