SIOUX CITY | Stan Boyle was driving to Shenandoah, Iowa, when he heard a radio news report about National Guard units across the country being activated for duty.
News on Jan. 25, 1968, traveled a bit slower than it does today, so Boyle, a member of Sioux City's 185th Tactical Fighter Group, pulled in to a gas station and called his wife, Judy, at their home in Des Moines to see if he could find out more information.
"She said, your dad called and you've been activated," Boyle said.
Two days later, Boyle and his brothers Dave, Dan and Pat reported to the Sioux City air base, where they and the whole unit, some 800 members, mustered into active service in the Air Force.
"I was ready to serve. I was ready to do whatever they needed to do," Boyle said.
That activation and mustering 50 years ago this weekend marked the last time the entire unit was mobilized for active duty at the same time. The unit's performance during more than a year of active duty remains a point of pride.
"We are as good a unit as we are today because of their work back then. They essentially were the trail blazers for what we do today," said Col. Larry Christensen, commander of the unit now known as the 185th Air Refueling Wing, Iowa Air National Guard.
While growing up, Christensen heard stories of the activation from his stepfather, John Davis, who was among those mobilized. When Christensen joined the Air Guard in 1986, he and other young members eagerly listened to the veterans of that 1968 service.
"They were our mentors," Christensen said. "We always looked up to them because they had seen action."
In May 1968, the 174th Tactical Fighter Squadron, part of the 185th, deployed to Phu Cat Air Base in South Vietnam with 25 F-100 fighter jets and aircraft and 375 personnel. The remainder of the 185th's members were deployed to air bases in South Korea and across the United States as "backfill," replacements for other personnel who had been deployed to Vietnam.
The activation came in response to the "Pueblo Crisis," in which the North Korean military seized the Navy intelligence ship USS Pueblo and its crew on Jan. 23, 1968. News of the activation wasn't completely unexpected, but still came as a surprise, said Pat Parks, of Sergeant Bluff, who few F-100s and was a full-time technician on the base.
"You never knew," he said. "The wife wasn't too happy. We had four children."
For weeks after their mustering, 185th members trained for possible overseas duty. Parks was informed a few weeks before departure that he and the other pilots and support personnel would be deploying to Vietnam. This time, the news wasn't such a surprise, based on comments by commanders they'd overheard during training.
"We kind of had inklings of that ahead of time," said Parks, who had joined the Air Guard in 1952 to become a pilot.
During their year in Vietnam, 174th Tactical Fighter Squadron pilots flew 6,539 combat sorties totaling 11,359 hours. In July 1968, Lt. Warren Brown was killed in action, the only member of the unit to die in combat. The 185th lost two other airmen, one from a medical issue and the other from an accident.
About the time Parks found out he'd be heading to Vietnam, Boyle, who'd joined the 185th as a medic in 1961, learned he'd be staying in the United States. He was sent to school in Wichita Falls, Texas, for training for hospital administration for two months, then to Altus Air Force Base in Oklahoma, where he was an assistant hospital administrator, filling in for others who had been deployed overseas.
Rather than spending one year on active duty like most of the 185th members, Boyle spent nearly two years in Oklahoma before he was deactivated in 1970. His brothers Pat, an F-100 crew chief, and Dave, who was in the air police, both completed their six-year service in the Guard in the summer of 1968 and were discharged without having to leave Sioux City. Brother Dan spent a year as a security guard at an air base in South Korea.
Most of the members of the 185th returned to Sioux City on May 28, 1969. A few days later, they were treated to a welcome home parade through downtown.
"The Sioux City area gave us a very, very warm welcome back. We got treated like kings," said Parks, who resumed his position as a pilot and technician at the base until his retirement in 1987.
After returning home, Boyle joined his father's business, Boyle Companies, which owns area Wendy's restaurants and Dakota Dunes real estate. He remained in the 185th as a Medical Services Corps officer, retiring in 1983.
Christensen said the Air Guard now prefers partial mobilizations of smaller groups of personnel from its units. The 185th currently has about 300 members deployed to 11 locations around the world, the biggest activation since Vietnam, Christensen said.
The 1968 mobilization, and the circumstances surrounding it, maintains a special place in the unit's history, Christensen said.
"It was a very significant event in the history of the 185th," he said.
SIOUX CITY | The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino's Anthem venue played host to a lot of Elvises on Saturday.
On stage, festooned in heavily-sequined outfits and shiny black hair, eight Elvis impersonators from around the Midwest and south belted out classic Presley tunes (as well as non-Elvis cover songs) for capacity crowds.
