This year’s Corn Festival parade grand marshal is a familiar face to the southeastern part of the county, 61-year Gardner resident Ida Schopp.
Sitting at the dining room table of the home she has lived in for all those decades, Schopp could hardly contain her excitement.
“I am so humbled and excited,” she said. “I can’t sleep at night thinking about it.”
Schopp, who is 86, lives in the same old Victorian house she lived in with her late husband, Gordon Schopp, and where they raised their four children. She now has eight grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren.
“I love Gardner, it’s just a warm place to live,” she said.
Every year, the parade marshal comes from a different town in Grundy County. This year in the rotation was Gardner-South Wilmington, said Colleen Donahue, Corn Festival parade committee chair.
When Gardner Mayor Tom Wise was contacted, he chose Schopp.
“Mayor Wise called me and asked me if I would. I said, ‘Why me?’ and he said, ‘Why not you?,’ ” she said.
“I’ve worked with him a lot and with the village a lot.”
Wise could not be reached by press time.
How much Schopp has done for the village is evident from the number of certificates and plaques of recognition she has received.
The oldest certificate she has from the village she received in 1979 for writing a “Roots Series” in The Gardner Chronicle on the town’s history. The article series was later made into a booklet.
Her commitment to the village continued through her work on numerous committees, including the Gardner Beautification Committee, Gardner Memory Gazebo, Gardner Christmas Tree Lighting and Gardner Veterans Day Ceremony.
During the village’s dedication of the gazebo in 2008, she was credited with raising most of the money for the project herself, according to media coverage of the event.
She also served the Gardner Food Pantry for four years, up until she decided it was time for a break this month.
“I just don’t like to sit and do nothing,” Schopp said. “At the end of the day, I like to have the feeling that I am accomplished. I’m just a busy person. I love to help people.
“I came from a family of 12 children and we didn’t have much. As I grew older and the children grew up and away, I just wanted to help people.”
Although she is 86 years old, age doesn’t slow her down. She still visits city hall and the Church of Hope often. Every Sunday, she puts fresh flowers from her garden on the altar at her church.
Floating her idea
Like most everything she does, Schopp is putting her own twist on being the grand marshal.
“She is making her own float,” Donahue said. “I haven’t met Ida yet, but boy I’m ready to. I’ve talked to her on the phone and she sounds like a fantastic lady.”
Schopp was offered the chance to ride in the parade in a convertible, but kindly declined because she said she is not the convertible kind.
Fellow Gardner resident Don Phillips will be pulling a hayrack with his tractor that Schopp will ride in. She is decorating the float herself with flowers from her garden and is bringing 2,100 packages of flower seeds her friends will pass out to parade goers as they walk behind the float.
“I have signed every package,” she said.
Schopp wanted to give the parade her best because she knows what it is like to run a parade and a festival. While she was a deputy clerk for the village in the 1980s, she and another clerk started Gardner Days.
“It’s a lot of work and I can appreciate what they are going through,” she said.