The tables were turned for Randy and Nancy Gagnow this year. Instead of taking the wheel as dignitary escorts in the annual St. Pat’s Grand Parade, the couple took a back seat as 2013 Grand Marshals.
“The parade has been nothing but fun for us each year,” says Nancy, recalling their volunteerism in the parade. They participate by using their 1999 Trans Am to help transport dignitaries from Pearl to Water streets.
“We never expected to receive this honor,” says Randy. “It blew us away.” Nancy reported that they hadn’t a speck of Irish blood between them. “We found out that didn’t matter at all.”
“It was an easy choice for the Shamrock Club when their name came up as possible Grand Marshals,” said Shamrock Club Parade Director Jill Hart. “The Gagnow’s are well-known and respected for the many, many volunteer hours given to this community.”
Those volunteer hours include working at numerous benefits, charity fundraisers and community events. The New London Area Chamber of Commerce has acknowledged Nancy for being a great Chamber Ambassador and for contributing countless hours to the Cheese and Sausage Fall Family Fest. “I recall some years of getting up way before the sun did,” says Nancy. “I met Caroldean Affeldt on Water Street to paint booth numbers on the curb.” She giggles as she recalls how precise the stenciling task was. “Now they just use a can of spray paint and they’re done in no time.”
Both Randy and Nancy attribute their community involvement to the example all of their parents provided. Randy’s dad, Herman, was mayor of the city for two terms in the 1970s, and loved this community.
One year the couple heard through the grapevine that a single mother was really struggling to make ends meet. She had undergone a double lung transplant, and had no way of providing any kind of Christmas for her children. The Gagnow’s went straight out and bought presents and trimmings for the family. Randy put on a Santa suit and shocked the family when they answered a knock on their door. “What a great Christmas WE had!” says Randy.
Acknowledged this year by the Shamrock Club for their great work, the Gagnow’s enjoyed a bird’s-eye view of the 2013 parade. “We’ve never seen the rest of the parade before!” explained Randy. “We always drop off our dignitaries and run the car back to the storage unit.”
As they settled into their chairs, they chatted with other parade dignitaries as they filed in. They were soon watching the parade unfold, and approached the Best of Show Award judging with keen eyes and concentration. The couple agreed there were many entries that stood out for them. “It must have been hard for the judges, too,” says Randy, referring to Dave Rusch, Kent Rusch and Linda Huntley of Cline-Hanson Funeral Homes.
With the 2013 parade theme “Community on Parade” they all saw many local entries display their creativeness while highlighting their business or service. Civic groups also supplied impressive entries.
The Fehlberg Memorial Ride entry was an invitation for parade goers to support our Veterans. A huge Army vehicle pulled a wagon. On it were veterans of World War II to present day. “Proud to be an American” played up and down the street.
The antics of actors portraying movie characters for the Grand Cinema Theatres float were a favorite for everyone. Over a sound system, the theatre announced the next movie showing. All of the characters ran to the “theatre” wagon, sitting on old theatre seats, eating popcorn and watching the big screen.
But the real standout to the Gagnow’s — the Best of Show Award – went to R Sports 4 U, a business located on Highway 45 north. “They built this huge castle,” says Randy, “that must have taken them hours to do. And it looked great.” The castle turret yielded a surprise as it shot confetti out to the crowd.
Prior to Saturday’s Grand Parade, the Gagnow’s attended week night Shamrock Club events. “I had my very first corned beef and cabbage at The Waters,” says Nancy. “It was really good. And the family entertainment night at the high school was awesome. Randy and I thought the Irish dancers were incredible.” They were excited to be introduced as Parade Marshals in a nearly full auditorium. They were able to meet Irish Rose and Irish Man Ruth and Mike Barrington, the Lad and Lassie and others.
“We just never came out to see all of this,” says Nancy. “It’s a really neat deal.”