Folks ‘flock’ to Traer for annual Winding Stairs Festival

Parade, alumni banquet held Saturday afternoon

Gwen and Mike Seda, owners of Fox Ridge Winery, along with their pink-hued pup ride in the Winding Stairs Festival parade last Saturday afternoon as it wound its way through the town of Traer. PHOTO BY RUBY F. MCALLISTER

TRAER – Folks from both near and far ‘flocked’ to Traer last week beginning Thursday for four days of community fun as part of the annual Winding Stairs Festival.

This year’s festival theme was ‘150 and flocking fabulous’ in honor of the town’s Sesquicentennial celebrations. On Saturday afternoon, the parade took place in downtown Traer with many participants electing to abide by the theme – outfitting their floats in all things pink, flamingo, and fabulous.

The parade was led by members of the Kubik-Finch American Legion Post 142 followed by the Auxiliary unit’s float.

Tama Co. Sheriff Dennis Kucera, a Traer resident, was also part of the opening contingent in a Sheriff’s Office cruiser.

Those looking to run for sheriff in 2024 and step into Kucera’s boots in the wake of his anticipated – but not yet officially announced – retirement in 2024, were also well-represented in the parade and included Tama Co. Detective Luke Dvorak, Tama Co. Detective Trevor Killian, and Tama Co. Deputy Casey Schmidt.

It’s a thumbs up from those riding on the Champion Enterprises parade float last Saturday afternoon in Traer. The float closely and cleverly followed this year’s Winding Stairs Festival theme by declaring Traer to be ‘150 and Flushing Fabulous.’ PHOTO BY RUBY F. MCALLISTER

Heather Knebel, a newly-announced candidate for the Tama Co. Board of Supervisors in 2024 and rural Traer resident, also had a float in the parade, as well as state Sen. Eric Giddens (D) of Cedar Falls, who represents District 38 which includes Traer.

Bruce and Judy Morrison were named Grand Marshals of the parade for their extensive work and dedication over the last two years as members of the Traer Sesquicentennial Committee. They smiled and waved from the backseat of a white Cadillac driven by Jay Owens.

Seven classes were honored by the North Tama Alumni Reunion Committee during this year’s Winding Stairs Festival and also rode in the parade including the Traer Class of 1958, Traer-Clutier Class of 1963, and North Tama classes of 1968, 1973, 1978, 1983, and 1998.

Banquet bash

Following the parade, the alumni classes were honored during an evening banquet held at the downtown Memorial Building with North Tama Telegraph columnist Sean Dengler acting as emcee.

Members of the North Tama Class of 1978 – by far the most boisterous and high-spirited reunion class this year – ride in the Winding Stairs Festival parade on Aug. 12 as the parade makes its way down the Walnut Street hill toward downtown Traer. PHOTO BY RUBY F. MCALLISTER

After introducing himself, Dengler, who farms near Clutier on family land while also working as a comedian/live events technician from his home base of Des Moines, included in his opening a call for those in the room to support their local newspaper.

“I believe in the power of community journalism and giving back to the community who raised me,” Dengler said. “So please subscribe, or more importantly, have your children and grandchildren subscribe.”

For those in the audience who may have been confused as to who the lanky, long-haired, redhead was at the podium, Dengler opted to humorously introduce himself a second time.

“For those of you who still don’t know who I am…yeah, that’s my mom, she’s right there,” Dengler said while pointing out his mother, an animated Sandy Dengler seated in the audience to his right as a member of the notoriously fun North Tama Class of 1978.

“She’ll tell you that I’m her favorite child,” Dengler added — a comment which drew quite a bit of laughter in light of the fact Dengler has both a brother and sister.

Sean Dengler, emcee for the evening, pictured at the Traer Memorial Building podium during this year's Winding Stairs Festival alumni banquet. PHOTO BY SOREN M. PETERSON

After announcing each of the honored classes, Dengler then paid special recognition to Traer-Clutier Class of 1962 graduate Ellen Young – retired editor of the Traer Star-Clipper newspaper – for the countless hours of work she has invested over the years in organizing the annual alumni events. Alongside her husband Sam, Ellen received a standing ovation as she accepted a bouquet of flowers from Carri Holst with the North Tama Alumni Reunion Committee.

After amusingly asking the rowdy Class of 1978 – including his mom! – to pipe down, Dengler then ended his opening with a plug for the North Tama Dollars for Scholars program by announcing two donation-match opportunities for alumni classes.

“I’m also guessing like me the majority of you, probably, don’t live here, and it’s hard to give back,” Dengler said after he had listed off the names of several longtime community members who had helped him as a young person growing up in the community. “[B]ut there is one way you can give back … donating to the North Tama Dollars for Scholars program. This program gives out scholarships for students of all types whether they are A, B, or C students.”

Dengler went on to describe both the $500 match that was available courtesy of Gary Dinsdale, a member of the Class of 1962, as well as a $2,500 match courtesy of Jared and Marilyn Bauch.

“So thank you again for winding up in Traer,” Dengler said, rounding out his opening remarks.

Sam and Ellen Young pictured during the alumni banquet. PHOTO BY SOREN M. PETERSON

Holst then took the microphone to say a prayer after which the classes were dismissed by tables — just like in the good old school days — for group photos followed by meal service courtesy of five youth members of St. Paul’s who were working the event as part of their fundraising efforts tied to the National Catholic Youth Conference this fall.

As the Winding Stairs Festival Committee members would no doubt proclaim, this year’s events — including the alumni banquet — were a truly ‘flocking’ good time enjoyed by all.

More photos from the parade can be viewed here.

Due to space issues, group photos from the alumni class reunions will print in next week’s Telegraph. Be sure to pick up a copy!

Ellen Young, left, accepts a bouquet of flowers from Carri Holst with the Alumni Committee. PHOTO BY SOREN M. PETERSON

Ellen Young, right, alongside her husband Sam receives a standing ovation for her years of work on past alumni events from attendees at this year’s Winding Stairs Festival alumni banquet held in the Traer Memorial Building last Saturday evening. PHOTO BY SOREN M. PETERSON


St. Paul’s Catholic Church youth members including (front row) Danika Wrage and Ava Monat, and (back row) Paul Dvorak, Brayton Cibula, and Jared Dvorak pictured in the Traer Memorial Building on Saturday evening ahead of meal service for the alumni banquet. PHOTO BY RUBY F. MCALLISTER