Midway Village Museum pushes to raise funds for Camp Grant Exhibition

Published: Mar. 13, 2023 at 4:47 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - Some of the remaining pieces of Rockford’s Camp Grant may soon get a new home, more than 10 miles from the original site.

After World War II, Camp Grant permanently closed, clearing the way for the Chicago Rockford International Airport. However, in its Hey Day this once bustling part of Rockford launched a wave of economic growth, with remnants we see in the Stateline today.

“We started just collecting camp grant stuff, until we had walls full,” said Yolanda Weisensel, former owner of The Command Post, a restaurant on the grounds which used to hold Camp Grant Memorabilia.

For 25 years, Yolanda and her husband Stanley kept the memory of Camp Grant alive through this small museum/restaurant. Even though Stanley died in 2017, Yolanda managed to keep both parts open until 2020. Midway Village Museum acquired the couple’s Camp Grant items through auction. Now, it needs half a million dollars to create an exhibition that will highlight the army base.

“We were very fortunate to be able to acquire some of the treasures that they had so carefully collected. So that we could bring them here and have them on display at the museum,” said Museum Curator Laura Furman.

The Rockford Community saw great change during the Camp Grant years. Businesses grew, new roads and sewage systems were installed by the Federal Government, and obviously, people from all backgrounds moved into the area. The camp had a huge impact on demographics in the area, with more than 6000 African American troops assigned to train there during the days of a segregated army. This exhibition will tell the stories of people, all people, and their experiences in the armed forces.

“There are lots of ways Camp Grant touched many many families and many many neighborhoods,” Furman told 23 News.

Something that Weisensel agrees with.

“I don’t wanna forget and I hope other people don’t forget that these men gave all their lives for us. And that’s why we had a big sign there that said ‘Lest we forget’,” she said.

If you would like to donate to Midway, you can find the link here.