NEENAH, Wis. (WFRV) – Labor Day has been celebrated in the Fox Valley for 40 years with a parade and picnic.

“I’ve been organizing this parade now for the last 34, 35 years. It gets kind of hectic, especially now, but we’re ready to go,” Fox Valley Area Labor Council AFL-CIO President Mark Westphal said. “Labor Day started out as just a bunch of parades happening across the country, so we want to keep that tradition alive in the Fox Valley.”

The tradition was kept alive from the route from Menasha to Neenah. Paradegoers saw 32 vehicles and floats for this year’s parade on Monday morning, many of them featuring local politicians, organizations, and unions.

“It’s important for people in the area who aren’t union members to understand that there are union members here, we’re proud, we’re proud of the community and the work that we do, and we deserve to be celebrated,” Westphal said.

Curtis and Beth Dachelet have lived in the Fox Valley for three decades and always spend the last day of summer taking their children, and now grandchildren, to the parade before school starts the next day.

“I have to say the candy is a big hit,” Beth said. “We just love it, it’s very community, lots of activities to do.”

“Well, I just think [Labor Day is about] celebrating the American worker,” Curtis, now a retired union member, said. “Cooperation between union and management, and it’s been so good for our entire community, it’s been wonderful.”

For those still in the workforce, the opportunity to be seen and heard, front and center, is not taken for granted.

“Get the word out on how important labor is and how important it is that we all get our fair share and that we’re not taken advantage of,” union member Nick Kappell said.

He spent months working on his float, which features a homemade 10-foot tall red, white, and blue crane, with his colleagues, including fellow union member Rick Vandenheuvel.

“We had a crew of guys help build it,” Vandeheuvel said. “It took months.”

The float came to rest in the Neenah Labor Temple parking lot, featuring a picnic, six hours of live music, and several inflatable bouncy houses.

“We’ve got brats and hamburgers and hot dogs, and we need a lot of those because we always have a nice crowd for this,” Dave Evans, a volunteer working the grills and 47-year employee of Neenah Paper, said.

Corey Grissom’s father was a union member, and he has been cooking the brats at the picnic for 35 years to continue to show his support.

“It’s a day for celebrating the people that built this country, that make it what it is, you know, the workers,” he said.