Wacky Wheeler waves goodbye to career

Published: Nov. 30, 2018 at 9:52 PM CST
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A hardworking carpenter who always had a passion for adventure, found a career that rolled into his lap.

Rob Summerbell, better known as Melvin the Wacky Wheeler, didn't expect himself to spend the past 18 years spinning around like a hamster. It was a hobby that turned into a cherished career.

"My goal is to spread joy and whimsy but I never actually get anywhere," Summerbell jokes.

After meeting a circus traveler who performed on the German wheel nearly two decades ago, Summerbell developed a fascination with the craft. German performing wheels stand around 10 feet tall, and people spin inside them. They are an expensive prop, and Summerbell knew he wouldn't be able to afford one. Luckily, a junkyard granted him a wish.

"It's sorta trash to treasure story," Summerbell said." I made my living 18 years on something I found in the garbage."

After finding an old utility reel made out of metal, Summerbell made it his own by adding paint and decorating it.

He began performing in local parades that eventually turned into gigs across the country including: parades in Florida, and performing at two Cherry Blossom Parades in Washington D.C.

"It was cool rolling past the White House," Summerbell said.

When it comes to the wheel, it was a family affair. Summerbell's daughter and son both got to perform with their dad. All of which wouldn't have happened without his wife, Laura Zirngible, who was the driving force behind the business.

"He was so shy that he didn't want to charge anyone to be in their parades," Zirngible said.

The shyness is masked under clown makeup and goofy pants. Summerbell says half of the fun is wearing his costumes that change by the season. But this winter will be his final season.

"I am getting less agile and my knees don't love it anymore."

The Wacky Wheeler is retiring.

It was important for Summerbell to go out on a "high note." He says he might pick up the wheel again for special occasions but is looking forward to relaxing on his weekends.

His final performances are this weekend:

December 1 ----

Elkhorn 1:30 p.m.

New Berlin 3:30 p.m.

Port Washington 6:15 p.m.