For most of my childhood, my parents owned a small meat locker in my hometown called C&C Processing. The business grew over the years from just a small grocery store, to doing deer processing, then beef and pork processing for local farmers, then specialty meat products and private label production of various snack sticks and jerky. Several years ago, they sold the business they'd been growing in my hometown to my aunt & uncle, and moved their operations to a larger facility in Beatrice under the name Landmark Snacks.

As responsible community-minded small-town business owners, my parents had a float entry in the town's annual festival each year. The festival, the Diller Picnic, is a long-running and proud tradition. 2024 will be the 127th Diller Picnic!

The floats in the small town parades I have been to in southeast Nebraska (and I've been to a lot - once you have the float you might as well take it around to all the other town's festivals, too, and some years if we didn't take our float, we'd take the Diller Community Club or the Foundation float for my parents to drive through & my sister to sit on the trailer and wave from) tend to be pretty high quality in my experience. People really go all-out on decorating their trailer or coming up with an interesting way to get down the street for the parade. It's a very different aesthetic than you'll see at the parades they show on TV on holidays, or even the ones I've seen since moving to Lincoln. It's distinctive, and a whole lot of work for the people involved, and pretty dang fun to watch or participate in.

Photos provided by my dad, used here with permission.

a float on a trailer where it's like a football field but the ground is wavy, and there are big bottles of a drink called All Sport. Several 90s people are standing around. The date on the photo says 87 as the year.
Pictured here is one of my parents' first floats - the date on the photo reads 87, but this had to be mid 1990s actually, because that's when they bought the store, and also, that little infant car seat balanced on top of two stacked coolers is probably how I got to the parade line-up that year. I believe the wavy football field was a reference to a TV commercial that had been popular that year.

The 90s Diller Picnics (and possibly in to the early 2000s; I'm not sure when they stopped) included an event that I barely remember but still hold extremely fond feelings towards: bathtub races. In these races.. there was a bathtub? Which had been decorated, and needed to be raced down main street while carried by the race team. It's possible these pictures were from 1997, in which search results for a paywalled newspaper archive suggest my dad was the contact person for that year's bathtub races at the Picnic.

4 guys in white tee shirts carry a bathtub, getting ready to carry it while running presumably
The team featured here was apparently called the Screaming Sea-Men.
people stand around their bathtub
Is someone riding in there? Is that safe?

After my parents started making hotdogs (dyed bright red, in southeast Nebraska tradition), a custom built hotdog schlinging machine became an integral part of our floats for many years. In fact, my aunt and uncle are still putting the contraption on their own Picnic floats! The thing consisted of an old metal tractor seat (wide base with rounded-up sides) as the seat, attached to a post. Pedaling the bike pedals cause the post to rotate for 360 degrees of hot dog range over the crowd. The rider loads hot dogs (warm, with bun, wrapped in foil and sealed with a stick-on label) into a slingshot and then launches ("schlings" as in "weiner schlinger") them into the crowd from on high. This contraption has been mounted on many different vehicles over the years, generally thematically appropriate to that year's official parade theme.

a bright yellow truck pulls a pretty bare-bones trailer that has a slingshot contraption mounted on the back, with a guy riding the contraption with feet on the pedals, about to launch a hot dog
An early float (maybe actually 2001, as the photo shows?) was not very thematically interesting, but was perhaps the first proof of concept of the homemade hot dog schlinger. My mom says this one was so boring because the locker was under construction that year, in one of many expansions. She thinks the plywood part probably said "Under construction -- again!"
a green combine has cut-out pig shapes along the rotating head in front, and the hot dog slingshot thing mounted on back. lots of people are standing in other places on the combine
By 2005, our heroes were a bit more ambitious, and attached the schlinger to a combine, which was styled as a supposed sausage machine, with pig cut-outs going in the rotating combine head and hot dogs apparently coming out the back.
a red truck pulls a float labeled C&C Beach Party. There are lots of people on or around it, and a guy in a Hawaiian shirt about to launch a hot dog from the slingshot seat
There were several variations on a beach party theme over the years.
a different beach party themed float which also had the schlinger mounted. no people in this photo.
This one was in 2003.
the slingshot seat thing is now inside a large palm tree statue on a float
This one had a giant palm tree with the contraption in the middle. Neat!
an old car has been painted in camo colors, even the windows. A guy in a camo jacket and helmet is sticking out the sunroof, and there's a fake cannon over the hood. The hot dog slingshot is mounted over the trunk with a camo-clad rider about the launch a hot dog
There was this old car styled like a tank for some reason.
A van painted in floral hippie colors has a guy sitting in a lawn chair on top of it. The guy is reaching into a cooler. A blonde teenager in a hippie outfit walks alongside the van.
A few floats did not include the hot dog slingshot, and instead included such delights as: my dad tossing out hot dogs while sitting in a lawn chair on top of a moving van painted in hippie florals.
a green jeep with open sides and top has a gigantic picnic basket in the back
There was a "What's in Your Picnic Basket" float with a bear who would steal hotdogs out of the giant picnic basket and be chased by people in park service uniforms.
a person in a park ranger uniform talks to a person in a bear costume
Bear just wants to have some delicious hot dogs!

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jw jw

@cassey Part of my family is from Butte Nebraska, where Pancake Days is an annual festival. I fell out of the habit of going but have been making the trip the past few years again. The parade route goes right in front of the family house. And there are... source

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