For 32 years, Iowa County has been honoring its bread-and-butter industry, agriculture, with a special day.
Iowa County Farmers Appreciation Day is always the second Sunday of July and features a big parade through downtown Dodgeville along with a variety of family-focused activities at one of the city’s parks. It is the city’s largest festival of the year.
I have always felt that it’s important to give back to a community by being involved in service organizations, so I have been a member of Kiwanis clubs (in Dodgeville and Eau Claire) for 36 years and of other groups from time to time. I was a member of the Farmers Appreciation Day Committee for a few years before we moved to Chippewa Falls in 1994, and I re-upped my membership when we moved back to Iowa County in 2003. As someone who has been involved in agriculture most of my life, I feel that serving on the FAD committee is a natural fit.
Each year, one or two people involved in agriculture in some way are asked to serve as grand marshals for the parade. It’s a good way to say thanks to someone who has been active in and supportive of the industry. Recipients have included businesspeople, farmers and community leaders.
You can imagine my surprise when I received a phone call in early June asking if I would accept the honor of being co-parade marshal at this year’s event with former Dodgeville mayor and county conservationist Jim McCaulley. I wasn’t sure whether I should accept or not — I know there are so many people who have done so much more than me — but after thinking about it a few days, I said yes, with a rationale that these opportunities don’t come along all that often.
As parade marshals, Jim and I rode through the parade in a horse-drawn wagon. When the photo of us in the wagon was posted on Facebook, one person commented that the wagon looked kind of like an old manure spreader. Maybe that was appropriate for a longtime journalist and a former politician!
The ride through the parade route was somewhat uncomfortable for me. Jim was mayor of Dodgeville for 20-plus years, so as a politician, he was used to being a public figure. He laughed, joked and waved at people and made the most of his moment in the sun. Me, not so much. I’m used to being on the other end of a camera, as a news reporter rather than a news maker. The recognition was nice, but let’s just say it felt kind of odd.
Truthfully, I was glad when the parade was over.
When I was dropped off at the park shelter after the parade, I was back in my element, co-chairing the food committee that organizes the lunch each year. Many of the people who line the streets for the downtown parade make their way to the park for a lunch that features steak sandwiches and hamburgers grilled by the Iowa County Cattlemen’s Association. Members of the Dodgeville Kiwanis Club, of which I am a member, serve the meal.
The event is a good way to say thanks to the farmers who work long hours to produce the food that magically appears on our table three times a day.
They are the people who are really deserving of recognition.
Jim Massey is The Country Today editor and covers news and writes feature stories in southern Wisconsin. He can be reached at email@example.com.