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A bespoked library float
JOHN GIBBS UNIQUE BIG WHEEL library float was a big hit at the recent Gays Mills Apple Festival parade. The float was dedicated to support for the Gays Mills Public Library.

GAYS MILLS - Bespoke: custom-made; dealing in or producing custom-made articles; a bespoke tailor.

Bespoke is a great word and one not seen or heard very often. However, it seems to fit a parade ‘float’ that appeared in the 2017 Apple Festival Parade. Technically, it wasn’t really a float in the normal sense of the word: no crepe paper or bunting was involved in the making of this float. It was more of an entry, shall we say.  

Actually, the entry was not custom-made, but was a re-purposed thing. It did have spoke,s so I guess we can say it was bespoked.  And the spokes were used to good advantage in promoting the Gays Mills Library. 

The thing was an eight-foot steel reel. The kind used to carry and un-spool the thick orange plastic tubing that carries underground electrical lines when it is buried. You’ve probably seen hundreds of the reels being transported on trucks or being used by cable crews, and likely never paid them no never mind.

The reel is made out of heavy 1 and 3/8-inch square steel tubing.  It stands eight-feet tall and the wheels are four-feet apart. It is connected by eight cross pieces which are bolted to the 8 spokes.

I “saved” the wheel from the scrap heap, when I bought it from Ronnie, a cable guy, for $5.  It was quite a buy by the pound; it probably weighs 150 pounds.  There is a lot of good useable steel in it that could be made into all kinds of things, if a guy had a welder and a good imagination.   But I saw it as a toy for our seven-year old grandson, Bodhi, when he came to visit.

Bodhi loved the wheel and took right to it. It’s like a mobile Jungle Gym. Many adults have tried it out and have all enjoyed the experience as they stepped along on the cross pieces and made the wheel turn. We call it the human hamster wheel and it has one moving part: the human inside.

Way back in my memory bank, I recall seeing a wheel just like this one in a parade. And for the last two years, there has been a picture in the Wisconsin State Journal of a man using just such a wheel in the St. Patrick Day Parade in Madison. So the idea of having the BIG WHEEL in a parade wasn’t original. 

I found a couple of brave and adventurous local lads, Dylan Finnell and Hunter Robinson, who were willing to operate the wheel in the Apple Festival Parade.  Cindy Kohles, a long-time library supporter, painted the signs, and voile! We had a parade entry. I zip-tied the signs to the spokes and engineered a way for the sign in the center hub to rotate and remain readable. Patent not pending.

In the off-season, in other words 99.7 percent of the time, I lay the wheel on its side and put a metal roof on it to make a low de facto shed - great for storing the twelve barrels I use in charcoal making. I fantasize about using the wheel as a human powered electric generator somehow - fodder for some over-the-winter Rube Goldberg-type creations.

Whatever happens, you can probably count on seeing the BIG WHEEL again in future parades.