JR Radcliffe • Milwaukee Journal Sentinel • Published 10:12 a.m. CT Aug. 23, 2022
Once upon a time, the American Legion National Convention completely took over Milwaukee.
Back in 1941, when the prestigious event chose Milwaukee as its destination, the city scrambled for ample hotel space and food accommodations for the thousands of Legionnaires headed into town. Governor Julius Heil and Milwaukee mayor Carl Zeidler traveled to Boston to advocate for Milwaukee to host (including riding on a Wisconsin parade float), Marquette University delayed the start of fall classes, comedian Bob Hope showed up and Milwaukee officials had to combat a litany of Legionnaire pranks, if you can believe it.
One presumes that the current iteration of the national convention, which descends on Milwaukee from Wednesday to Sept. 1, won’t bring the same volume of disruption. But it’s notable that an estimated 8,000 attendees will be in town for the 103rd annual gathering. For comparison’s sake, roughly 13,000 attended the Northwestern Mutual Conference earlier this year.
Milwaukee won the bid to host the event in 2017, beating out Indianapolis.
“It was a real team effort to win this major convention business for Milwaukee. The combination of the American Legion’s successful convention experience here in 2010, along with a great convention package and the promise of all the new development that will be in place by 2022, helped seal the deal for Milwaukee,” said then-President and CEO of VISIT Milwaukee, Paul Upchurch.
Milwaukee also hosted the event in 2000 in addition to the aforementioned 2010 and 1941 events. House Republican Leader John Boehner and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi both made appearances during the 2010 festivities, which included a parade down Kilbourn Avenue.
The convention does not have a parade scheduled this year, nor did it have one last year in Phoenix.
The event will bring to town representatives from each of the legion’s 55 departments, including all 50 states plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, France, Mexico and the Philippines.
Most events are scheduled for the Wisconsin Center and Hilton Milwaukee downtown, though the Milwaukee Brewers will welcome visitors for American Legion Family Baseball Night on Monday at American Family Field.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel investigative reporter Katelyn Ferral and former Appleton Post-Crescent journalist Natalie Brophy will be presented a Fourth Estate Award recognizing achievement in journalism for their work chronicling the tragic cases of four Wisconsin veterans who took their own lives months after serving together in Afghanistan.