The Lake Bluff Lawnmower Precision Drill Team isn’t laughing at you. They’re laughing with you. Well, maybe it’s a little of both.
“We like to make fun of a few people – including ourselves,” said Christian Erzinger, a member of the Lawnmowers.
“They’re a very irreverent group,” said Paul Lemieux, former president of the
Every year, when it’s time again for the Fourth of July parade, the big question is: What will the Lawnmowers do this year?
“Everyone wants to know what the Lawnmowers are doing so they spread misinformation,” said Deb Dintruff, president of the Lake Bluff Fourth of July committee. “They’re always looking for a way to goof around.”
Erzinger denies that the Lawnmowers spread any misinformation. “We wouldn’t do anything like that,” he said. “Our theme this year is the Dancing Blagojeviches.”
“We always try to go local first if there’s a good strong local theme,” he said.
Sometimes the Lawnmowers tackle national themes or film-inspired themes. Here are some of the more stirring themes the Lawnmowers have taken on over the years:
- 2010: “There was a wild turkey on 176 causing car accidents and irritating animal rights groups,” said Dintruff. “It changed the way traffic moved. The Lawnmowers put a turkey in a cage and claimed they caught the turkey.”
“Some kids cried because we had a turkey in a cage and a lot of people thought we’d actually captured the turkey,” Erzinger said. “We had sent out letters to the editor saying the turkey was a hazard.” The Lawnmowers had borrowed the turkey from a farm in Wisconsin. “We invited everyone to a turkey fryer afterward. A lot of guys had their mowers decorated as turkey fryers,” he said.
- 1998: The Lawnmowers took on the Monica Lewinsky scandal. They all dressed up as Lewinsky – with the addition of knee-pads and leaf blowers instead of lawnmowers. “That one got us in trouble because we were pushing the envelope,” Erzinger said.
- 1992: The Lawnmowers received a wide range of grades from parade growers for their controversial take on the Cherokee Elementary scandal. Principal Linda Chase was accused of inflating test scores. The mowers dressed up as the principal and students. “The guys went as students with beanies on their heads,” Erzinger said.
Erzinger said the Lawnmowers are remarkably accurate at predicting the future.
“One year we had George Ryan in jail, in a cage being pulled along. A year or so later, he was actually convicted,” he said. “There’s been a couple occasions when we’ve been ahead of the curb.”
The Lawnmowers made their first appearance in the parade in 1973, when a bunch of guys on Washington and Evanston avenues were trying to think of something fun to do for the parade, Erzinger said. There was no theme the first year.
“It’s been copied all over the country since then,” he said, citing the drill team in Arcola, Ill. “We’ve had national attention in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.”
The Lawnmowers train year-round at Naval Station Great Lakes. They use playbooks to teach formations to new members, who are usually friends of members and apply to be on the team. There are 33 members.
Erzinger said what the public generally misses when it comes to the Lawnmowers is the amount of detail.
“They’re like mini-museums,” he said, citing last year’s turkey theme, when one man had carved out a tree stump and turned it into a beer cooler on his mower. “The amount of detail is incredible,” he said.
While they sometimes cross the line between hilarious an offensive, Erzinger said they have made fun of everybody over the years.
“We’ve taken on politicians on both sides of the aisle, Lake Forest and Lake Bluff,” he said. “We’re equal-opportunity offenders.”
Photo courtesy of Cyn Mycoskie, www.cynimage.com