By David Nordby
The Brillion News
BRILLION – Bipolar weather didn’t stop Brillion Fest from being a success this past weekend.
On Friday night, the Brillion Optimist Club’s highly anticipated Electric Parade, and unofficial kickoff to Saturday’s events, was cancelled for just the second time in 22 years.
With a tornado warning in Appleton and severe lightning storms coming to the area parade co-chairs Sarah Pielhop and Ryan Hale had little decision left but to cancel the parade.
“I looked at Ryan and I said ‘we’re done,’” Pielhop said.
A similar tornado-warning scenario had cancelled the parade a few years back.
The parade had originally been scheduled to start at 9 p.m. but was pushed back to 8:30 p.m. at around 11 a.m. on Friday in hopes that the storms would stay away until the parade could get through.
“We can’t really do a rain date because of all the different festivals,” Pielhop said referring to the participating bands. “They’re all in different locations by Saturday.”
Word-of-mouth and other avenues helped the majority of those know that the parade was starting earlier, but the backup plan never came to fruition.
The weather had looked good prior in the week but storms came on the radar as the parade approached.
“We were surprised too,” Pielhop said. “We were monitoring it the whole day.”
Last year, the rain also was on the forecast but didn’t come until 2 a.m., much like Pielhop and company hoped would happen this year.
A contingency plan has been discussed involving the floats where they could be part of Brillion Fest’s events on Saturday.
A heavy downpour ensued with lightning lighting up the sky as police assisted traffic as people ran for cover.
“We wouldn’t have been able to do this without the Police Department,” Pielhop said. “They were organized and they got everybody out of there.”
Once the storm passed, many who stuck around filled the bars and parking lots on Main Street not to let the rain ruin their parade night.
Many residents from Brillion, Reedsville and surrounding areas converged, including Ethel’s Pub and Grill which celebrated their first year anniversary in Brillion.
Despite the parade being cancelled the Optimists were still able to raise around the same amount of money in the 50/50 raffle as they did two years ago. This year’s money will go to the indoor splash pad that’s set to break ground this fall.
Many of the bands have offered to give part of their pay back to the Optimist Club citing their understanding of unpredictable weather.
Pielhop said the Optimist Club learned this weekend, more than ever, how tight knit the community is.
“That was the coolest thing about this whole thing, there’s a lot of really awesome people and just to see how everybody shines in different ways was pretty cool,” Pielhop said.
Please see the complete story on Brillion Fest weekend in the June 16, 2016 edition of The Brillion News. A complete photo gallery of Brillion Fest can also be found in the issue.