While the Coast Guard has the air and seas covered for coastal defense or search and rescue, Dixie Chopper is a down-to-earth, land-loving, grass-eating mowing machine. Yet similarities abound.
The Coast Guard was originally known as the "Cutter Service" when established in 1790 and today all Coast Guard vessels with permanently assigned crews are known as "Cutters." Coincidentally, Coast Guard rescue helicopters are known as "Choppers."
Of course, Dixie Chopper mowers are often called "Choppers" as well, and many pros who operate them are known as commercial cutters.
The unit debuted Aug. 7 in the Coast Guard Festival Parade in Grand Haven, Mich. Current plans are for Michigan Territory Manager Mike Rygiel to take it on a whirlwind tour of the state this summer and fall.
The mower was a huge hit in the parade. Robert Woonacott of the local Dixie Chopper dealership, PS & T Power Equipment & Supply/Small Engine Repair, drove the mower in the 160-unit parade, periodically spraying the crowd with the water cannon attachment at the rear of the mower. After the parade, the mower was formally presented to the Coast Guard in a ceremony preceding that evening's gigantic lakefront fireworks display that climaxed the festival.
After Rygiel and Dixie Chopper Marketing Manager Kraig Richmond presented Coast Guard officials with a plaque commemorating the creation of the one-of-a-kind mower, Admiral Robert Papp Jr., commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, grabbed Richmond's arm as they left the stage.
"You guys were the best part of the parade today," the admiral told a beaming Richmond.
Woonacott was out of earshot at the time, driving the mower back offstage after a series of quick spin moves and power slides, along with unleashing a spray of water on the Coast Guard dignitaries in the center of the crowd.
"He really said that?" Woonacott excitedly asked of Adm. Papp's remarks. "That's awesome. That really makes it all worth it."
Dixie Chopper was honored to be involved from the very start after PS & T dealership owner Roger Brondyke and Woonacott conceived the idea for the special mower.
"We are excited and proud to be a part of this great annual Coast Guard celebration and honor this branch of service and its personnel for their contributions to keeping our communities, our country and our world free and safe," Dixie Chopper President and CEO Gary A. Morgan said in announcing the Coast Guard salute.
The Dixie Chopper Coast Guard mower is a modified Silver Eagle model zero-turn unit decorated in Coast Guard colors and adorned with its logos. A special orange embroidered seat cover carries the Coast Guard colors and insignia, while a flashing blue light tops the rollbar. The mower is also equipped with a bullhorn/PA system and sirens.
An added attraction for parade use is a water tank that shoots streams of water from nozzles at the mower's stern. Meanwhile, the rear of the unit also accommodates three flags -- American, Coast Guard and Dixie Chopper.
The unique mower was presented to the U.S. Coast Guard at Grand Haven, Mich., home to the unit's Group Grand Haven, which coordinates all Lake Michigan Coast Guard activities. Nicknamed "Coast Guard City USA," Grand Haven has seen a Coast Guard presence since 1932.
"For us, the creation of the Dixie Chopper Coast Guard mower has been a very special undertaking and has emerged as something of an extension of our 'Hometown Heroes' program," Dixie Chopper President Morgan added.
Earlier this year Dixie Chopper announced its "Hometown Heroes" program, which honors past and present members of the Armed Services and emergency services personnel (police, fire, EMT and paramedic) and makes them eligible to receive a rebate on the purchase of a new Dixie Chopper mower.