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#28500 06/08/17 05:17 PM
Joined: Jan 2004
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Excerpt from the Henderson History Book.

When it came to parades, however, it was, hard to top the Owl Parade for uniqueness and sheer exuberance. The Owl Parade first appeared on the scene in the 1936 Kraut Festival. It was the brain child of an organization called the Owl Club, the membership in which is shrouded in mystery and lost in antiquity. The Owl Parade was held on Saturday night of the festival week end, and while the announced starting time was midnight, the “Owler’s” were not given to punctuality. Unlike the Sunday parade, there were few units in the parade, and no crowd estimates survive in history. Possibly because few who attended were in any shape to count-at least accurately.

The lead “float” in the Owl Parade was a John Deere tractor commandeered from Steckman Brothers Implement and gussied up with papier-mache and owl-like headlights. For many years the unofficial Owl Parade Marshal was Henry Grassinger, the diminutive typesetter who worked at the Henderson Independent. No Owl Parade was complete without Henry attired in knee-high black rubber boots, a long raincoat and wearing an owl mask.

Preparation for the Owl Parade began at the many beer gardens that were set up outside in back of the saloons. Whitford’s, Leo Scheiber’s, Heinz’s and Tappy’s are the ones that come immediately to mind. Properly fortified, the “Owlers” - those in the parade as well as spectators-headed for the side street next to Harold and Frank Steckmans. This where the tractor was; and that is where the parade started and ended. Up and down Main Street the paraders made their way. This is one of the few parade in history where everyone was in the parade, with only a few of the less exuberant on the side lines smiling and shaking their heads.

No one had more fun that the “Owlers.” They came from miles around to be part of the merriment. Ironically, the Owl Parade may have been too successful for its own good. In 1962 the festival planner canceled the event. No reason was given. If you were ever part of the Owl Parade, however, you remember how much fun it was. And you probably agree that it was appropriate to retire the event.

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Some time later, it must have come back as my family, the Karl and Evelyn Lieske family, and the George and Rosalyn Kroehler families for at least 2 summers ( before regulations took over ) built and ran the SNACK SHACK at Sauerkraut Days...malts, burgers and hotdogs plus pop we sold for all three days.......I remember Ron Lieske loved to grill Dill Pickles...yuck.....well anyway I was in high school when our three dads, much to the dismay of the women, our moms, running the shack, disappeared on a Saturday night.......Barb Kroehler Hoffman talked me into taking her hand literally and strolling uptown to check out this mid-night OWL PARADE......what we saw, we could NEVER go back and tell our MOMS.....here was Karl Lieske driving a jerky pick-up with a cigar in his mouth, George Kroehler sitting in a chair in the back throwing out wrapped presents to the crowd and my dad, Norris Brandt sitting in a rocking chair in a manure spreader being pulled by the truck....also throwing out wrapped presents while all three smoked big cigars and dressed like hobo farmers! What was the present? A wrapped up cow pie! At least 100 got thrown out to the crowd.....this was in the late 60's....cuz'I was in junior high and we could NEVER go back and tell what we saw our dads participating in......great memory of the OWL PARADE!


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