The term “VFW” can conjure up images of small towns, older folk and faded American flags. Although its primary goal is serving veterans, the James Ballentine VFW Post 246 in Uptown does things a little differently. With its trendy, dive-bar vibe and music venue capabilities, Post 246 proudly mixes a “new-age feel” with what it calls “old-school principles.”
“A lot of people say it’s not your grandpa’s VFW,” Post 246 Commander Winston Kettle said.
This year marks 100 years for Post 246. It was founded on Nov. 4, 1919, in honor of James Ballentine, a Minneapolis native who served as a lieutenant in World War I. He died in action during the war in 1918, and the Purple Heart he was awarded still hangs on a wall in the VFW more than 100 years later.
“For a lot of our older members, this anniversary is a huge deal, and we want to make sure we do this right,” Kettle said.
The post’s current building originally opened in the 1950s. In recent years, a major renovation added bars and food service and transformed part of the space into a music venue with a 400-person capacity. Yet, the pull tabs, regular patrons and camaraderie remain.
“A lot of it has stayed the same. The people are the same we’ve always had,” said Gabriel Thomas, who will soon take over as the post’s commander.
Post 246 boasts more than 500 members coming from a variety of backgrounds. Veterans of all ages, races and genders who served in wars ranging from World War II to current conflicts are represented in the membership roster. “We’re very unique in that way,” Kettle said.
“[The VFW] is a place where we can come together as veterans,” Kettle said. “I like to say, ‘The mission continues.’ We help each other and the community.”
In honor of the centennial anniversary, the organization hosted a 5K to benefit Minnesota Warriors Hockey, made care packages and plans to keep the celebrations going as they near the official date.
“We’re not this old white guys’ club anymore,” Kettle said. “We welcome everyone.”
James Ballentine VFW Post 246
2916 Lyndale Ave. S.