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The 28th Bomb Wing/Ellsworth Air Force Base float entertained the spectators of the annual Rapid City Festival of Lights parade this past holiday season. It comes to the public as the result of many work hours of base volunteers. (U.S. Air Force photo / SrA Kimberly Moore Limrick)
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Float helps deliver Air Force message

Posted 1/9/2008   Updated 1/9/2008 Email story   Print story


by Senior Airman Joshua Stevens
28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

1/9/2008 - ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. -- For eleven years, the communities in and around Ellsworth have taken in the sight of one of the base's traveling representatives - the 28th Bomb Wing/Ellsworth Air Force Base Float.

Most recently the float was driven in the annual Rapid City Festival of Lights Parade by Ellsworth members this past holiday season.

The annual parade is televised each year, and each time the float is able to promote the Air Force to people up to 200 miles away in five states, always receiving positive feedback, said Chuck Thomas, 28th Logistics Readiness Squadron general purpose vehicle shop foreman. In addition the float was seen first-hand by more than 40,000 people in four local communities.

"I have some in Rapid City who told me their son saw photos of our float on the Internet in Baghdad," said Marilyn Shelton, 28th Medical Operations Squadron bioenvironmental administrative assistant. "Now that is progress."

The publicity the float receives has increased since its construction in 1997.

Construction of the float began with a flatbed truck, made to honor the men and women from Ellsworth who are stationed throughout the world, Ms. Shelton said.

The most distinctive part of the float, a lighted B-1 replica, was the direct result of Mr. Thomas' work.

"The B-1 part of the float was built in 2000 by me in my driveway," he said. "It was then brought to the base and completed with lights and a generator from the South Dakota National Guard."

Mr. Thomas' addition has not gone unnoticed, as the float has won various awards over the years.

"It most often wins the best use of lights," Mr. Thomas said about the float's use in the various parades. "There are about 50,000 lights on the four-part float, and it draws 37,000 watts of power to light the whole thing."

The float won the 2007 awards for Season's Brightest in Rapid City, Spearfish and Custer, Ms. Shelton said. "Whenever Ellsworth participates in a parade, you know we are there and you can see us coming from far away."

Keeping the float in working order is a volunteer effort.

A team of about ten people supported the float during 2007, Mr. Thomas said.

"At times, all the volunteers (and there have been many) do get tired," Ms. Shelton said. "The long hours of volunteering have been many over the years."

Besides the winter holiday season, the float is used in events ranging from Independence Day celebrations to the Festival of Presidents parade in Rapid City.

Upon Mr. Thomas' upcoming retirement, the continued success of the float will rely on the concentrated effort of volunteers, firm support and a facility to perform the many hours of maintenance required to keep it in top condition, he said.

For more information or to volunteer, please call Ms. Shelton at (605) 385-3172 or e-mail her at marilyn.shelton@ellsworth.af.mil.

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