Millstadt Commercial Club is celebrating the colorful history of its annual homecoming and parade this weekend.
The carnival featured its first Ferris wheel in 1928. Two of Anheuser-Busch's elephants marched in the parade in 1929, and "Alton Giant" Robert Wadlow made an appearance in 1934.
Also in the '30s, Otts Heller and Kermit Rodemich built a vehicle that looked like a train locomotive and caboose and drove it to other towns to drum up interest.
"I think the heyday of the Millstadt Homecoming was in the '30s and '40s," said Betty Keller Timmer, 57, a member of Millstadt Historical Society. "I remember my parents talking about the dances going into the wee hours."
This year's homecoming will be held from 4 p.m. to midnight Saturday and 3 p.m. to midnight Sunday at Millstadt Liederkranz Park.
Activities include live music by Petty Cash Junction on Saturday night and Old Salt Union on Sunday night, as well as carnival rides, games, quilt bingo and an adult kickball tournament.
"The highlight of the homecoming is the parade," said Charlie Todd, 67, a retired mail carrier who has served as club president since 1987, except for a one-year break in the 1990s.
Two parades will wind around town, one at 5 p.m. Saturday and another at 4 p.m. Sunday. They will begin in the 100 block of East Laurel and go west to Tyler, north to Madison, east to Main and north to the park.
"We have 2,000 to 3,000 people who come out to watch," Todd said. "And of course we throw candy or beads or whatever."
Millstadt Commercial Club held its first homecoming in 1914. Parades were part of festivities, except for 1942 to 1945, during World War II.
This year, the club's four senior members will serve as parade marshals, representing more than 200 years of community service.
"All I've been told is that we're going to ride in a convertible in the parade," said Armin Speichinger, 90, who is retired from AT&T. "That's an honor."
Speichinger joined the club in 1949. He never held an office, but he volunteered at homecomings for decades, mainly working at food and beer stands.
"It's a local organization for the betterment of the community," he said, noting money goes to a variety of good causes.
The other three parade marshals are Russell Baltz, Sylvester "Tuffy" Mueth and Bill Mertz.
Baltz, 90, can't remember the exact year he joined the club, but it was before he married his wife, Shirley, 63 years ago.
They remember when homecomings included automobile raffles and people could buy chicken dinners for 25 cents.
"It was a real home-coming," said Shirley, 83, of Millstadt. "People who had moved away came back to renew old friendships and see their relatives."
At a glance
What: Millstadt Homecoming
When: 4 p.m. to midnight Saturday and 3 p.m. to midnight Sunday
Where: Millstadt Liederkranz Park
Parades: 5 p.m. Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday
Admission: Free (except for food, drinks and carnival rides)