Grand marshal: Who, me?

Grand marshal: Who, me?

used with permission from Times Mail

September 28, 2012, last update: 9/28 @ 10:42 am

When asked to write a column about my thoughts on being named grand marshal of the 2012 Persimmon Festival Parade, the lyrics of Mac Davis’ hit, “Oh, Lord It’s Hard to be Humble,” and Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain,” began running through my head. I soon realized, this was not going to be an easy task.

When 2012 General Chairman Steve Dobson hinted to me two years ago when he became festival co-chair that he wanted to name me grand marshal, I shook my head and said, “No you don’t!” He persisted, but I didn’t know he had really followed through until late last year when Krystal Shetler, who in addition to writing and pagination duties at the Times-Mail, serves on the Greater Mitchell Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, announced in a staff meeting that I had been given the honor. It didn’t become official until the chamber’s annual dinner this spring, when Dobson announced it to the world, or at least the small part of it that was at the dinner.

I was honored, humbled and somewhat embarrassed at that meeting, and I’m sure the same sentiments will be present on Saturday when I make my way along the parade route. I’m sure there will be those who wonder, “What did he do to deserve this?” (I might add that I kind of agree with them); to others who like fellow T-M staffer Tina Howard who said, “Jeff, most grand marshals are either old or dying, it doesn’t look good for you;” to a few (probably very few) along the way who will say, “well-deserved.”

Shetler once asked me why I’d never done my bit, going through the chairs of the festival committee. My answer, I never really wanted that. I did chair Mitchell’s Sesqui-Centennial in 2002, but that had more to do with my love of history than getting my name in the festival program book as a past chairman. I have chaired an event or two along the way over the years and I enjoy my time behind the camera, chronicling festival events, letting others take their place in front of the camera, whether it be one of the little queens in her moment on center stage, to the pooper-scoopers in the parade. In 20-plus years with the Times-Mail and several more with the former Mitchell Tribune, I’ve taken tens of thousands of pictures (I shoot at least 500 frames a year). In all those years, I know of only one picture taken of me in my official duties, that was by a classmate as she walked by the stage after the parade. She stopped as she said, “to snap a photo of the photographer.”

When Dobson told me his theme was going to deal with Mitchell’s history, I guess I am somewhat a logical choice. Miss Dorothy Stroud is not with us any longer and by default, I guess I am Mitchell’s historian, if there is such an animal. I guess all those long hours of cranking through microfilm and bound volumes of the Mitchell Tribune paid off. I’ve never gotten the book written, but it did get me named grand marshal.

I get lots of phone calls and emails asking me questions. Sometimes I can help, other times I can’t. I don’t know a lot about who lived at a certain address, or what store was where on Main Street in the late 1920s. That hasn’t been my focus. I just want people to know that Mitchell has been and still is a nice place to live. Sure, we’ve had our ups and downs over the years, such as two men claiming to be mayor at the same time in 1909, to recognizing one of our own native sons as one of America’s first men in space.

My claim to fame is just being a regular guy who loves his hometown and its history. And, by the way, Saturday will be Mitchell’s 160th birthday. Hope to see you in 40 years for the bicentennial. Maybe I could be grand marshal again, at least I’d fit one of Howard’s requirements (or maybe both), I’d be rapidly approaching my 94th birthday.

Contact Times-Mail Staff Writer Jeff Routh at 277-7265 or

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