These high-caliber Elvis impersonators were gathered at the Hard Rock to take part in the 2018 Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest. Winners will be going to Memphis in August to compete in the finals, for a chance at a $20,000 prize and the glory of being the most-recognized of some-60,000 Elvis impersonators.
Kurt Brown, the show's producer, said each Elvis is a little different.
"Everybody has their own style," he said. "They all want to do it exactly like Elvis, but, they also have their own little twists that they put in."
Brown described a "brotherhood" for the Elvises, who relish the networking opportunities afforded them by this kind of show.
"For the guys, it's great exposure," he said. "Not all of these guys get to do shows in front of 800 people."
Frank Werth, an Elvis impersonator from Hays, Kansas, said his first time portraying Elvis nine years ago didn't start off on a great note.
"My first time, I puked my guts out. I was so scared," Werth said.
Werth (who portrays Elvis circa 1968-74) said he takes stage-fright in stride.
"You never shake the nervousness, that's a good thing I think," he said. "I mean yeah, you get more polished I think as you go, but I don't think you ever lose the nervousness."
Besides Elvis, Werth also portrays Roy Orbison, Johnny Rivers and Charlie Rich.
Fellow Elvis impersonator Chadwick Gates can pick up where Werth leaves off chronologically. The Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin-based Elvis portrays the King circa 1974-76.
Gates has been doing Elvis impersonation for about eight years, said he began his Elvis career at a competition in Wisconsin about eight years ago, at the behest of a friend.
"I had really short hair, I looked like I just came out of the military," he said. "I used to do karaoke a lot."
He placed fifth in that first contest -- "it's been history ever since."
Josh Davis, an Elvis impersonator from White Oak, Texas, has been portraying the King since he was 14 years old.
"I've always been a fan of Elvis, for years," Davis said. "I always (portrayed Elvis) like around the house, or up in an attic that was converted into a concert hall for me."
Davis' first Elvis contest was in Tupelo, Mississippi in 2012, where he made the top 10. A few years later in a Kansas City contest, he placed third.
In 2015, Davis won a contest in Biloxi, Mississippi and made it to the finals in Memphis.
Cliff Wright, an Elvis from Branson, Missouri, said he "kind of fell into" the world of Elvis impersonating about 10 years ago, when he took a friend to a competition and his car broke down. Before he was Elvis, he was a guitarist.
Wright said the world of Elvis impersonating isn't all fun and games -- there's a lot of competition out there. So he gets work on the side as other beloved, deceased performers.
"Elvis is naturally my favorite," he said. "Johnny Cash has really taken care of me. Because the Elvis world is a very hard world. There's a lot of guys, there's a lot of great guys too."
The name of the competition's winner was not available prior to press time.
SIOUX CITY | There will be no push to add alcohol sales to the festivities of the Woodbury County Fair in August.
County fair director Randy Hayworth spoke about the issue on Tuesday, when the county board of supervisors approved directing $27,000 from the county budget to this year's fair. Hayworth was asked by board chairman Rocky De Witt if the board was going to reconsider the longstanding ban on alcohol on the fairgrounds. In 2017, the board briefly discussed and eventually killed a proposal to allow sales at grandstand events.
Hayworth on Tuesday said not a single person has spoken with him about lifting the ban.
"So far, I haven't had anybody other than a few board members who want it," he said.
Hayworth said more than half of county fairs serve alcohol. De Witt, of Lawton, said it sounds like counties add alcohol to fair offerings not so much as a needed beverage, but as a revenue element.
The Iowa State Fair in Des Moines has long permitted beer and wine sales, and fairgoers to walk around the grounds with alcoholic drinks.
Supervisor Matthew Ung, of Sioux City, said he likes that the Woodbury County fair won't be "selling out, so to speak."
The Woodbury County Fair Association Board of Directors in February 2017 voted roughly two-to-one to stop research into serving beer and wine at grandstand events.
Some board members thought people might like to have alcohol at fair events. Others worried having even limited types of alcohol could undercut the family atmosphere of the fair.
Some board members were concerned about the time commitment for additional workers to handle the beer sales and increased costs for liability insurance.
The fair will be held in Moville, Aug. 1-5. The county funds the supervisors approved Tuesday at the request of the fair board is a $2,000 increase, compared to the $25,000 the fair received last year.
Hayworth said that increase was warranted, as the fair is on an upswing, in terms of participation by 4-H members, attendance and other benchmarks.
"We are getting bigger," he said.