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Downtown holiday parade a hit with first-time, longtime visitors

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Jim Dayton
Sunday, December 3, 2017

JANESVILLE—Traffic on Milwaukee Street on Saturday night alternated between candy-throwing kids and decorated floats as the Jolly Jingle Holiday Parade proceeded through downtown Janesville.

Some of the floats were extravagant and looked like a retail Christmas display. Some had themes, such as Disney's “Frozen” and a nativity scene.

Tucked somewhere in the middle was Jeff Storbakken, whose homemade float lacked the size of others but featured plenty of handcrafted details.

His wife, Jean, pulled the float on a motorized scooter purchased on Craigslist. Its centerpiece was a dual-sided shadowbox with lights and other Christmas decorations tucked inside.

Stuffed animals, ornaments and lighted Christmas village homes filled the boxes. Each piece appeared like it was carefully placed into its location.

“There's something magical that happens. When you put this glass on here, the whole thing changes,” Storbakken said. “It becomes its own little world. That's what a shadow box does.”

His float might not have had the shock value of others—Festival Foods rode through downtown in a gigantic shopping cart—but his finished product embodied his career and lifelong hobbies.

He's a machinist at Precision Drawn Metals in Janesville and has a full metal workshop at home. He sees potential in turning old materials into something completely different, he said.

The float's base was a former toy car. Other pieces came from salvaged items or “junk” his friends didn't want anymore.

This was the first year he entered a float in the Christmas parade. While Jean towed the shadowbox float, a family friend, 10-year-old Greta, walked alongside her and handed out candy to those watching on the sidewalk.

Meanwhile, Storbakken pedaled a modified chopper bike while sporting purple glow sticks on his clothing. He rode in wild circles and handed out glow sticks to kids.

Jenn Walewangko stumbled upon the parade after getting caught in its traffic and closed roads. It was balmy enough to stand outside and watch, she said.

Her daughters, Ireni and Attia, noticed Storbakken pass by on the bike. With Storbakken wearing glow stick sunglasses, neither of the girls thought he could see where he was going.

Ireni enjoyed the music and Attia preferred the candy. Many kids didn't seem to notice the floats, instead dancing and pouncing on candy whenever it landed at their feet.

Monique Sims brought her sons, Marcello and Jyare, only after they noticed the parade from their nearby apartment. Sims has lived in Janesville for more than 10 years, but she was never aware of the parade, she said.

Walewangko had never attended either. Storbakken only learned of the event last year. But the event was a success for newcomers.

“If people didn't come out, they missed out,” Sims said.

But some folks have known about the parade. Bob and Deb Duncan have come every year since the parade began in 2002.

Compared to the early years of the parade, this year's was brimming with people and excitement. There were more families and more effort put into the floats, they said.

Storbakken wants to upgrade his float next year too. Put the shadowboxes on a rotating swivel so everyone can see both sides. And more candy, of course.

“Everything I do is for fun,” Storbakken said. “I'm not making money here. I'm doing it for the love of the craft.”



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