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East Peoria Times-Courier - East Peoria, IL
  • Bessler Welding donates time, equipment for Festival of Lights

  • Albert, Carl and John Durst grew up in East Peoria. They came from a large family of 13 children. They attended East Peoria Community High School and have pride for their hometown. John and Carl still call East Peoria home.Now Albert and Carl, along with Jay Sparks, own a successful business in East Peoria —Bess...
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  • Albert, Carl and John Durst grew up in East Peoria. They came from a large family of 13 children. They attended East Peoria Community High School and have pride for their hometown. John and Carl still call East Peoria home.
    Now Albert and Carl, along with Jay Sparks, own a successful business in East Peoria —Bessler Welding Inc. — and they like to give back to the community.
    One way they do this is by helping with the Festival of Lights, something they do often.
    The group recently approached John Broshears at the Festival Building.
    Broshears is a part-time employee hired by the City of East Peoria to work on the festival's parade floats.
    "I've never in the 28 years I've done the festival seen anything like this," Broshears said of the Bessler team's help.
    Albert Durst said in talking with Broshears, he learned that the X-Wing Fighter float was in desperate need of a new vehicle under the float.
    "The vehicle under the float was a piece of junk," Albert said.
    Bessler's owners donated a truck worth about $4,000 for the cause.
    "We go all over Illinois. It was at that age. We couldn't depend on it, but it's good for what it's going to be used for," Albert said about the truck.
    Before the decision was made to jump into the project of revamping the float, the guys from Bessler went to the Festival Building to take measurements.
    They got the float to their business at 5313 N. Main St. and the fun began. They had to cut the vehicle away from the float. They picked it up with jacks and a fork truck to remove it. Then, they had to cut the inside of their truck out and reinforce it to the float.
    "It was pretty fun," Al said.
    Employees worked on the float for about 45 hours after work.
    Other than the three owners, three employees — John Durst, Owen White and James Abernathie — donated their time.
    "That's pretty admirable. I guess that says something about small business," Al said. "With that many people you can get a lot of work done."
    Broshears said the donated labor is not cheap at about $90 per hour, per person.
    "That's a lot of money," Broshears said.
    The new float was altered so that it can be detached from the vehicle whereas before the floats were permanently attached. The float also has hinges so pieces can be folded up or down.
    In addition to the X-Wing Fighter, Broshears said the team from Bessler has done work on almost all of the floats including the addition of hinges to the Enterprise float.
    "Captain Kirk would be proud," Albert said.
    Page 2 of 2 - Wally Jaquet, a long-time festival volunteer who has built many of the floats, can't do the things like he used to, Broshears said. So, Broshears welcomes any help they can get.
    The team from Bessler said they are amazed at Jaquet's abilities.
    "When I walk around and see the things he's done, it just amazes me," Albert said.
    Besides just pitching in to give back to the community, Albert said they have another motive for helping with the Festival of Lights.
    "We all have grandkids and they love floats," Albert said.
    Albert sounded like a kid himself when he talked about attending the Festival of Lights.
    "I have been to the parade several times. I think my favorite part is the drive-thru (Winter Wonderland)," he said.
    Still the main reason for the group from Bessler helping out rang loud and clear with a statement Albert made to Broshears.
    "You know John, if our whole society did something for somebody else how much better our society would be?"
    To take their involvement in the Festival of Lights a step further this year, Albert said they will drive one of the floats in the parade for the first time.
    This year, Broshears imagines people will fight over driving the X-Wing Fighter because the truck has heat, whereas the other floats do not. It seems fitting that someone from Bessler should drive the float they worked on.
    "It would be fun to drive it in the parade," Carl said.

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