Farm Progress

A lust for rust

Slideshow: The World’s Greatest Junk Parade in Jefferson County, Wis., celebrates old manure spreaders and other discarded debris.

Harlen Persinger

January 4, 2018

6 Slides

Last Labor Day, weekend activities got downright ugly on the road between Rome and Sullivan, Wis. In an unfashionable, friendly and spirited competition, some of the most repulsive and peculiar-looking vehicles from the surrounding area creeped, backfired, chugged and even broke down as they rolled along the pavement during the World’s Greatest Junk Parade.

“This bizarre event, quite possibly the only one of its kind, was a classic highlight in the 1970s and 1980s,” says Heidi Buchberger, committee member. “But it was announced that 2016 would be the final year for the parade.” Buchberger, Sullivan, didn’t want to see the tradition die. So a new committee was formed and raised enough money to continue in 2017.

About 45 floats registered for the parade. Cash prizes and custom-made trophies, designed by local resident Carl Anderson, were awarded to the winning entries. After the parade, floats were available for viewing at the park and adjacent school. For their help and the valuable assistance they provide throughout the year, the fire departments from each community received $2,000 each. The committee hopes to raise more funds for the Sullivan Elementary School and local emergency services, as well as other town outreach programs and events.

As discarded piles of tin and other junk passed down Sullivan’s packed main street, Buchberger says some of the creativity was certainly off the charts. “Folks draw on their imagination to fashion, staple, tie, compress and blend pieces together anyway they can. But most everything is just plain junk. From all the oohs and aahs, the crowd enjoys seeing things from a bygone era,” she says.

For more information, go to junkparade.com or the Facebook events page. Check out the slideshow to see some photos from the 2017 event.

Persinger writes from Milwaukee, Wis.

About the Author(s)

Harlen Persinger

Harlen Persinger is a photojournalist who lives in Milwaukee. Since 2004, he has freelanced for regional and national farm publications such as Wisconsin Agriculturist and Farm Industry News, plus many others.

Persinger grew up on a farm in Grundy County, Iowa. He received a degree in ag journalism from Iowa State University in 1972. He has traveled to more than 40 countries and has been a member of the American Agricultural Editors’ Association (now Agricultural Communicators Network) since 1976. In 2016, he was the first photojournalist/freelancer to receive the organization's Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2017, Persinger began providing college scholarships to 4-H’ers from his home county who have an interest in photography/journalism and agriculture. He was inducted into the Iowa 4-H Hall of Fame in 2023.

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