Wagner's annual Labor Day parade draws thousands
WAGNER -- It started with a bang.
A shot rang out at 10 a.m. Monday in Wagner, signaling the start of the town's 112th Labor Day Parade.
With the signal's echo still in the air, the sound of a whirring propeller whizzed by as a small plane left a thin trail of white smoke above the large crowd. The flyover led the first of the marchers and floats, feet stepping and sirens wailing, onto the parade route through the center of town.
The parade was the main attraction in a packed three-day weekend of events in Wagner that included everything from cage fighting to a children's tractor pull. The theme for this year's parade was "leisure times," and featured honorary parade marshals Jim and Shirley Leines and parade emcees Dave Isebrands and Ken Cotton.
Sitting in the front yard of his father's house located on the parade route before the event began, Gerrit Juffer, of Wagner, watched with interest as parade participants prepared to set off.
"It's like making sausage with all the chaos beforehand," Juffer said. "But at 10 a.m., the gun goes off and it works."
Juffer, 55, has attended the town's Labor Day Parade every year since he was born.
"It just keeps getting bigger and bigger, it seems," he said. "It's just a fun event."
An estimated 10,000 people attended the parade, which featured more than 100 entrants. In Wagner, a town of 1,566 people as of the 2010 census, Juffer said that means a lot.
"It's a tremendous opportunity to show off our community," he said. "There are all kinds of good, positive things."
Nearby, in the back of black Ford Mustang, Wagner mayor Sharon Haar waited her turn to greet the crowd.
"Well, we have the usual lovely day," Haar said.
A slightly overcast sky kept temperatures relatively mild for much of the morning, but intermittent sunshine led to warmer weather later in the day.
Haar attended her first Labor Day Parade in Wagner in 1943, and has only missed one parade in the years since, and that was to see the birth of her grandson. She explained how a town of hardly more than 1,500 people can draw the many thousands that turn up every year to Wagner's Labor Day festivities.
"We have a great celebration every year, obviously," she said. "It's a good show, and it's a warm community."
For more than an hour and 30 minutes, parade-goers looked on as unique floats, classic cars, motorcycles, fire engines, tractors and marching bands went past, while children raced into the street chasing freely thrown candy.
Wagner's Labor Day Committee Chairman Dave Greger was pleased with the turnout for this year's parade. He credited the 112 years of tradition for the consistently large crowds the event attracts.
"That's what keeps them coming back," he said.
Months of preparation are needed to get ready for the parade every year, and Greger said the eight other Labor Day Committee members and countless volunteers should receive much of the credit for the event's success.
"It seems like Labor Day takes care of itself," he said. "It's a win-win for Wagner."
The work of everyone involved with the event is much appreciated, he said.
"Without them, it would not work," Greger said.