Even though there are a few local volunteer groups and even one from outside of East Peoria, festival organizer John Broshears said they can always use more help.
Students from East Peoria Community High School and Manual High School help prepare the lighted floats for the annual parade in East Peoria.
On Oct. 22, Jim Robertson of Hollis Park District was at the Festival Building talking to Broshears about lending a hand.
Members of Hollis Park District in Mapleton helped with the floats last year as well.
“It was kind of a neat thing to be involved in,” Robertson said. We have a tree lighting. ... We would love someday to have a float or two of our own,” he said.
Broshears said he would like to see businesses, colleges and industries involved with the Festival of Lights.
Broshears said he would also like to see a new float be built with students participating in a contest to come up with the design concept.
That decision would be up to city officials.
This year, city officials have invested in the Festival of Lights in a variety of ways, such as purchasing 24 new generators and a welder.
“This year the city's invested $40,000,” said Dan Cunningham, director of tourism, special events and facilities.Other improvements are being made such as the mechanical controllers on the floats being updated, making the floats digital instead of mechanical. Broshears said the new controllers will allow them to have a light display that is more precise.
“You don't get the blur,” he said, adding that the new controllers also use less power.
It takes Broshears an entire day to convert one controller, he said.
Other improvements being made include cleaning up old wiring left over from when the floats were converted to LED lights and a newer truck put on the fire engine float, which was donated by Bessler Welding in East Peoria.
Ilva McBrayer, who works at EastSide Centre, has also been working at the Festival Building. She is going to establish some volunteer work nights in which people can come and work on the floats.
Broshears said he has a handful of regulars who help with the floats, but they also need additional help.
One of the new regular volunteers is Virgil Hauk of Peoria.
“He lost his wife last year so he's volunteering to keep himself busy,” Broshears said.
On Oct. 22, Hauk was putting new orange rope lighting on a float.
“It makes my mind active and gives me something to do with my hands,” Hauk said.
Broshears said that Hauk takes a lot of pride in his work and is meticulous.
In addition to feeling a sense of satisfaction for a job well done, Hauk also enjoys the fellowship with the other Festival volunteers. Broshears said Wally Jacquet and Hauk have become friends and go out to eat together.
Page 2 of 2 - “I like it. It's fun. I like coming down and visiting with the guys. The camaraderie's nice,” Broshears said.
The parade takes place Nov. 23. To volunteer, call 231-0345 or 427-7665.