By Starrla Cray
DELANO, MN When Tim Diem asked Ernie Gershone if he was responsible for the Golden LivingCenter float in Delano’s 4th of July parade, Gershone had no idea that the float had just won the 2009 Bill Diem Memorial Chairman’s Award.
“My first reaction was, we’re in trouble,” Gershone laughed. “I was thinking, what traffic violation have we committed?”
Instead of being punished, however, Golden LivingCenter’s float had been chosen as the best of show, and was given a plaque in memory of Bill Diem, who served on the Fourth of July committee for 35 years.
When Bill passed away in 2003, his widow, Sylvia, created the award to keep her husband’s memory alive.
“He loved the Fourth of July celebration,” Sylvia said. “He called it his vacation every year.”
“The family just wanted to do something in his memory,” she continued. So, she went to the parade committee members, who suggested an award. Since 2004, one float in the Delano parade, which is known as Minnesota’s oldest and largest parade, is chosen.
Past winners included the Delano American Legion, Delano royalty, Maple Grove royalty, Princeton royalty, and Winsted.
Typically, Sylvia’s four children choose the winning float, but only Tim and Kris Houden, of Morris, were able to come this year, so Sylvia helped judge, as well.
Floats are sometimes picked based on which one looks the best, or by which is the most patriotic, Tim said. This year, Golden LivingCenter’s float, with huge paper maché eagle created by Shannon Callaghan, caught Tim’s eye right away.
“For me, it was easy,” he said. “All of a sudden I saw it across the parking lot and I knew that had to be the one.”
“That was just amazing that the people who work there made that,” Sylvia added.
“The staff worked on it off and on for a couple of months,” Gershone said. “It was a beautiful float. I could never conceive of something like that.”
He gave credit to Callaghan, Kara Reiser, and Rick Wozniak.
Callaghan had the “artistic talent,” Reiser was “the brains,” and Wozniak “was instrumental in making everything fit together and ride safely,” he said.
Golden LivingCenter’s resident king Lloyd Lindstrom and queen Lorraine Bauerschmitt sat on top of the float, which was pulled by a Ford pickup donated by Holt Motors of Cokato. Vernice White was elected as resident princess for the year.
“No matter what theme we have, our centerpiece is always our resident royalty,” Gershone said.
Even though he knew the float was well done, Gershone said he was still shocked that they won.
“It’s an incredible parade,” he said. “There are amazing floats.”