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Last hurrah for Fish Day float ladies PDF Print E-mail
Daily News
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM   
Wednesday, 12 July 2017 18:09

Red Hat Society members say that after 15 years of fan-favorite parade entries, this year’s will be the last

    For the past 15 years — ever since the group was formed — Port Washington’s Red Hat Society has had a float in the Fish Day parade.
    The floats have been a crowd favorite, infusing humor with the Fish Day theme, and have won the first or second-place trophy virtually every year.
    But this Fish Day will be the group’s final float.
    “I know it’s sad, but we’re all getting older,” said charter member Bonnie Knaub. “It’s getting harder to get up on the trailer. We’re all getting artificial knees and all this stuff.”
   Red Hat Society s3071017074 4C It was a difficult decision for the club, she added.
    “We really love this,” said Barb Janeshek, another 15-year member of the club. “We have so much fun, and the crowd looks for us. We really get the people going.”
    The group is such a Fish Day tradition that the parade coordinator  tells the club, “I can’t wait to see you girls. You always do such a good job,” Janeshek said.
    The Red Hat floats started when members decided to try and infuse some homespun flavor into the Fish Day parade.
    “When we started, we said nobody’s putting a float in the parade,” Knaub said. “So we decided to do that. We hoped other groups would follow.”
    For the first couple years, she said, the group built its float in the driveway at member Pat Pride’s house.
    That first float contained a big red hat made of chicken wire, Janeshek said, with a picnic table as its base.
    “We won first place our first year,” she said proudly.
    After a few years, Bill Ciriacks Sr. — and later his son Bill — of Lakeland Cartage in Port offered his facility to the club as a place to store its materials and assemble the float.
    “He just loved it so much, he offered to give us the space,” Knaub said. “He thought it was great.”
    “We were his girls,” Janeshek added, noting Ciriacks would host a lunch for the group after the parade. “He was always there for us.”
    One year, she said, the group created a boat for its float and named it “Bill’s girls” as a tribute to him.
    Club members brainstorm ideas for the floats, making sure to follow the parade theme. There have been many memorable floats through the years, the women said.
    Both Knaub and Janeshek said one of their favorite floats celebrated the popular red Solo cup, a staple at parties and gatherings.
    Two women were dressed as red Solo cups, Janeshek said, and her hat was decorated with them. The song by Toby Keith played as the women traveled along the parade route.
    “As we were going down the route, you  looked out and everybody on the float and along the street had a red Solo cup in their hand,” Knaub said. “It was just perfect.”
    Another favorite, the women said, was a James Bond-themed float.
    “We had this beautiful purple car on it that had no insides,” Knaub said, as well as a boat and airplane on the float.    
    A cutout of James Bond and a bevy of Bond girls completed the float.
    “We have a lot of favorites,” Janeshek said.
    She recalled one year when the group built a lighthouse out of cardboard, added a pier and tiki bar.
    For Fish Day’s 50th anniversary, the group did a gold float, and member Donna Call dressed as the Smith Bros. fisherman gilded in gold.
    “She had everything down pat,” Janeshek said. “It was exactly like the Smith Bros. sign.”
    The float was a globe one year, she said, with each member on it representing a different country to follow the theme “Find Your Way to Port Washington for Fish Day.”
    Last year, when the theme was “Fishmas in Port,” the float had a winter theme complete with Santa and snowmen, as well as lollipops made of pool noodles.
    This year, the club will loosely follow the theme “Gotta Hook ’Em to Cook ’Em,” the women said, being careful not to reveal  any secrets about the entry.
    “No, I can’t tell you about it,” Janeshek said. “We’re just going to do something different this year. We have all sorts of goofy stuff we’re going to do.”
    Constructing the float is a time-consuming process, the women said.    
    “It takes a lot of work,” Knaub said. “But we have some really creative members.”
    “We do all the work ourselves,” Janeshek said proudly. “We know how to use screwdrivers and hammers.”
    The float is put together largely with dollar-store items, and traditionally sports a red and purple skirt — as well as plenty of duct tape.
    But the work is worth it, the women said.
    “When we’re on that float and we hear all the cheers and claps, it makes us feel good we can still do this at our age,” Knaub said.
    “It’s really awesome to see the people,” Janeshek said. “It’s really cool to make them feel good, and it makes us feel good too.”
    Knowing this is the last year adds a new dimension to the festival.
    “It’s bittersweet the float is ending,” Knaub said. “But the group is still together, and that’s what’s important.”
    And, she added, the club may participate in the parade in other ways.
    “A couple years ago I said, ‘I’m going to rent a big boat like the one the (Fish Day) committee rides,’” Knaub said. “You never know.”     
    But Janeshek, who said she knows she’s going to cry during the parade knowing it’s her last, isn’t giving up on the idea that there may still be another float in the group’s future.
    “I’m going to try to talk them into another year,” she said. “I’ll beg if I have to. It’s just so much fun.”