By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Nov 02, 2021 at 10:01 AM Photography: Lora Kaelber

This content created in partnership with the Wisconsin Veterans Chamber of Commerce.

After having been canceled in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Milwaukee Veterans Days Parade is back on Saturday, Nov. 6 at 11 a.m. on the streets of Downtown.

In addition to the usual floats, military equipment displays and an appearance by Santa Claus, the event will be followed for the first time ever by the Veterans Day Festival, with entertainment, a marketplace of veteran-owned businesses, exhibitors and resources for veterans and their families.

The parade will start at 5th and Wisconsin and head east to Water Street, where it will turn north, passing a grandstand outside the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, before wrapping up at Water Street and Juneau Avenue.

The festival will be held at the Peck Pavilion on the grounds of the Marcus Center, 929 N. Water St.

Find complete details on the parade and festival at wiveteransday.org.

Also returning is the fourth annual Wisconsin Veterans Business Conference, which takes place Wednesday, Nov 10, fro, 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. at the Brookfield Conference Center, 325 S. Moorland Rd.

In the new venue, the event will boast more exhibitions, programs and offerings than ever before, including breakout sessions, a raffle, swag bags, door prizes, more than 100 exhibitors, a lunch program with keynote speaker – former Packers star and U.S. Army veteran – Daryn Colledge, a free invite to the sixth anniversary Chamber Muster celebration immediately following the conference and more.

Tickets and other information can be found here.

All proceeds support veteran-serving programs in Wisconsin.

We caught up with Saul Newton, President & CEO of the Wisconsin Veterans Chamber of Commerce to talk about the Veterans Day parade and festival, the upcoming Veterans Business Conference and the challenges faced by veterans and the Chamber of Commerce during the pandemic.

OnMilwaukee: Tell us a bit about the Wisconsin Veterans Chamber and the kind of work it does.

Saul Newton: The Wisconsin Veterans Chamber is a nonprofit business association dedicated to expanding economic opportunity for Wisconsin veterans, service members, and their families.

On behalf of our members, we work with veteran-owned and veteran-friendly businesses to make Wisconsin the most veteran friendly state in the nation and ensure the success of Wisconsin's veteran business community.

How has the pandemic affected the organization and its members?

Veterans have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and associated economic downturn. Research conducted by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University found that more than 90 percent of veteran-owned businesses were forced to reduce their operating capacity because of COVID-19 compared to 80 percent of non-veteran owned businesses and four out of 10 veteran-owned businesses were operating at less than 40 percent of their full capacity.

More than four out of five veteran-owned businesses reported lower than expected revenues in 2020 due to the coronavirus, and nearly 40 percent of veteran-owned businesses have been forced to temporarily or permanently close their doors as a result of the pandemic compared to just 5 percent of non-veteran owned businesses.

As the only business association in Wisconsin dedicated to serving veterans and military families, the WVCC is uniquely positioned to meet the immediate and long-term needs of Wisconsin’s veteran-owned businesses and entrepreneurs.

The Expo is upon us, can you tell us a bit about what that folks can expect to find there?

The Wisconsin Veterans Business Conference brings together veteran entrepreneurs and business owners, veteran-friendly businesses, and corporate leaders to recognize the contributions veterans make to Wisconsin’s economy and our communities.

The event is the largest annual gathering of the veteran business community in the state, and includes a veteran business expo, breakout sessions and workshops, networking events and an awards luncheon. The veteran business expo features veteran-owned businesses, organizations and agencies that provide products and services to veterans, service members and their families.

Breakout sessions and workshops focus on a wide range of topics relevant to veteran business owners and veteran employees, such as marketing, cybersecurity, and workforce development, as well as business development opportunities in the health care, real estate,and supply chain contracting programs. We're excited that this year's keynote speaker is former Green Bay Packer, Super Bowl Champion, and U.S. Army veteran Daryn Colledge.

What does the Expo mean for area vets?

The Veteran Business Expo will feature nearly 100 veteran-owned businesses promoting their products and services, as well as resources and service providers dedicated to serving Wisconsin's veteran entrepreneurs. It is the only gathering of it's kind in the state, and presents a great opportunity to network, promote veteran-owned businesses, and recognize the impact veterans have on our state's economy.

And the parade is back, too...

For veterans, their families, and supporters around Wisconsin, annual Veterans Day parades are an iconic tradition. Veterans Day parades honor and celebrate the service of military service members, veterans and their families – and that recognition and celebration is especially important today.

Our vision and goal is to bring our state's entire veteran community together- representing every corner of Wisconsin- to celebrate the service and sacrifice of our veterans and their families.

This year's celebration will be bigger and better than ever before with a new parade route that incorporates several dedicated military and veteran memorials, more parade participants and attendees, a festival at the conclusion of the parade including live music and entertainment, veteran-owned business marketplace, other vendors and exhibitors and more.

What are some of the other projects that the Chamber has coming up in the near future?

As we come out of the pandemic and look ahead to the end of the year, our focus is on providing support to our members and our community to ensure their success. In the coming weeks we'll have a workshop on e-commerce as well as a day-long summit focusing on career opportunities for veterans through apprenticeships and job training programs.

We anticipate that 2022 will bring even more opportunities for Wisconsin's veteran business community to connect and grow.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.