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Lao Community float takes home first place for a second time

WORTHINGTON -- Some people come to King Turkey Day to see the parade. Others show up to, well, win the parade. For the second straight year, the Lao Community float was awarded best parade float by the King Turkey Day board. Designed and built by...

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Abbey Siri, Miss Lao New Year for 2017, is pictured on the King Turkey Day parade float. (Tim Middagh/The Globe)

WORTHINGTON - Some people come to King Turkey Day to see the parade. Others show up to, well, win the parade.

 

For the second straight year, the Lao Community float was awarded best parade float by the King Turkey Day board.

 

Designed and built by Bounlorm Soumetho, chairman of the Lao Buddhist temple in Worthington, the float featured traditional Lao and Buddhist images, decorations, music and even Miss Lao New Year 2017, Abbey Siri.

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Becoming a back-to-back champion was very much a goal for Soumetho. In the weeks leading up to King Turkey Day, he used some of his free time designing and engineering the float. On Friday, with the parade only a day away, he spent a grueling 16 hours welding the float together and making the final touches.

 

“I design, program and do machining, tooling, inspection for the float … everything by hand,” Soumetho said.

 

In constructing the float, Soumetho used skills he learned working 26 years in machining and tooling, including 10 years at Bedford Industries, where he’s the “master” of his own workshop. Bedford Industries graciously allowed him to use its equipment for the float’s design and assembly.

He made a series of additions that were absent last year, including speakers that blasted Laotian music along the parade route.

“I put in three speakers for the people who love to dance,” Soumetho said with a laugh.

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For the first time, Phra Chinnarat, one of the temple’s golden Buddha statues, was featured on the float. It’s the temple’s second-largest statue. The temple’s largest Buddha icon, weighing in at nearly half a ton, was far too large to include in a float - this time.

 

Members of the Lao community and Buddhist monks helped decorate the float. Between the float’s decorations and its occupants outfits, the float represented elements of 35 of Laos’s 68 nationalities.

“That’s why it was so beautiful, it was because of their hands,” Soumetho said.

 

Strolling down the parade route, Soumetho couldn’t help but feel thankful. He was reminded just how thankful he was for friends when he saw former Worthington Mayor Robert Demuth Sr., whom he has known for more than 20 years.

He felt thankful for Nobles County, which changed its zoning rules to allow the Buddhist temple to settle in the rural outskirts of Worthington, and to the neighbors who were supportive of it. He was also thankful for UFCW Local 1161 and its President Mike Potter for sponsoring the float, and his co-workers at Bedford Industries for giving him a space to build it -and for the diverse community in the tri-state area, and everyone who visits the temple to show their support.

 

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And, of course, he was thankful that there will be another Turkey Day next year, although Soumetho wouldn’t say if he would go for the three-peat.

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