“The pole raising is the centerpiece of an all-day celebration that includes a parade, political and patriotic oratory . . . and plenty of food and old-fashioned fun. . . On the morning of St. Leon’s pole raising residents will go to the woods with a crosscut saw to cut the hickory pole. The pole will be draped across two or three hay wagons . . . then the pole is raised to standing by rope-tugging, heave-ho man (and woman) power . . . the pole remains until after a new president is elected.”
It’s always a democrat who locates the hickory tree, and a group of local democrats who cut it down and it’s all very hush, hush as to where the tree is growing until it’s cut. The side branches are all cut off, thus the reference to the hickory “pole” but a few small branches are left at the top. Now a painted chicken is attached to the pole, but in the past (and to this day on a small tree) a caged rooster was attached to the top of the tree. In the past there have been some vandalism incidents dealing with the pole but hopefully that won’t happen this year. I’m told that one year someone found out where the pole was to be cut and a group from the opposing political party cut it down first!
Anyway . . . I got there before the parade began and got a great spot at the side of the road by the fire house from which to take pictures. Except for the “gentlemen” behind me, the brisk wind blowing, the candy pelting me, the fire engines blasting their horns and the steam engine tooting, it was a perfect place to stand!!!
The local high school marching band, flag bearers and dancers along with the American Legion color guard, several old cars and tractors, the aforementioned steam engine and fire vehicles, horse-drawn wagon, lawn mowers and political candidates made up the parade. Lots of candy made it into (or onto!) the crowd (it's a tradition for all of the parade participants to throw candy to the crowd). Following the parade we all walked to the field behind the church. Again the band played and patriotic songs were sung while the pole was prepared for raising. However, I didn’t stay for the main event since the politicos began their speeches prior thereto! I did go back the next day to take a photo of the raised pole which will remain until after the election.
There is such a sense of community here and it makes me happy to know that I’m on a first name basis with people in a 20-mile radius and even know a couple of the local candidates personally - in the city I didn’t know my neighbors! Here are a few photos of the day. Hope you enjoy this little slice of Americana!
American Legion Post 464 Color Guard.
St. Leon, IN Volunteer Fire Department fire engine.
Bill Yelton and his locally famous flag painted truck