Traditional toys made for Beaver Dam parade

November 20, 2018
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Steven Porfilio works daily in the Beaver Dam Senior Center woodshop handcrafting toy tractors and trucks, among other items that may be purchased at The Watermark community center.

It may not be at the North Pole, but toy-making is in high gear at the Beaver Dam Senior Center woodshop in preparation for the holiday season.

Located inside the Don Smith Learning Academy, 400 E. Burnett St., Beaver Dam, the woodshop equipment stays humming each weekday, from 9 a.m. to noon.

Terry Appenfeldt, shop manager since 2007, said close to a dozen guys come regularly to craft their core products — birdhouses and feeders, bat houses, butterfly houses and cutting boards.

At this time of the year, however, toys are the focus, as evidenced by a recent morning when Steve Porfilio and 94-year-old Orville Sette were hard at work.

“We’re currently churning out these banks in the shapes of giraffes and monkeys for people to buy for Christmas gifts,” Appenfeldt said. “Orville is busy over there in the corner making wooden tic-tac-toe games, and Steve is working on his toy tractors and trucks.”

The signature products made by the group are the toy Christmas cars that have been handed out since 2002 to children attending the Beaver Dam Holiday Parade.

“They smile when they get a car,” woodshop regular Ken Hardinger said. “Lots of people collect them because each year’s is different.”

Appenfeldt said more than 1,000 cars were given away in 2017.

“But we ran out because people just love them, so we decided to up our game,” he said. “We made 1,600 vehicles for this year’s parade.”

The group chose a train engine design for the 2018 version. They plan on making different types of train cars over the course of the next several years so collectors will have a complete train eventually.

Throughout the year, the guys have cut the wood, nailed, sanded and assembled the engines. Each one was branded with the Beaver Dam Senior Center woodshop logo and dipped in a Danish oil finish.

The woodshop guys lost one of their own Nov. 9 when Burt Beyer passed away at the age of 89.

“Burt was quite a character — one in a million — and he loved working on the cars,” Appenfeldt said. “Burt’s also the one responsible for locating the sleigh from the early 1900s that we renovated last year. We spent months taking it all apart, cleaning it, sanding it down and then respraying it all to make it look authentic. Now Santa gets to ride in it for the parade.”

The Beaver Dam Senior Center woodshop group decided to dedicate the 2018 train engine in memory of Beyer. The engines will be available at the Holiday Parade, which begins downtown Dec. 1 at 5:30 p.m.

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