Motorcycles bearing American flags, a repurposed military-style truck and about 20 cars drove laps around the Buffalo Wild Wings parking lot Saturday afternoon, honking horns for President Donald Trump.
One man leaned out the window of a car pasted with Trump stickers yelling “Keep America Great!” through a megaphone. Another car sporting a painting of the president and the words “Trump Train” blared sirens as it drove past onlookers in the Hobby Lobby parking lot.
In a nearby car, two women began to blast “FDT,” a 2016 rap song about hating Trump. They turned up the volume as the parade of cars approached.
“We knew this was coming here. We were ready for it,” said one woman, who asked not to be identified because she feared retaliation at work.
“I’m just ready for it (the election) to be over,” she said.
The scene in those Janesville parking lots likely is a common one across the nation.
As the Nov. 3 election approaches, political tensions are high. Supporters of Trump and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden are in their own corners making a final push for their candidates.
Jay Saporiti of Beloit drove his truck, fitted with large American and Trump 2020 flags, in Saturday’s parade. He said about 100 cars were in the parade at one point.
“We want to bring awareness that the silent majority isn’t so silent. We’re out there,” Saporiti said as demonstrators honked horns behind him.
He said this year’s election is especially polarizing because he believes Democrats run the mainstream media.
“One side completely controls the mainstream media, and the other side is people who do their own research, honestly,” he said.
When asked if he ever gets nervous about driving his truck around with Trump flags during an election year, Saporiti pointed to the holstered pistol on his hip, saying, “No, I’m prepared.”
Other people prefer to express their views more placidly through yard signs.
Pam Rogers has lived in Janesville since 1996. She has planted signs endorsing presidential candidates before, but this year she thought it was especially important to have a Biden sign on her lawn.
“I just thought it was important to have both sides represented,” she said. “You see a lot of Trump signs, which are fine, because that’s who people support, but I hadn’t seen a whole lot of Biden/Harris. So I thought this would be a good year to put one up.”
Rogers said she hasn’t heard any reaction from neighbors or family and friends over the signs. She said they know she respects people’s right to their opinions.
“I’m glad to see my sign is still there,” she said.
In Michigan, some Trump 2020 signs were booby-trapped with razor blades on the bottom to deter theft.
On Lombard Avenue in Janesville, Jennifer and Mike McKay have two Trump/Pence signs in their yard, and the man across the street has a sign supporting Biden.
Jennifer McKay said the family decided to put signs in their yard in 2016 and this year “because I believe our liberties are at stake.”
McKay said she had minor concerns about endorsing a candidate and what others around her might think, but at the end of the day, respect is the most important part of the equation, she said.
“We’re not causing any trouble, so I would hope it would work both ways,” she said.
The family is close with the neighbor who displays the Biden signs, McKay said. No one was home when a Gazette reporter knocked on the neighbor’s door.
“No, we haven’t (talked about it). We are friends with the neighbor. We help him out because he’s elderly, but we have not had any discussions about political stances,” McKay said.
About a half-mile away, two adjacent houses have signs with opposite political viewpoints.
One of them features signs for Democrats Sue Conley and Joe Biden. The homeowner, who asked not to be identified because of possible repercussions at work, said the Republican neighbors haven’t objected to the signs.
“We’re big enough people that we can maintain a healthy relationship with friends with differing opinions,” he said, cracking a smile.
“But I certainly am not opposed to putting out more signs to compete with the other ones across the street that way. So we’re not afraid to stir it up a bit.”
Despite a global pandemic, economic uncertainty and low early estimates, Rock County crop farmers are hopeful for a profit on this year’s crops.
“If we look at today’s market prices, where we’re at with soybean and corn prices today is where three or four months ago farmers never dreamed we’d see this year,” said Nick Baker, Rock County agriculture agent.
As COVID-19 closed down global markets, agriculture markets struggled. Baker said agriculture is intertwined with daily life and the overall economy. He cited corn’s use in ethanol production: People had fewer reasons to leave the house during the pandemic, so less ethanol was used to fuel cars, which lowered demand and the possible year-end profit for corn.
Today, though, the numbers look good, Baker said.
“But the good news is people are traveling more now, and we’re seeing prices come back up, which means there must be some demand out there for our crops. That’s a good thing,” he said.
“Farmers have a little optimism because we’re finally above that break-even price, so farmers can actually make a little money, hopefully.”
Farm City Elevator, which operates in Brodhead, Milton, Orfordville and Darien, lists local cash bids at $3.60 per bushel of corn and $10.04 per bushel of soybeans.
Those numbers are up from 2019, when corn fetched $3.49 a bushel and soybeans $8.09 per bushel.
Part of that increase is thanks to a full, healthy crop.
“I would say soybeans are down from what has been seen in the last two years, but still good to very good, and I expect corn to be very good to excellent,” Baker said.
Crop prices act much like other financial markets: They fluctuate daily, even hourly, as crop situations adjust for weather, demand and other economic factors.
