FOX VALLEY AREA REGIONAL NEWS: Calumet County, Fond du Lac County, Outagamie County, Winnebago County

Special float in Appleton Christmas parade remembers Jim Van Asten; the man on the wooden bike

Local News

APPLETON, Wis. (WFRV)-He became a local celebrity by riding his hand-made wooden bike in parades all over the Fox Valley for over 20 years. 

“It was enough to make him a little celebrity because every year they were like there’s that guy on the bike the wooden bike,” says Tim Van Asten.

Jim Van Asten loved to ride his bike and was a machinist. His children fondly remember him always making this stuff when they were growing up.

“He found a picture of the first bike in a magazine and he said I can make this and it was just a small model of a bike and he looked at it and went why did I do this I should make something bigger that I can actually ride,” says Debbie Woods who is Jim’s daughter.

Jim built the wooden bike in 1996 and rode for the first time in a parade in 1997. He was also known for the colorful shirts he would wear while he was riding and for his top hats. His wardrobe would always match the theme of the parade.

“He would zig-zag through the parade and he realized when he zig-zagged he would head towards the crowd and he’d be able to wave towards the crowd,” says Tim Van Asten who is Jim’s son.

Jim passed away in a bike accident in October while he was riding through Little Chute on his way to a high school reunion.

His family found a special way to honor him. They built a float, with that wooden bike that he always used to ride in parades displayed prominently and a large picture of Jim riding in one of the parades.

The float will be part of downtown Appleton’s Christmas parade on Tuesday night.

“I think he’s proud of us for remembering this way with his wooden bike,” says Debbie.

This weekend, his five children spent some time flipping through a book where Jim kept newspaper, clippings, pictures, and other relics from all the parades he rode in over the years. Enjoying the memories of a man who loved his family which included his wife Bernice and their five kids, 11 grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.

“We wanted to keep our dad in our hearts and our minds,” says Tim.

Jim was 85 years old when he passed away.

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