By Starrla Cray
DELANO, MN Created by a group of parents representing the local Destination ImagiNation team, the year’s top float in Delano’s 4th of July parade was right on track.
The 13-foot tall wonder was modeled after the Hogwarts Express, a train in London featured in the Harry Potter movies.
“We walked around a lot and looked at all of them; this was by far and away the best one this year,” Brian Diem said.
Each year, Brian and his siblings, Tim, Kris, and Natalie, choose a float to receive the Bill Diem Memorial Chairman’s Award.
The honor was created in 2004, in memory of their father, Bill Diem, who served on Delano’s Fourth of July committee for 35 years before he passed away in 2003.
Destination ImagiNation also won the Bill Diem award in 2010, with its detailed pirate ship float.
“As long as they keep coming up with floats like that, I don’t see any reason why they wouldn’t keep winning,” Brian said.
Other past recipients have included the Delano American Legion, Delano royalty, Maple Grove royalty, Princeton royalty, Winsted royalty, Golden LivingCenter, and Brooklyn Park Tater Daze.
“We don’t do it to win; we do it for the challenge of doing it for the enjoyment of it,” Destination ImagiNation (DI) team manager Jeff Harris said.
In fact, Harris and the other volunteers hadn’t even planned to construct a new float this year, until they were approached by the Orono School District.
The school wanted help building a 3D Hogwarts Express train to use as a focal point decoration at the senior party, and offered to pay for construction materials.
After hearing that his team could keep the train after the party, and use it in the Fourth of July parade, Harris couldn’t resist.
“There was the opportunity staring us in the face,” he said.
In addition to Harris, the construction crew consisted of DI supporters Ben Pupp, Kristina Pupp, Scott Dallman, Ken Almquist, Brad Bruhn, Brian Frake, Mohsen Zadah, and Barbara Zadah.
“We would have loved to involve the kids, but we had very little time for coaching,” Harris said. “We only had five weeks.”
The train looks like it is peeking out of a tunnel, and was designed to be taken down and reassembled for storage purposes.
“Styrofoam, hardboard [high-density fiberboard], and wood are the main components,” Harris said. “We did our best to make it the size of a real train.”
Although creating a float to resemble the Hogwarts Express wasn’t easy, Harris said it was well worth the effort.
“We do this under the name Destination ImagiNation, because we believe in the program,” he said. “It teaches kids about creativity, teamwork, science, and real-world problem solving.”
Now that the parade is over, the float is being stored on the property of one of the builders.
“Finding storage for these things is our most difficult task,” Harris said, adding that he would love to be able to use an empty building in town in the future, if possible.
Despite storage challenges, Harris said he’s already looking forward to building another DI float.
“I would love to announce our next float, but it might take away from the effect when people see it at the parade,” he said. “I can’t wait for the public to see it. It will blow them away.”
To learn more about Destination ImagiNation, call Delano DI Coordinator Carley Boll at (763) 972-3365 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.