This month being the 21st anniversary of 9/11, there is less emphasis on commemorations than there were last year for the 20th. But one gathering that launched in 2022 will be making a return visit to the Ulster County Fairgrounds on Saturday, September 17 from 4 to 9 p.m. It’s called Ulster County Salutes Our Heroes. Live music, food and honored speakers will be featured, and there will be plenty of activities for kids this year. Admission is free.
Ulster County Salutes Our Heroes is a family-friendly event designed to remember the victims of 9/11 and their families, but even more so to honor the heroic first responders who rushed to the Twin Towers, many losing their lives in the effort to evacuate trapped workers. While having a fun afternoon out, visitors will have a timely opportunity to show their appreciation for first responders in all our communities – including the volunteer firefighters who have just successfully contained two wildfires at Minnewaska State Park Preserve.
Hosted by Ulster County, this commemoration was the brainchild of Mitch Serlin, a retired Westchester County K9 police officer and US Army 101st Airborne scout sniper who founded the Hope for Heroes Project in 2010 after struggling for many years with PTSD. The organization’s mission is to create experiences that are therapeutic, as well as physically and emotionally possible, for disabled military veterans, police officers, firefighters and EMTs. These “camouflage therapy” activities include outdoor outings like hunting, deep-sea fishing, boating, hiking, kayaking, camping and competition barbecues. To host more such outings, Hope for Heroes is currently raising funds for the construction of a handicapped-accessible lodge on a 120-acre site in Hillsdale.
Hope for Heroes also sponsors a Canine Companion program, which offers lifelong companions to disabled veterans and first responders. The organization’s trainers provide both these service dogs and their “Heroes” with training specifically aimed toward the needs of the Hero with whom each canine is paired. All proceeds from merchandise and beverage sales at the Ulster County Salutes Our Heroes event will go toward ongoing programs as well as the Hope for Heroes Lodge.
What’s happening at the event? Local bands will play a variety of music: Thunder Ridge performing country, the Ceesar Band offering classic rock and 1 Wild Night doing ‘80s covers. You’ll also hear from the premier West Point vocalist, sergeant major MaryKay Messenger, as well as the Hudson Valley Pipes and Drums. Guest speakers will pay tribute to first responders at 5:30 p.m., and there will be fireworks accompanied by more live music once the sky grows dark, sponsored by O’Connor & Partners, PLLC.
Other entertainment options will include Cow-Pie Bingo, courtesy of Lucky Orphan Horse Rescue; a Touch-a-Truck area featuring fire, police and military vehicles; a Jeep Show; a rock climbing wall; and costumed Star Wars characters roaming the site. Awesome food trucks such as Cousin’s Maine Lobster will be on hand.
The rain date for Ulster County Salutes Our Heroes is September 18. The Ulster County Fairgrounds are located at 249 Libertyville Road, across the Wallkill River from New Paltz. To learn more about the Hope for Heroes Foundation, visit https://heroeshope.org.