Prices overall have continued to fall since 2013. A weak global economy prompted a decrease in exports. An increase in crop production in South America has also hurt the U.S. markets.
Dairy farmers have struggled to stay in business more than crop farmers, but Baker said people involved in every aspect of agriculture have struggled in recent years. During years of higher prices, as is the case this year, it’s important to take advantage, he said.
“The last couple years with the low prices, some farmers have had to extend some credit and take on some debt to continue on,” Baker said.
“And, you know, we understand that when prices are good, you take advantage of them, and you make any upgrades or improvements you can make when you have money and store away some money for the tough years,” he said. “Pay down any debt or bills you have and prepare for the roller-coaster that is agriculture.”
Rock County has about 1,500 farms, and about 60 of them are dairy operations. The rest focus on crops such as corn and soybeans.
Rock County farmer Doug Rebout grows both on his farm outside Janesville. He said after 2019, when farmers barely broke even, this year’s numbers are a welcome change.
“This year’s yield is above average,” he said. “It’s not our best yield ever, but it is a good crop this year. We’re getting some really good yields.
“The last couple years have been tough with the rains and everything, both during planting season and harvesting season. This year, we pretty much had ideal weather all year long, and that helped give us a better yield.”
Rebout said he is averaging about 64 bushels an acre for soybeans and estimated corn will produce about 210 bushels per acre. A dry spell in August likely lowered some of the yield, but he called 2020 “an ideal year” for weather after rain hammered last year’s crops.
Now it’s up to farmers to decide when they should sell their yields.
“We’re looking at it, and just like anyone else it’s a matter of, ‘Do I sell now, do I wait?’ It is one of the best prices it’s been in a long time, so you kind of sit there and wonder if it will go up,” Rebout said.
“It’s mixed emotions right now, but selling stuff at the prices we have right now, you’ve got to be happy with it.”
Baker shares Rebout’s hopeful sentiments.
“Weather and prices are two things that are kind of out of farmers’ control, and you just try and take advantage of the opportunities when they present themselves. And the good news is for farmers that prices are improving. We’re about the highest we’ve been for the last year right now for both soybean and corn prices.
“So there’s some hope there.”
Anyone looking to tour homes in person during this year’s Janesville Parade of Homes is out of luck.
But not totally out of luck.
The South Central Wisconsin Builders Association still intends to host the annual showcase of renovations and new homes designed and built by local builders, albeit a month later than usual.
The biggest difference—one that’s become predictable in the era of COVID-19—is that the parade of homes includes no in-person open houses or in-person showings. This year, mostly because of the ongoing pandemic, the parade will launch Oct. 31 as a virtual-only event that will stretch for several months.
Builders association Executive Officer Heidi Van Kirk said the home builders trade group will have a new web page that will offer people immersive, 360-degree visual tours of homes in this year’s parade. The site goes live Oct. 31 with virtual tours for nine new homes in Janesville along with renovated spaces and outdoor landscaping upgrades.
Van Kirk said it wasn’t uncommon at past events to see 30 or 40 people arrive at once at an open house. Her group wanted to find ways to offer a parade that complies with social-distancing recommendations.
“The COVID-19 pandemic was a huge player in the changes, primarily because of the orders to not gather,” she said. “But also, through COVID-19, our builders have been very busy, actually. So this was a great opportunity to still have such a respected event, the parade, and bring people together while respecting the public health recommendations and orders and allowing our builders to continue working.”
Under the association’s plan, a portal to the virtual showings will be active for several months—much longer than the parade of homes typically runs. And the tours also will give people a chance to communicate with local builders and local real estate and lending partners.
Van Kirk said her group is working with two third-party companies on marketing and software that will allow the parade to film 360-degree videos of each home. All the virtual tours will become available at the end of the month and remain available through next July.
She said the tours will be more immersive than the 360-degree “fisheye” photos of rooms used in the past. She said a group in the Fox Cities used the new virtual tour software, and a preview of that group’s tours showed visuals that allow users to zoom into all nooks and crannies of every room in a house.
Unlike other years, the virtual parade of homes is free, although people who want to donate to the builders association can do so. The parade is one of the group’s major events.
The decision to make the parade virtual and free came on the heels of canceling the spring home builder’s expo, another moneymaker for the organization.
Van Kirk said donations for the parade will help the builders association continue its involvement in educational programs, such as its student-built home program in partnership with Parker and Craig high schools.
Doris D. Armstrong
Terri Lynn (Bradley) Bale
David R. Behrens
Mario C. Bello
Ellen Lucinda “Dear” (Anderson) Bingham
John “Jack” Doherty
Deb K. (Butterfuss) Ensley
Wayne E. Jackson
Evelyn M. (Palmer) Kingsley
Harley D. Kurtz
Robert “Bob” Schmidt
Robert D. “Bob” Shea
Thomas Harold Thiede