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Float flurry: Action is brisk at Labor Day parade

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Shelly Birkelo
September 4, 2012

— Two hours into preparation for Monday's Labor Day parade, Elks Lodge members hit a snag. They couldn't find the nearly 100 magnetic decals that needed to be mounted on their lead truck.

Jim Meyer of Jefferson went on a hunt to try and find them in the attached trailer. A perfect example of the challenges parade organizers face, he stood on cardboard boxes and rifled through others in search of the missing decals.

At the same time, Meyer—the past president of the Wisconsin order—talked to a reporter about last-minute float preparations.

"I'll go over the whole trailer with a wet towel and over the front of the truck to get all the bugs off," he said.

There still were no decals as other crewmembers put flags and stereo speakers in place.

"They're supposed to be laying up there," Meyer said, pointing at boxes and other equipment.

Determined to find the decals, Meyer, whose denim shirt was soaked with sweat, climbed on top of the boxes and began digging through each one.

"Any luck?" asked Ron Shannon of Portage, Wisconsin Elks president-elect.

"Not yet," Meyer said just before shouting, "Somebody want to grab this?" as he passed a small cardboard box to Shannon.

"What do you know; he found them," Shannon said.

Janesville Elks member David Nitze said the group allows three hours before parade time to make sure everything is ready to go.

It's a good thing. In the end, the Wisconsin Elks Grand Lodge Hospitality and local Drug Awareness trailers accented by American, military and Elks flags were ready for the 1 p.m. parade. The Elks parade contingent also included three 1970 Chrysler convertibles carrying Elks dignitaries.

Meanwhile, veteran parade judge Margaret Brandenburg sat prepared with her judge's forms, ready to help new judges Bev Wilson and Carrie Smith, both of Janesville.

"We're not nervous. She's going to help us," Wilson said. "I'm sure we'll be able to do it."

Brandenburg, who has judged parade floats for the last seven years, said she enjoys seeing the people.

Brandenburg said judges score each float between 1 and 10 in four categories: originality/uniqueness, theme, eye-catching and first impression.

"Does it grab your attention or not?" she said.

Her favorite float in past years has been manned by the New Glarus firefighters, who climb their fire truck ladder in front of the parade crowd. She also loves the bands.

Brandenburg said she often is lenient when scoring floats based on the parade theme, which this year is "For the Community—By the Community."

Still, she's tough when it comes to scoring how unique a float is.

"If it's eye-catching when I first see it, I score based on that first impression," she said. "I just judge what I see."



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