Episode 52

Published on:

25th Jul 2022

History of the West Bend Christmas Parade with Jeff Szukalski

Today, Jeff Szukalski of Jeff's Spirits on Main jumps into the studio to talk about the West Bend Christmas Parade. Yes, yes...Christmas in July and all of that. No, I didn't plan for this episode to land in July... it just matched up because their annual Jingle Bell Open golf outing fundraiser is coming up on Monday, August 1st.

Jeff talks about some of the really interesting history of the West Bend Christmas Parade, including the fact that it is Wisconsin's longest consecutively running Christmas Parade despite it almost shutting down twice.

This also marks the end of Season 1 of Fifteen Minutes with Fuzz. I'm going to take a break for the month of August so that I can spend some more time with my family before they all go back to school (including one of them heading off to college).

Thanks for listening this season and I'll talk to you again at the beginning of September.

Mentioned in this episode:

  • West Bend Christmas Parade - Home - Home of the West Bend Christmas Parade. Visit to learn more about the Jingle Bell Open, how to volunteer, and how to be a part of the parade.

If you like the show, please consider subscribing at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or Google Podcasts.

New episodes on Tuesday.

Thanks for listening!

Website • FacebookInstagram


Fuzz Martin 0:08

Hello 15 minutes family. I am Fuzz Martin and this is Fifteen Minutes with Fuzz—a show about the good stuff that's happening here in Washington County, Wisconsin. This is episode number 52. And it's a weekly podcast. So on paper I didn't miss a week, though I think I had one week where I skipped because I was sick. But then I did two in another week to make up for it. But you know, who's counting? Right? We did 52 episodes and here we are. And this week, Jeff Szukalski from Jeff's Spirits on Main joins me to talk about something that we're all thinking about here in the last week of July. The West Bend Christmas parade. There's actually a lot that goes into keeping the Christmas parade going each year and the parade committee's annual Jingle Bell Open is coming up. But Jeff and I are going to talk about some really interesting history about the parade and how they've kept it going all these years despite some challenges. And with that, here are 15 minutes on the history of the West Bend Christmas parade, with Jeff Szukalski from Jeff Spirits on Main right here on Fifteen Minutes with Fuzz.

Fuzz Martin 1:27

All right, Jeff, you're officially the final guest of my first season. This is the 52nd episode. And I haven't missed a week which is surprising to me because I was certain I was gonna miss a week in this this first year. But thank you for coming in today.

Jeff Szukalski 1:40

And Fuzz thank you for doing this 15 Minutes because this is a great idea.

Fuzz Martin 1:43

Oh, thank you very much. I appreciate it. We're here recording this episode at the end of July yet we're going to be talking about the West Bend Christmas parade. This has been something that's been very important to you How How did you get involved with this?

Jeff Szukalski 1:55

West Bend Christmas Parade in:

Fuzz Martin 3:21

And that's how you guys saved the parade from going away.

Jeff Szukalski 3:25

Yep. So we are the longest running parade right now.

Fuzz Martin 3:29

So how How did West Bend become the longest running parade? Because it's, it seems like a feat. You would think that some of the bigger cities may have had these longer,

Jeff Szukalski 3:38

Christmas parade. Started in:

Fuzz Martin 4:07

Talking about that sponsor money, and those kinds of things. People might be surprised on what it takes to run and break he tell us kind of what goes into that and why why so many funds are needed for something like that.

Jeff Szukalski 4:16

It all depends on the amount of in kind donations that we get each year. So the rate fluctuates on how much money it costs. But if we have to pay for everything, it's around 20 to $25,000. Okay, paying for the different music groups paying for some of the marching groups paying for the permits. It's, it's about a $20,000 parade.

Fuzz Martin 4:38

When did you say you joined this? How long ago was it?

Jeff Szukalski 4:40

2002. We took it over.

Fuzz Martin 4:42

Okay, so I would have been I know I was at the radio station for about two years. And I remember this being a story that was potentially going away. People were up in arms over it, but every time I've noticed, typically there'll be people who are up in arms over it and complaining about it and there's groups of people like you that that jump in and get it done. So it's great that you guys kept it going So who else is on the committee that runs that with you now, but as of today,

Jeff Szukalski 5:03

There's a long list, isn't it? Okay? Okay, so, the Husars — Mike and Mary and Dan Martin. Matt Rohlinger is on it Toby Netko, Sue Garmin Robbie Robrahn, Jean Rombrandt, Josie Brzezinski, my daughter, Sarah, my son Brian, Chris and Jim Merkel, Emily and Andrew Martin. People that helped us set it up in the past people. Steve Ciccantelli like I said, and Mike Hartwell, Kevin O'Meara helped us with financials at the very beginning. Very fine used to run the parade. Music for the parade. At the very beginning. There was also Mary Gamberdinger Teresa Ferbinger was part of the beginning. Heather Rogge was part of the beginning. Julie Sears from Januli's was part of the beginning Carol Klotz from Klotz's Piggly Wiggly was part of the beginning. So that's a that's about the whole list on who started it and who's still involved in it.

Fuzz Martin 5:59

The a big substantial list. Why was it so important for you to keep the parade running?

Jeff Szukalski 6:04

Family, small town, just, you know, I drive down the parade route for the parade starts bringing the honor guard up and seeing the people celebrating people going to their same spot every year. People going to the same restaurant. I mean, it's just a big thing. And it's just started the holiday season. And it's all about family.

