Lawn Rangers headed to inauguration

Lawn Rangers headed to inauguration

ARCOLA – Snow blanketed Arcola on Wednesday morning, but that didn't stop the World Famous Lawn Rangers from taking their machines out for a spin.

The precision drill team known for zany dances, wacky lawn mowers and twirling brooms and toilet plungers slogged through the snow-covered streets of downtown Arcola one more time before loading their mowers onto a trailer for a trip to Washington, D.C., and next week's Presidential Inauguration Parade.

Lawn Ranger Founder Pat Monahan of Arcola explained that he and fellow team member Tom Bruno of Champaign had filed separate applications to participate in the parade.

"But Bruno's was rejected because it was written in crayon," Monahan said.

In all, 57 Lawn Rangers, including 48 marchers bearing mowers, two toilet plunger men and seven banner aides dressed like Abraham Lincoln, will march down Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol to the White House.

They'll be wearing bright red gowns donated by Arcola's Collegiate Cap and Gown, American flag suspenders made by Perry Suspenders of Decatur and black masks that look very much like the one the Lone Ranger used to don.

"If you'd march with this group, you'd want to wear a mask, too," said Tim Monahan of Arcola, another original member and Pat's brother.

Pat Monahan said next Tuesday's event will mark the Lawn Rangers' 116th parade since they were founded 28 years ago.

Many of the Lawn Rangers believe they were selected because they coaxed Obama to march with them in a parade in Chicago a few years ago. One mower in next week's parade will feature a banner depicting the president-elect proudly clutching a Lawn Ranger toilet plunger.

"Here's our secret," Pat Monahan said. "Find something you like to do, get real good at it, and success will follow."

Pat Monahan said the Lawn Rangers intend to present Obama with an Arcola broomcorn broom and give Obama's two daughters Raggedy Ann dolls autographed by Joni Gruelle of the Raggedy Ann and Andy Museum.

While many of the Lawn Rangers are from Arcola (including 10 members of the Monahan family), participants (ranging in age between 21 and 80) come from throughout the state, including Champaign, Urbana, Arthur, Sullivan, Charleston, Gibson City, Tuscola, Chicago and LaGrange.

Monahan added that Rangers from St. Louis; Lexington, Ky.; Cleveland; Ann Arbor, Mich.; and Fairfield, Conn., are also taking part.

"You have to have a weak mind and a good sense of humor to be in this group," said Ranger Doug Dunagan of Arcola.

Bruno said columnist Dave Barry will be joining the Lawn Rangers for the parade. "He's our embedded reporter," Bruno said. "Dave's been out of the loop the last few years, but we welcome him back, like the prodigal son."

Larry Harper of Urbana decorated his mower with a fuzzy three-foot beaver.

"It's a real crowd pleaser; this beauty amazes and scares the young children and amuses the adults," Harper said. "My son, Louie, will be marching with a mower decorated with an armadillo with a muskrat riding on top of it."

Manuel Barrientos, who immigrated here from Mexico when he was 21 years old, adorned his lawn mower with the Mexican flag.

"I'm excited about being in the parade; we're making history, and I want to be part of history," Barrientos said.

Terry Overman of Gibson City put a 5-foot-tall papier-mache Abraham Lincoln atop his mower.

"I hope it stays together long enough to reach the end of the parade route," Overman said.

One mower will feature an Amish couple riding a horse and buggy. There's an Elvis Presley mower in which Elvis croons, "Ain't nothing but a hound dog," and a mower bearing a replica of the Washington Monument.

The Rangers are expected to complete the 1.6-mile parade route in 25 minutes.

"We're a ragtag group of misfits," Bruno said, "and we're trying to fit into this military mold, marching 128 beats per minute at a 28-inch stride. The best part of the frigid weather is that it will help to keep our beer cold."

News-Gazette staff writer Melissa Merli contributed to this report. She will be in Washington to cover the inauguration. Look for her stories, in print and online, beginning Friday.

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Categories (2):News, Living
Location (3):Local, Douglas County, Arcola