For 45 years, Mike Rausch has had his hands in nearly every aspect of All Schools Day — from working the concessions committee to the carnival — Rausch has done it all.
“I’m still involved in All Schools Day but not to the degree I was at one point. They won’t let me leave because I’ve been here for 45 years and there’s so much stuff I know that others don’t know — so they made me a historian,” Rausch chuckled.
Rausch is the carnival and concessions chairman this year and has taken on a new position — historian.
“I stayed on to add wisdom. I’ve been involved in a lot of stuff that nobody else knows about, I get a lot of phone calls,” he said. “If it wasn’t so much fun and I didn’t enjoy the people I work with, I would’ve quit a long time ago.”
Rausch’s involvement with All Schools Day began long before he was on the committee. His father was owner of Sweeny’s Shoe Store on Main Street during Rausch’s youth and became close friends with several businessmen along with Ernie Pease, owner of Duckwalls Variety Store.
“Duckwalls had a food counter and my dad and several other merchants would meet for three or four coffees a day. One summer I worked for Mr. Pease at Duckwalls and my dad was also good friends with Toby Nemmers, who was the originator of the carnival. Toby made sure he got tickets for us kids when we were growing up to go to the carnival. That was the beginning of my involvement with the carnival,” Rausch said.
Rausch’s journey with the All Schools Day committee began in 1973, when several members were burned out from managing the larger-than-life event. They sat Rausch and five other gentleman down for an “expensive lunch.”
“They needed new blood and All Schools Day needed to continue. So they asked if we would be on the committee for a period of five years. Each one of us taking general chairmanship during the five years. And that was a pretty expensive lunch meeting because we said ‘Yes,’” he said.
The men drew straws to select the first chairman. Rausch said Tony Wedel drew the short end of the straw.
“Tony didn’t have anymore experience than any of the rest of us. He was scared to death, but it turned out wonderful that year,” he added.
In 1974, it was finally Rausch’s turn to become chairman of the committee.
“I found out it was a lot easier job than I thought it would be because it looked pretty awesome from the outside watching what was going on. It was a lot of fun,” he said.
Rausch said he is passing the hat to other people now.
“I’m phasing out of the concessions and I have a guy that’s shadowing me this year. I also used to do the Porta Potties and the dumpsters. I did away with those, too, so I have someone in place for those next year. At first nobody wanted to take my jobs because I inherited them over the last 40 years... so it was easier for me to just do it rather than to train somebody,” he said.
Rausch said many things that have changed over the past 40 to 50 years of All Schools Day.
“We used to buy the band members and banner carriers a coke at the end of the parade. When I was in it, another gentleman was in charge of the concessions and so he’d bring coke spickets and tanks and set them up on the middle of Main Street,” Rausch said.
“What I didn’t realize at the time is those spickets needed water and I never thought about it but how did they get the water all the way to there? Well, every year no one knew that a guy who lived two houses north of where the parade turns had a hose out there for them to use every year and no one knew that except me. That’s just the stuff that goes on with All Schools Day.”
In all his years of service, he recalls never being turned away for help.
“All the years I had to ask for help or request something, I’ve never been turned down. That’s what makes it go and that’s why I still stay because when people step up and say, ‘Yes I’ll do it.’ It makes it a whole lot more fun,” he said.
Rausch also said he is pleased with the success of All Schools Day and how it grows year after year.
“When 35,000 to 40,000 people come to watch your parade on a Friday — you’ve got something,” he said.
“Where in the world do you know a community our size that would actually close down major industry, banks everything because it’s All Schools Day?”
As his time on the committee may be ending, Rausch knows one thing for certain about the time he put in.
“I didn’t do it for the acknowledgment. I did it because as a kid, you see what’s going on and pretty soon you realize, ‘Well, maybe I ought to do that for the younger generations.’ It’s all about the kids,” he said.