Fuzz Martin 6:27

Yeah. Speaking of so when is the parade each year? I'm forgetting which week that is.

Jeff Szukalski 6:32


Fuzz Martin 8:36

Now, what goes into running the parade each year, like how when you guys start planning and things like that?

Jeff Szukalski 8:44

It doesn't start until late because it has to do with a lot of high school. I'm sure people Yep. And they don't go back to to work until the middle of August. We've got our we've got letters out and stuff like that. But like Matt Rohlinger takes care of the bands right now. And he contacts all the music departments in the area and tries to get the bands to join in. He has done a great job. Harry Fein did a great job before him. But until the schools and the churches and everybody are back in session, there's not much we can do. So it starts mid August, beginning of September. But it's hot and heavy until Yeah, right.

Fuzz Martin 9:29

Right up until the

Jeff Szukalski 9:30

Right right up until Sunday morning.

Fuzz Martin 9:32

And you guys also have, you know, a bunch of volunteers and stuff that help you out as well. Right?

Jeff Szukalski 9:37

Correct. We got about 25 volunteers that for the day of the parade, help that out.

Fuzz Martin 9:43

So helping out with like lineups and getting people where they need to go and those kind of things

Jeff Szukalski 9:47

and watching the intersections and last year was a little bit more.

Fuzz Martin 9:51

Oh yeah. Things that happened in other communities.

Jeff Szukalski 9:54

Yes, but you know, the city and the town and the highway department and the A Parks Department all chipped in, made it very safe changed, changed the philosophy of how we're going to run the parade. And it was a very comfortable parade last year, right?

Fuzz Martin:

The Jingle Bell Open is coming up. So this is airing starting on Monday the 25th. Now that's coming up that weekend. And on Saturday, the first is that still available for people to sign up?

Jeff Szukalski:

Monday the first.

Fuzz Martin:

Monday First Monday to Friday. Yes. So Monday the first. Is it? Can people still sign up for that? Is that full or

Jeff Szukalski:

You can still sign up for it? We are at Hon-e-Kor this year. Okay, we are somewhere between 130 and 160 golfers we'll have. Keith Novotny from Cousins is doing the lunch. Every year, we've had a great turnout every year we've had great weather. Knock on wood. But we've never canceled and we've raised a lot of money. Our goal is to have enough money in the coffers that anybody can take over this braid, and they're never going to have a financial difficulty. Great. We're getting older, as new people come in. They won't have to worry about the finances. They'll just have to worry about getting the floats on the road.

Fuzz Martin:

Yeah. And I think with any nonprofit in any organization or event, that's always the hardest part is the financials, the getting people to put boots on the ground is can still be difficult, but it's not as difficult as getting hands in pockets.

Jeff Szukalski:

Yeah. And you're involved in nonprofits also. It's like it's not the fun part of the job.

Fuzz Martin:

No, it's not. But that is the most important part, I think for keeping them going. So yes. If somebody wanted to sign up for the golf outing or a business or things how can they do so right?

Jeff Szukalski:

They can they can go right to WestBendChristmasParade.org. Go to the jbo registration, you can sign up right there.

Fuzz Martin:

Very good. And if people want volunteers and same place go WestBendChristmasParade.org I think - dot com / dot org, one of

Jeff Szukalski:

I think it's .com. Okay, they can sign up for the jingle bell to help out there, they can do that or call Jeff Spirits because I run the Christmas parage golf outing. Okay, So I'd be organizing that tell them where to go. Okay. Otherwise, if they want to help out with the Christmas parade itself, they can call Mike Husar at Husar's. Okay, and send it. They can also sign up online, on the contacts and ask questions there.

Fuzz Martin:

That sounds great. Well, Jeff, you do a lot for besides this for the local community. We appreciate that. We appreciate you coming on the show today. And thanks for keeping the parade running.

Jeff Szukalski:

Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Fuzz Martin:

And that'll do it for season one of Fifteen Minutes with Fuzz thanks again to Jeff Szukalski of Jeff Spirits on Main and the West Bend Christmas parade committee for joining me today. And also thanks to all my guests for joining me this past year. And thank you to you for listening. What's next for the show? Well, I'm going to take the month of August off so no new episodes between now and the beginning of September. I'm going to regroup spend some more time with the family. Before Shanna and our girls head back to the respective classrooms for either work or education, respectively. I'll be back with Season Two in September. In the meantime, please listen to some back episodes at fifteenwithfuzz.com or on your favorite podcast player, whatever that might be Apple, Google Spotify. Good Pods, and we'll talk to you again in September, right here on Fifteen Minutes with Fuzz. Thanks for listening.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Show artwork for Fifteen Minutes with Fuzz

About the Podcast

Fifteen Minutes with Fuzz
Showcasing the positive things happening in Washington County, Wisconsin.
Fifteen Minutes with Fuzz is sheds light on all the great things going on in and around Washington County, Wisconsin. The host, Fuzz Martin, is a local business owner (EPIC Creative) and a former radio personality (92.5 WBWI - now Buzz Country). New episodes launch on Tuesday mornings. https://fifteenwithfuzz.com

Whether you're in West Bend, Kewaskum, Slinger, Hartford, Germantown, Richfield, Jackson, or anywhere else in the area, 15 Minutes with Fuzz serves the community with fun and positive people, places, events, and attractions.

About your host

Profile picture for Fuzz Martin

Fuzz Martin

Fuzz Martin is a partner and Chief Strategy Officer at EPIC Creative in West Bend, Wis.