Harold Rosendahl
Harold Rosendahl

VAN WERT – Van Wert's 95-year-old resident Harold Rosendahl remembers the first time he marched in the Peony Festival parade. It was 80-years ago when he marched in the Convoy band. At that time, said Rosendahl, there were two parades on Saturday, one in the afternoon and one in the evening.

“I remember one year when it rained out both parades,” said Rosendahl, who stood at the corner of Washington and Main Streets on Saturday and reflected on the 2019 parade.

Rosendahl joined the rest of one of the largest crowds of spectators in recent times to salute the American Flag to the singing of the “Star Bangled Banner.” Saturday’s event was overcast and a little threatening as Old Glory flapped in a stiff southeast breeze. Thankfully, any encroaching raindrops waited until later in the day.

“I have every book from 1932 on,” said Rosendahl. “One year they didn’t print any. I’m not sure why.

“This was one of the largest crowds I’ve seen here in a long time,” said Rosendahl. “I think that the comfortable weather probably had something to do with it.”

Rosendahl said that one thing he has always appreciated over the years has been the way that the festival brings the community together.

He noted that all types of organizations, ages and backgrounds are always represented in the parade.

Among some of those this year were the Ohio City American Legion, Van Wert Police Department, Van Wert Fire Department, American Legion Riders, the Unknown Soldier statue created by Vantage students several years ago, Cougar Pride Band, Lincolnview Lancer Band, Central Insurance fire display, Queen Pageant float, Red Cross, Christian Radio WBCL and the respectful sounds of bagpipes.

In addition to many commercial and religious organizations, other floats bringing the community together included the Humane Society, Operation Christmas Child, Girl Scouts celebrating 75 years, Ridgeville Hospital and Middle Point Fire Department.

“Lots of people get to see each other that don’t see each other that much,” said Rosendahl. “For some people, it’s the only time they gather for something like this.

“It really brings people to town,” continued Rosendahl, who has lived in the same house by the airport for 65 years.

One of the impressive sidelights of the physical aspects of Saturday’s parade was the performance of the police department, especially the officers who kept traffic flowing on Washington Street at Main Street at each break. At the end of the parade, because of their proficiency, there was no backup on Washington.

Rosendahl noted that the first 14 years of his life were spent growing up near Pontiac, Illinois. When his father was killed, everything was changed and a move to Van Wert County made a big difference in his life.

“I love this county and all of my friends. When you see the people still salute the flag, pay respect to military floats and come together like this, it makes a fellow feel proud to be raised in this area. This parade is a reminder of all of that, “said Rosendahl, who is approaching a century of living.