Creativity, family heirlooms on display during OT parade

By Grace King, Mt. Pleasant News


The crowd cheered, and children scrambled for candy throughout the Old Threshers parade on Wednesday, Aug. 29.

After an uncertain morning of clean up following storms the night before, the sun shone on the tradition, bringing families and friends together to remember where they?ve been and where they?re going.

The Sunnybrook Assisted Living parade float sailed through E. Washington Street. Decorated in the theme of ?The Wizard of Oz,? the tractor symbolized the Emerald City while the float contained lions, tigers and bears ? oh my!

?There?s no place like home at Sunnybrook,? said Erika Calcago, the life enrichment coordinator at Sunnybrook. As the parade got underway, Vicky Bergstrom, a Sunnybrook resident, reminisced about when she helped launch the Midwest Old Threshers Reunion in 1950 with her husband, Mel Bergstrom.

?When it started, it wasn?t very much, but it?s the one thing that represents Henry County,? Bergstrom said proudly.

Joyce McElwe, a Sunnybrook resident, also has been attending Old Threshers since it began, first going with her husband and then recalling spending the days there with her two sons. Her favorite memories are letting her sons loose on the grounds to explore.

?They?d come back and all we?d see were the whites of their eyes,? McElwe said, explaining that it was from both wide-eyed excitement and the dust from the threshing machines that made their eyes appear so large.

Sunnybrook?s float wasn?t the only pride of the parade. Tom Hassenfritz, owner of T.H.E. Company in Mt. Pleasant, pulled ?Weldasaurus Rex? behind his tractor ? a welded dinosaur with a sign hanging from its tail representing Hassenfritz?s company.

Hassenfritz isn?t quite sure where the idea of a dinosaur came from ? he muses the idea developed from the popular Jurassic Park movies ? but he knew it would grab people?s attention.

?Eventually we would like to get him to shoot flames,? Hassenfritz said in excitement for Weldasaurus Rex?s ?maiden voyage.?

Other parade participants drove ?floats? with family history. The Grabers have a family tradition of driving their antique family vehicles in the parade. Millie Graber said she has been riding in the parade for 30 years in her and her husband?s 1929 Studebaker green truck that reads ?Greenhurst Farm.?

As local farmers, Graber said that farming is the mainstay of the economy. Plus, ?The parade is fun,? she said. ?We enjoy it and now we take our grandkids and neighbors.

Steve Heise is continuing his father?s tradition of driving their family?s 1921 Model TT truck in the parade, which has been driven in the parade since 1965.

Heise?s father purchased the truck from his uncle in 1962, and originally used it on the family farm. When Heise?s dad died, the truck was left to him.

?This is not my cup of tea,? Heise admitted. ?But my dad thought the world of this truck. (He) loved Old Threshers and would love it if he knew I was doing this.?