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Designer impacts Cheese Days parade for half century
Steve Mollstad works on a float for cheesemakers for Sundays Swiss Colony Cheese Days Parade. To order this photo, click here. (Times photo: Marissa Weiher)

Swiss Colony Cheese Days Parade

Leaves Green County Fairgrounds at 12:30 p.m. Sunday.

MONROE - For the past five decades, Steve Molstad of Nelson Flag and Display in La Crosse has helped contribute to the grandeur of the Cheese Days parade by creating a number of the floats to entertain spectators.

Molstad first began creating parade floats when he traveled with his father Merlin, who had been designing the parade staple pieces since the 1960s, maybe even the 50s, Molstad said.

"I always like going down to the festival and building parade floats," Molstad said. "That gives you a little bit of a sense of accomplishment, to see people take notice."

The theme of the parade has always leaned toward cheesemaking - the ag industry and the area's Swiss heritage are also incorporated into the two-hour long production. Throughout the years, Molstad has created a number of impressive pieces for the parade - such as a mountain scene for an Alpine band and an 8-foot camera for the Cheese Days royalty float encouraging everyone to "say cheese."

A memorable float for Molstad was a 17-foot rainbow arch connecting to a gold-filled copper kettle to represent cheesemakers in the parade four years ago.

This year he arrived in Monroe at noon Thursday to put together about six floats which will be used by past and current cheesemakers; past and current Cheese Days royalty and ambassadors; the Limburger Queen; and Green County Ag Chest royalty.

Molstad and his wife, Christine, along with his sister-in-law Becky Price and her husband Wally, process the hay wagons brought to the fairgrounds. The group will put in roughly 14 hours a day to ensure the floats are fit for display during the parade. Decorations include plywood, floral paper and a number of props to create the final product.

Some specialty pieces are built at Molstad's business before they are brought to Monroe. This year's line-up includes a specially-designed recreation of Limburger cheese with an arch for the queen. Molstad said the piece will be set on a 6-by-4-foot platform and will be roughly nine feet tall.

Ed Pas, who chaired the Cheese Days parade six times between 1990 and the early 2000s, remembered fondly a number of eye-catching floats Molstad has designed.

"He's a pretty creative guy," Pas said. "We did some interesting things with him. We've come up with some crazy ideas."

Pas noted that while Molstad has repeatedly considered ending his work with parade floats, the designer keeps returning "just one more time" to make Cheese Days a success.