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Love a parade


So where did we leave off last week?
Oh, that’s right, Frank and I were out on a double date, and we came up short on the bill.
So what did we do?
Frank called his older sister, Sue. Even though she just put her hair up in rollers, she threw on a housecoat and brought us $5. The kindness of strangers and siblings at play.
Fast-forwarding to today, the highlight of their recent visit was attending the Beef Days parade. Frank, as it turns out, loves a parade, and rarely misses a chance to see one or better yet, be in it.
I don’t get as excited to see a cavalcade, but while I lived in Solon, I was either in or at every parade held for the town’s celebration. After moving in the year 2000, I must confess that I haven’t been back.
At the risk of bragging, I’d like to say some of my entries were pretty good.
In 1995 my Extra Crispy, Mostly Imprecise Lawn Chair Marching Team made the front page of the Cedar Rapids Gazette. By popular demand, we did a reprise the following year, this time with bar maids serving beer. Channeling a drill sergeant, I’d yell, “present chairs,” as the column snapped their chair in front of them. From there I’d have the rag tag group sit, drink and stand. At the beginning, the marchers pretended to be drunk. By the end, no playacting was needed.
Another time, brother Bob brought the entire Fleck and Decker stock car crew (the drinking team with a racing problem), and they pulled not one, but two stock cars with engines roaring on flat beds down the route.
My favorite float was the one where I had buddy Marv (Guru of Golf) drive a gigantic John Deere tractor pulling a ski boat pulling me wearing in-line skates. The state was trying to come up with a new motto at the time, and I wanted to illustrate that “Ski Iowa” would be a great one.
My favorite Beef Days float entered by someone else was put on the road by the Sueppel Tree Service. Of course, there was no such business, but there was a Sueppel’s Tavern (currently Solon Station), owned and operated by Kenny Sueppel.
Kenny’s tavern back in the day was known far and wide for the Turtle Races on Friday night. A sheet of plywood divided into two lanes was flopped up on the pool table, and the turtles came with whoever happened to have one. This was Solon and betting was heavy. During the 8-foot race, which could take up 10 minutes, the crowd was as excited as any professional sporting event I’ve ever attended.
Anyway, for the float, Kenny found an old, junked sedan, backed it up to a 40-foot tall oak and then felled the 10-ton tree so it laid perfectly across the roof of the vehicle. The roof caved in but left just enough room for Kenny to get behind the wheel and drive the route.
At this year’s parade, we set up chairs in front of the Catholic Literary Society Building. Frank and Jan enjoyed the experience. From Chicago, Frank moved to Philadelphia and was especially enjoying the small town country vibe of our area.
At one point, a little league baseball team tossing jawbreakers to the crowd came past. Frank started yelling, “Toss one to me!” and after several failed throws, one kid finally managed to get one to him in the back row. “Thanks, buddy,” Frank said, “you must be the pitcher on the team because you’re the only one with an arm.” The rest of the kids on the float, all aspiring Tom Seavers, took challenge to this comment and began pelting us with the rock-hard little balls.
Dr. Frank Plantan currently serves as the Co-Director of the International Relations Program at the University of Pennsylvania. His spouse Janet is the Executive Director, Special Projects, at the same institution. They’ve been happily married for 41 years, perhaps because Frank gives “good arm.” Don’t know what happened to our dates. I like to think Larry is belting out “She’s a Lady” in a retirement village. Me, well, you know, or do you?