Throwback Thursday: ‘Pet gorilla’ steals the show

Monkey Business: Dr. Hassel’s ‘pet gorilla’ and his five-unit float captured first place in the Bremen Firemen’s Festival Parade.
Holly Heller
Former Managing Editor

This story about the first-place winning Firemen’s Festival Parade float appeared in The Bremen Enquirer 15 years ago this week.

Dr. Hassel wins first place in Firemen’s Festival Parade

Dr. C.E. Hassel’s “pet gorilla” stole the show at the Firemen’s Festival Parade on Wednesday night.
Hassel’s elaborate five-unit float was awarded first place in the parade.
“We had quite a unit. The crazier, the better I suppose,” Hassel said. “I enjoy it and I think the people enjoy it. We had a grand time.”
A vintage pickup truck driven by Hassel’s uncle, Al Hiatt, hauled the children wearing gorilla masks and proclaimed “Beware! Dr. Hassel’s Pet Gorilla is Coming.”
Next came a large truck driven by Phyllis and Jeff Grove, Hassel’s cousins. A sign on the truck read “Wyatt Feed and Grain and Gorilla Food.”
The ever-popular “tooth fairy,” Shelleigh Studebaker, rode on the next unit, a 1965 Chevy driven by her husband, Kevin.
The highlight of the ensemble was Dr. Hassel’s “pet gorilla,” who lead a 24-piece band in playing “The Grand Old Flag” from atop a flatbed semi truck provided by Digger Specialties, who donated fencing and trellis for the float.
“Animal trainer” Norma Boyer kept the mischievous gorilla in line.
“Every time the gorilla would get off looking at the kids she would get him back with a whip,” Hassel said.
The final section of Hassel’s float featured two professionally dressed clowns, Keith and Gail Hardy.
“The kids just loved them,” Hassel said.
The local dentist reported over 4,000 toothbrushes were given away during this year’s parade, along with plenty of sugar-free candy.
In Hassel’s 15 years of entertaining the Firemen’s Festival Parade, this is only his second first place win.
“Each year we learn better how to do it and each year we have more fun,” he said.
Second place went to Bright Beginnings Daycare and Preschool for their patriotic “Happy Birthday, USA” float that featured the Statue of Liberty and the Liberty Bell. Children wore patriotic hats of red, white and blue and sang “Happy Birthday” in front of the judges and lit sparklers
Owner Sharon Forte oversaw the artistry of the float, as she has the past two years, helping Bright Beginnings earn a second place in 1999 and first place in 1998.
“We love it!” Forte said. “We love to place and we have fun doing it. The kids like it, that’s why we do it. They get really excited about it.”
Salem Daycare took third place this year with their “Good Ship Lollipop” float.
“It had a red, white and blue sail and the wagon looked like a boat in the water,” explained Beth Fraine, director. “We pulled several smaller wagons behind, and one of them was supposed to be like a dingy boat.”
There were 53 children on the float, ranging from infants to fourth graders, who wore sailor hats and red Salem Daycare T-shirts.