TEXARKANA, Ark. -- Rain held off Saturday, a transitional weather blessing for the Texarkana Area Vietnam Veterans of America as their Chapter 278 held its fifth annual Wagons for Veterans fundraiser.
As in years past, temperatures were mild, but VVA-278 President Greg Beck said this year appears to have drawn record attendance.
While the first year drew about 800 chuck wagon cuisine fans, Beck estimated this year's attendance may have reached as many as 1,500.
"In recent years, it's climbed up slightly more than a thousand, but this year it looks well over a thousand," he said.
The event, conducted yearly at the Four States Fairgrounds, initially drew 12 chuck wagons in 2018. Eighteen wagons participated Saturday.
Beck added that over the four years, the fundraiser has delivered a total of about $65,000 -- money that has been used to help local and area military veterans pay for medical, utility, rent and food bills.
Beck said the the initial 12 chuck wagons came from the Four States Region: Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana and Oklahoma. Tennessee, Mississippi and Missouri have gradually added six in recent years.
"The whole idea for this fundraiser actually started with Jimmy Smith (a VVA-278 member as well as one of the cooks), along with a guy named Dan Lastiker and another named Darryl Jacobs," Beck said.
For his part, Smith said he and his wife had gone to a cooking competition in Missouri one year to see how a chuck wagon fundraiser was being conducted there.
"Right here, in Texarkana, we were also doing a veterans chili cook-off as we had been doing for years," Smith said.
Smith added that he was thankful for this year's relatively good weather.
"Last year we got some snow and sleet out here, but we are going to try and see if we can get as many as 25 chuck wagons here next year," Smith said. "That's our goal."