HARTINGTON — Downtown glowed, shining bright with holiday spirit Friday night with every kind of vehicle decked out for the Candlelight Christmas annual lighted vehicle parade.
Trucks, vans, utility terrain vehicles, golf carts, boats, buses, snowmobiles and even a bicycle were aglow with costumed gnomes walking alongside, passing out candy and other items to parade-goers.
But (cue the song) do you recall the most famous reindeer, errrr donkey of all? Arguably, the star of this year’s parade was a miniature donkey named Molly.
“Jolene and I waved and we had our business sign out but you knew you were second hat to Molly and Gerald,” said Jerry Fischer, of Midwest Tree and Fischer Feed & Supply.
Children asked, “Is that a donkey?” Jerry would reply, “No, that’s a reindeer, Rudolph’s little sister.” And Molly donned lighted antlers for the start of the parade and a cowbell to announce her presence.
People came off the sidewalk and into the street, wanting to pet Molly’s soft fuzz. Others waved, gave a thumbs up or shook their head in disbelief to see Molly coming down Broadway Avenue.
“You could tell she was the center of attention,” he said.
Five-month-old Molly and 83-yearold Gerald Fischer are two of a kind. You won’t find one without the other too often, Jerry said.
“They’re best of friends now,” he said. “Each one would be lost without the other.”
The Fischers grew up with mules and donkeys and have fond memories of the animals through the years.
One of their donkeys, named Buckwheat, promoted Hartington’s centennial in several parades. And just like Molly, Buckwheat always wanted attention — even running loose from the farm near the Cedar County Fairgrounds into town and peeking its head in the back door of The Chief a time or two.
“They are lots of fun, donkeys and mules. They get lonely really easy and really attached to people,” Jerry said.
The idea to feature Molly in the parade came together in the last few hours before Friday’s parade.
Gerald tried to duck out of being in the parade himself but it turned out he was essential for Molly’s good behavior — after all, he’s the one that broke her to lead using his golf cart.
“She goes in the machine shed just like a dog would. She roams the whole place,” Jerry said.
The Fischers joined 60 other entries in the annual lighted vehicle parade — almost double the entries featured in past years, said Ray Sukovaty who organized this year’s parade.
The large hour-long parade, which traversed down Broadway and then down a portion of Summit Street, was viewed by a larger than normal crowd, as well, organizers said.
Sukovaty said people were ready for the full parade experience after the COVID-19 pandemic forced spectators to watch from their vehicles last year.
“Folks really thanked us for putting this on and were appreciative to have this event to get out and do something with their families,” he said.
And for the Fischers, participating in the parade together as a family made this year special.
“I remember telling myself this is one of those good times. We’re making a memory here even though we didn’t plan on doing it,” Jerry said. “I was really glad Gerald was able to do it. He hasn’t been in parades for years. For Dad, you never know when the next year rolls around if you’ll be able to do something like that.”