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  • Last modified 16 days ago (Oct. 4, 2017)

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The definitive best ever?

It’s time once again to proclaim this year’s Old Settlers’ Day the “best ever,” and this year that’s an easy task, indeed.

It’s not been so easy each year I’ve carried out this task, because there’s no doubt that up until now, 1973 truly was the best ever Old Settlers’ Day. Really. Truly.

It was so because of the most fantastic, most amazing float in the history of Marion County, one that put those pretenders in that New Year’s Day parade in Pasadena to shame.

Babies who hadn’t yet uttered their first words exclaimed “Wow! Look at that!” as it went past — the crazed gesticulations of their astounded parents were so comical that people mistook them for a scattered troupe of acrobats and clowns.

To this very day, people still buzz about it over beef burgers in the park. It’s a time-honored OSD badge of honor to say, “I was there when that float went by in ’73.”

Never before and never since have chicken wire, lumber, napkins, and crepe paper been combined in such a preposterous and whimsical ode to the great heritage of our hometown, or indeed, of humankind itself.

By now, those who weren’t there surely are ready to give their eye teeth and their firstborn away to know what it was, so I’ll tell you, although words can’t begin to give justice to the grandeur.

The most fantabulous float ever was (drum roll, please): A giant, farm-trailer-length hot dog!

Yes, you read that right, the venerable tube steak, recreated in all its mustard-and-ketchup-coated glory with dainty tufts of crepe paper painstakingly stuffed one by one into its chicken-wire skeleton, and a fluffy skirt around the trailer proclaiming, “Hot dog, we’re proud of our heritage!”

Makes your mouth water just imagining it, doesn’t it? Word on the street was that the hospital auxiliary’s beef burger sales plummeted 60 percent that day, people were so hot dog crazy after the parade.

And who were the brilliant, visionary creators of this first-place masterpiece for the ages?

Why, MY high school sophomore class, of course!

However, all good things must come to an end.

We thought we’d seen it all until Saturday. Then, one of my personal favorite Old Settlers set the crowd a-twitter (the old-style twittering, of course) with a best-ever stunt that may never have been seen before: A four-legged race.

Once the head of the publishing company that still bears her family name, soon-to-be 95-year-old Nadine Hoch was back for an early birthday celebration with hundreds of her family, friends, and former neighbors.

She’s as delightful as ever, but in a nod to Father Time, she uses a cane to help her get around these days.

While not up to a former president’s stunt of birthday skydiving, Nadine latched onto granddaughter Hannah and a gunny sack and was off to the races. In went Nadine’s left leg and Hannah’s right, and with cane in hand, the dynamic duo lined up for the three-legged race.

With the crowd cheering and clapping hands, starter Alex Case gave the four-legged racers a head start. Few paid much attention to the other racers blazing by; they remained transfixed on something special unfolding before their eyes.

There were plenty of high fives to go around at the finish line. Someone pulled up a chair for Nadine, and she sat, although she looked fresh enough to make the trek all the way to Luta Creek.

Marion Kiwanis Club sure did this year’s edition up right, with a little help from the hundreds of people who showed up.

It would have been a good day anyway, but to witness for the first time in my almost 60 years a four-legged race? That sets this one apart, at the top of the heap. It just doesn’t get any better than that.

— david colburn

Last modified Oct. 4, 2017

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