HEARTS Museum gearing up for second Muster Festival

Item File PhotoKaiden Palma of Huntsville talks with Sam Houston State University ROTC member Jake Geroach about the M60 Vietnam era "Patton" tank. 

It’s not everyday that folks get the opportunity to look inside a U.S. military tank or learn about the sacrifices made by those who serve their country. 

Last year’s Muster Festival featured over 1,000 participants and volunteers, and the 2019 celebration is poised to grow even more.

The HEARTS Veterans Museum previously honored veterans and first responders at the festival, but this year has brought the adjacent Texas Prison Museum onboard and will be celebrating correction officers as well. With interactive activities for the public at both museums — completely free of cost — the March 30 event aims provide the public with an event that offers something to everyone.

“This is our top priority event,” said Muster Festival chairman Kenneth Lee. “It’s free for the public, while also being a fundraiser for the museum. We hope to have the entire grounds of both the HEARTS and Prison Museum packed with things to do.”

The day will begin at 8 a.m. with the Muster 5K Ruck/Fun March, which will begin and end at the HEARTS Veterans Museum. Registration is $25 prior to March 30 and $30 on race day. Proceeds will benefit HEARTS, which is funded through donations.

The Muster Festival will then kick off at 10 a.m. and run until 4 p.m., with an array of attractions to offer. Among these include tanks and other military vehicles on display, an antique car show, a motorcycle ride-in by The American Legion and a vast collection of history to be observed at both museums.

“To me, this is the best event we do,” said Tara Burnett, administrative assistant at the HEARTS Veterans Museum. “It’s so community oriented. It’s family-friendly, it’s all about having fun and it’s completely free. … To take a family of four or fix or six out for the day can get pretty pricey. To me, that’s what’s so exciting about this.

HEARTS will also hold its first-ever Patriotic Art Contest during the festival, with the museum having already reached out to Huntsville ISD to spread the word. Veterans will judge the paintings — the only requirement is that they be patriotic-themed — with the art to be displayed at the storm shelter connected to HEARTS during the festival.

Adding to the excitement of the art contest, U.S. Representative Kevin Brady has agreed to display the work of the winners at his office in Washington D.C.

“The art contest is such an exciting event because one of the museum’s main goals is to teach our young people about the incredible sacrifices that were made – and the remarkable heroism that has been shown – by our local heroes and veterans,” Brady said “This opportunity to work closely with our students is so rewarding because it gives us a chance to involve the students directly with the museum and with our veterans. I believe that if we don’t pass down these stories and lessons from generation to generation, then our children won’t fully understand the sacrifice that has been made for their freedom.”

Activities planned for the event includes a classic car show, tours of military and public safety vehicles, a obstacle course and a rock wall.

“We have so many activities planned that we are actually having problems trying to figure out where we are going to put everybody, and that's a good problem to have,” Lee added.