Plaque honors parade’s past leaders

Published 10:27 am Tuesday, March 31, 2009

It is a sweet, prestigious honor to be named grand marshal of the Memorial Day parade, and Arthur J. Pierson is dedicated to keeping alive the legacies of grand marshals of years past.

Ironton-born-and-bred Pierson, who was named the 2009 Ironton-Lawrence County Memorial Day Parade grand marshal, unveiled a commemorative plaque on Monday at the City Building honoring previous grand marshals.

The wooden plaque holds 200 small, brass panels reserved the parade’s grand marshal for each year from 1868 to 2068. Some past years’ panels remain blank, due to the lack of a grand marshal or one’s identification.

Email newsletter signup

“It is important to honor all the grand marshals that have kept this parade going over the years,” Pierson said about his idea to have the plaque.

Recognized by the U.S. Congress as the longest consecutive-running parade in the nation, the Ironton-Lawrence Country Memorial Day Parade has filled the streets with onlookers and eager children waiting to catch candy from the passing vehicles since 1868 when the holiday was called Declaration Day. And for the 141 years since that first March through town, Pierson said the show has been a go, rain or shine.

Gathering in the main hall of the city building Monday were former parade grand marshals who could find their names on the newly dedicated plaque. Bob Blankenship, Jim and Connie Adkins, Lori Young and Jan Wisenberger were among the crowd being honored for their service to the community and parade.

Ironton Mayor Rich Blankenship stood to Pierson’s right as he briefly spoke about the history and significance of the Memorial Day Parade. And when prompted, Blankenship was quick to comment on the importance of not only the parade, but the honorary plaque, as well.

“It’s such a privilege for me to stand here today and say it’s an honor to have this plaque in the city building,” Blankenship said, reiterating the importance of honoring such dedicated citizens for the work they do.

Parade grand marshals are not only responsible for attending the annual event. They also help coordinate ceremonies for the parade and services at Woodland Cemetery.

For Pierson, it is imperative to go above and beyond the standard duties. In addition to grand marshal, he also serves as the parade’s division commander, and vice president and trustee of the parade committee. He also helps provide radio communication during the parade, and hangs American flags over the bridge into the cemetery.

And as the grand marshal of this year’s parade, the experience for Pierson will be that much sweeter.

“It is a great, great honor to be bestowed upon me,” he said. “We can never say enough about our military men and women who have fought for us to have a free country. And that is what this parade and the plaque are really about.”

Although the honorary plaque hangs in the city building for now, Pierson’s plan for its final resting place is in Memorial Hall.

On the back of the plaque is attached a small plaque stating its final destination, complete with Pierson’s signature.

“Memorial Hall was built to honor Civil War veterans,” he said. “By putting the plaque there, any military person who comes in will see it and know that they are being honored.”

And although Pierson will not be around to see grand marshal No. 200 placed on the board, he said he hopes someone continues the legacy.

“When the last name goes on that plaque, someone will have to make a decision on what to do,” Pierson said.