Power Parade Characters Leave Lasting Impression

Thousands of visitors have experienced the ‘Power Parades of the Past’ exhibit at the Caterpillar Visitors Center since it opened in July. Visitors often reminisce about their memories of past Power Parades, remembering the excavators coming up over the berm; the popcorn, soda and cotton candy; and the characters in the show who provided entertainment and comedic relief for the crowd.

The first Power Parade in 1964 featured “Toby Earthmover.” Played by Ron Little, Toby was reluctant to give up three of man’s earlier earthmoving tools – the wheelbarrow, pick and shovel. By the end of the show Toby placed a “for sale” sign on his wheelbarrow.

In 1973, Toby returned to the show this time as “Toby the Clown” and was played by Ken Gerber. Toby was dressed as a sailor and sailed the USS Catfish. As the story goes, Toby wanted to attend the Power Parade because he heard there was going to be a fleet. Little did he know, the only fleet he’d see that day was one comprised of Cat excavators and compactors.

By the time Toby returned to the 1978 Power Parade he claimed the USS Catfish sank in the Gulf of Mexico so he traveled up the Rio Grande River and decided to become a cowboy. Toby traveled on a covered wagon pulled by a horse all the way up to Peoria, Illinois.

Power Parades 1988 and 2000 featured a new character, Alexander Botts. Botts, the world’s greatest tractor salesman, was based on William Haslett Upson’s character who appeared in the Saturday Evening Post, many books and even a movie that premiered at the Madison Theater in Peoria in 1936. Botts is stuck in the past only knowing tractors from 50 years ago but comes around to like modern-day earthmoving equipment.

Like the character of Toby, Ken Gerber played the role of Alexander Botts in both 1988 and 2000. In fact, Gerber is the only known person to have participated in all five Power Parades. These days, Gerber can be found entertaining guests of the Caterpillar Visitors Center where he works as a gallery host.

The ‘Power Parades of the Past’ exhibit will be on display until early October at the Caterpillar Visitors Center. If visitors are lucky, they just might get to meet the legend of Toby and Alexander himself.

To watch video of Toby and Alexander's Power Parade antics, visit our Memories of the Power Parades page.

Memories of the Power Parade

Join the Caterpillar Visitors Center in honoring the legacy of the Power Parades in its newest exhibit.

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Caterpillar Visitors Center

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