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A look back at the Onion Festival Parade

Bill Warner
December 13, 2018
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Welcome to another Bill’s History Corner. I wish we could go back in time. If we could, one of the places I’d want to go to is the Nappanee Onion Festival. This picture was taken at one of the Onion festivals from 1908 to 1913. I don’t know which one of the Festivals this picture comes from, as there were several onion Festivals during this time period. Perhaps a study of the Nappanee News would give an indication of the exact date of this Parade.

Onion Festival

       The subject of this photo is the “C.Z.M. PARADE, NAPPANEE IND.” or the Coppes, Zook, & Mutschler log wagon Parade. I can see 7-8 wagons with full loads of logs being paraded through the mass of people. Each wagon has one man sitting on the top log driving the horses, while other men are riding. Another picture we have in the collection (may be the same festival) has parade wagons loaded with furniture made at the Coppes, Zook & Mutschler factories. Hope you can get a good look at this photo because there is a huge amount of detail going on in this picture.

       As usual, I have lots of questions and a few observations. My first question is how in the world did they load those big logs onto the wagons? This was an age before machines like the skid steer. It would have been a massive amount of work to construct ramps and roll each log on the wagon by hand. It seems that the standard dress for the men was coat and tie plus a hat. While women wore white, some with hats, some not. Wonder what time of the year this was. After the summer harvest?

You can see the upper floor of the Coppes Hotel over the top of the middle wagon. Near the intersection, where our post office is now, is the ramp of a Dare Devil that made a flying leap while sitting in a small padded box with wheels. Amusingly, the leap was successful every time. American flags and bunting adorn the building and wires. Wonder what the camera person was standing on and what kind of camera was used to get such a good clear picture. I also wonder if any of the people in the front rows had their toes crushed under the wagon wheels. If you were there then, where would you be standing? I think that I would want to be looking out of one of the 2nd-floor windows of the Coppes Hotel.

Side Note with a Request for Help: 

We are looking for information on former 1950s Coppes employee  Earnest Masterson. Apparently Earnest supplemented his income by building electric guitars. Any help would be welcomed. Just email Thank you!