Power Parade Characters Leave Lasting Impression

... And here they come over the berm ...

Those words signaled the start of every Caterpillar Power Parade, “a demonstration in a choreographed fashion of generally earthmoving equipment put on for Caterpillar employees and their families,” said Ken Gerber, Caterpillar retiree and now a gallery host at the Caterpillar Visitors Center.

Gerber would know. He’s the only person known to have participated in all five Power Parades.

Each Power Parade – held in 1964, 1972, 1978, 1988 and 2000 – featured a character that provided comic relief and elicited many laughs from attendees in the packed grandstand at the Edwards Demonstration Center in Edwards, Illinois. 

In 1972 and 1978, Gerber entertained guests as Toby the Clown. He dressed as a sailor and entered the arena as the captain of the USS Catfish. Toby showed up at the Power Parade because he heard there was going to be a fleet. He didn’t know that the only fleet he would see during the parade was a fleet of Cat® earthmoving equipment. By 1978, Toby had ditched the USS Catfish and decided to become a cowboy, claiming he’d traveled all the way to Peoria in a covered wagon.

By the time Power Parade 1988 rolled around, Gerber had a new character to play – Alexander Botts, “The World’s Greatest Tractor Salesman.” Unfortunately, Botts was stuck in the past and only knew equipment from 50 years ago. By the end of the show, he came to love modern-day earthmoving equipment. Botts entertained the audience at Power Parade 2000 as well. 

Power Parades normally welcomed about 100,000 people, and 28 shows were held over a two-week period.

“Whether you worked as an engineer, on the assembly line or a machinist in the factory, everybody goes up and points to a tractor or a truck or wherever they’ve worked on and say, ‘This is what I do – this is the part I make, the machine I assembled or I engineered this part right here,’” said Dean Kuntz, an event planner. “Kids got to see what Mom and Dad did all their life.”

During the show, the power and precision of Cat equipment was unleashed. The audience roared as track-type tractors entered the arena in perfect unison and were astonished as a tractor was able to crack an egg with its bucket.

“People would always ask the question, how in the world you do all that? We’d practice it and we’d have a script. We’d write it down and everyone got a certain amount of machines assigned to them and that’s what you studied,” said Mike Taylor, a machine operator.

The Power Parades owe their success to many dedicated employees and cast members like Gerber, Kuntz and Taylor.

Today, the Caterpillar Visitors Center exists for the same purpose the Power Parades did: To give retirees, employees and other visitors a fascinating look at the company, the iron and the people making sustainable progress possible around the world.

And who knows ... visitors to the Caterpillar Visitor’s Center might even get to experience a bit of the Power Parades and meet Mr. Ken Gerber himself. 

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