By Julie Krienke
DELANO, MN The float that was honored with Bill Diem’s Memorial Chairman’s Award at this year’s Fourth of July parade in Delano was no ordinary one.
It was a 35-foot-long, 6-foot- wide, and 17-and-a-half-foot tall pirate ship assembled by local Destination ImagiNation (DI) teams.
According to Jeff Harris, a DI team manager, the float took four weeks to assemble. Both parents and children who are involved in the DI program helped construct the pirate ship.
“We had 37 people who built the float,” Harris said. “It started out inside my garage for the first three weeks. Then, it got too big for the garage, so we brought it outside and put it on a trailer.”
The float was made out of a few key materials. According to Harris, the ship consisted of mostly cardboard, wood, and pbc pipe, making it both lightweight and inexpensive.
“Foam was a big part of the building process, too,” Harris said. “In the DI program, the kids have been working with foam for awhile. We incorporated a number of those skills to help do the trim and a number of other things on the float.”
The idea to construct a pirate ship for the Fourth of July parade came from a local DI team.
“It started off with an idea from a DI team of fourth graders,” Harris said. “The team built a pirate ship to solve one of their challenges. The idea of building a pirate ship for the parade came from the kid’s skit.”
After that, everything kind of fell together. According to Harris, DI parents and children went on the Internet to look up photos of pirate ships to help guide them.
“Everything else stemmed from looking at the photos and trying to duplicate the pirate ship,” Harris said. “We made replicas of the things you would see on a ship.”
Because of the great size of the ship and the amount of time put into building it, local DI programs will continue to use the float.
“The whole thing was built to be taken apart and reassembled at a future date,” Harris said. “We do have intentions, because there are so many kids in the DI program, to consider building another one for next year.”
There is no doubt that the local DI teams put a great deal of effort into their float.
“When the ship started coming together and the pieces were assembled, we realized that we had a very nice looking float,” Harris said. “It was a terrific ship that was a whole lot of fun to build.”
The DI float was chosen to receive the Bill Diem Memorial Chairman’s Award at the parade.
“They approached the float during the parade,” Harris said. “We were sitting in line waiting, and they came up and announced that we had been chosen to receive the award. It was a pleasant surprise.”
The late Bill Diem served on the Fourth of July committee for 35 years, and he was chairman of the committee for 30 of those years. Diem was also extremely involved in Delano’s Fourth of July parade.
For this reason, Bill’s wife Sylvia, decided to create an award honoring one float during the Fourth of July parade. Bill’s children, Brian, Tim, Kris, and Natalie, choose the float that will receive the award each year.
“Bill was clearly someone who took great pride in the Delano parade and those who took part in it,” Harris said. “He always got excited about those who brought great floats and enhanced the parade with their floats.”
Harris was grateful that he was able to learn more about Diem through this award. According to Harris, the two shared similar interests when it comes to parade floats.
“I got to know more about Bill and found out that he appreciates the same things that I do,” Harris said. “Every year while I was at the parade, I would look at floats and wonder if we could make something that the town would be proud of.”
Bill Diem’s children obviously recognized how much work the local DI programs put into their float.
“I think they thought it looked really nice,” Harris said. “I think the float represented a great deal of work and pride. There was a lot of work put into it, and I think it showed.”
According to Harris, the team of designers who built the float did not know anything about the award prior to the parade.
“While we were building the float, we thought ‘I wonder if Delano and the Fourth of July Committee hand out any awards for effort,’” Harris said. “But we weren’t building it for that reason. We were building it for fun and for the DI program.”
The DI teams appreciate being chosen for the award because they spent so much time working on their float.
“It was icing on the cake for us because the whole thing was fun, and then we got the special award,” Harris said.
Harris has been involved in the DI program for 10 years, and both of his daughters are affiliated with local teams.
“I got started when my oldest daughter was in second grade,” Harris said. “She wanted to be a part of the team, so I volunteers to be a part of it. I have been involved ever since.”
According to Harris, the float for the Fourth of July parade was built mainly because of the help from volunteers.
“We are blessed to have a group of highly-motivated volunteer parents,” Harris said. “The float got built because of all the parents.”
The DI organization is one of the largest non-profit after-school programs for kids. According to Harris, the community of Delano should be proud of their local DI programs.
“Delano has a very rich history of having high-achieving teams in DI,” Harris said. “The kids have performed at a very high level.”
The goal of Harris and the local DI programs was simply to create a float that the people of Delano would enjoy.
“I know that when we were building the float, we were putting a great deal of effort into putting together a really nice and realistic float that the spectators would like looking at,” Harris said.
When it comes to being honored with the Bill Diem Chairman’s Award, Harris explained that the DI teams simply wish to serve their community.
“I think that the float reflects well on the community of Delano and the Fourth of July parade,” Harris said. “It keeps the interest of the spectators and brings people to Delano.”
For more information on DI, visit www.idodi.org.