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King and queen and ‘ambassador
of beer' make parade official
By GAY GRIESBACH - GM Today Staff March 19, 2007
Wayne Radata of Monches holds onto the reins of a camel during the parade
at the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade in the town of Erin Saturday.>>
Click here for photo slideshow
TOWN OF ERIN - Irish eyes weren’t the only ones smiling Saturday at Erin’s
St. Patrick’s Day parade. Queen Michelle Towey,
King Jake Homulos and their royal jester, a 70-pound green
retriever-poodle mix named Riley, readied to lead the parade.
When asked about official duties, Towey replied, "We don’t have
any. "Nice work, if you can get it.
Sprinkled between hay wagons carrying leprechauns, banshees and
faeries were floats with Bigfoot, a legend added to local lore in November
when a worker contracted to pick up road kill said he encountered a
creature stealing a deer carcass off the back of his truck.
Jim Wright was trimming up a 1927 Model T truck with an Erin
Historical Society sign on the door. He said the
parade was a good way to increase awareness of the organization, which
meets at 7 p.m. on the third Wednesday of every other month (March, May
and July) at the Erin Town Hall. The group is leasing Lucy’s Horseshoe Inn
from the town, working toward making it a museum. "Preservation needs to
be done. Once its gone, it’s lost forever," said Wright."
Every year we carry St. Patrick -- we like to think of ourselves as the
official float," said Maureen Fitzsimmons-Vanden Heuvel as she tied green
balloons to a pickup truck carrying John Kaczor, aka St. Patrick.
John’s wife, Bonnie, came to the parade each year dressed to the hilt -
"People used to ask to buy the earrings she made, parts of her outfit,"
said Kaczor. But Bonnie passed away two years ago, in February 2005. "It
was really a shocker," said Kaczor. Before St. Pat made his trip down
Highway K that year, organizer Jeff Kraft asked Kaczor to stand in for the
saint. "It really helped me," said Kaczor. With his miter, staff and
vestments, you can’t help but think Bonnie is looking down and smiling.
People were also smiling at Al Bunde, brewmaster at Riverside Brewery and
Restaurant in West Bend, as he trudged up the hill with his accordion on
his back and a hogshead of beer at his side.
"The cops wouldn’t let me in," said Bunde, who had parked north of the
parade route and had to hike uphill. What the
police couldn’t know is that Bunde was a member of the now-defunct
Riverwest Accordion Club and was dubbed "The Ambassador of Beer.
"Wouldn’t he have political immunity or something?
Urged on by other parade-goers, Bunde stopped several times to play
‘Whiskey for the Devil" or squeeze out a few Irish-sounding chords.
Green-hatted, painted and bejeweled partiers cheered him on and
stopped him to take photos."I’m getting really thirsty," said Bunde.
This story appeared in the West Bend Daily News on March 19, 2007.