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Harper named first female parade grand marshal

With temperatures ranging into the upper 80s and lower 90s two weeks from today, Mother Nature is expected to provide a picture perfect setting for the parade portion of the Pahrump Fall Festival this year.

The procession of decorated vehicles and individuals is scheduled to begin at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 28.

Several dozen vehicles have already signed up to participate.

The route will commence northbound on Highway 160 at Dandelion Street to the festival grounds at Petrack Park.

The event will be coordinated by two local media professionals, KPVM TV owner Vernon Van Winkle and KNYE 95.1 FM owner Karen Jackson.

“Vern and I are handling the parade together,” Jackson said on Tuesday. “He is taking care of all of the paperwork and I’m the Wicked Witch of the North because that is my handle with the HAM radio people who are also assisting.”

Jackson this week said much planning and preparation went into this year’s parade due mostly to the fact that there was more time to prepare.

“The parade will be the best one we have ever had. I am working on bringing in more bands and I have been working with the Marine Corps Color Guard from Las Vegas. We have also sent letters to all of the chambers of commerce in the surrounding areas asking them to invite participants from their area. If they are from out of town, we have a special award encouraging people other than from here to join the parade,” she said.

Jackson’s radio broadcast also played a major role in selecting this year’s grand marshal.

At least 20 nominees were originally selected for the honor.

The list was eventually pared down to the top five contenders where the community was asked to vote for their favorite among local officials and business leaders.

Jackson said the winner, Laraine Harper of Symphony Animal Shelter, was chosen overwhelmingly out of the rest of the field.

“Out of 263 votes for the top five, Laraine got 163 votes and just walked away with it. It was great because I learned she was the first woman to be selected as grand marshal for the parade. Ron Frazier has been here for almost 20 years and said that he can’t recall ever having a female grand marshal. It’s about time and nobody is more deserving,” she said.

Harper is an author known throughout the community for her work with getting a no-kill shelter up and running in the valley.

She is also the General Manager of Best Western Motel and “Draft Picks,” formerly Wulfy’s sports bar on Highway 160.

Van Winkle, meanwhile, said his main focus for this year’s parade is logistics and learning from the 2012 parade.

He has been broadcasting the parade for more than 16 years.

“We are really trying to work on getting the parade much more organized. We are taking a lot more time to do just that. We are building off of last year for sure. I really think the organization will be better this year in the sense that the judging and the awards will all be placed in the lineup versus a special location afterward. We are also expanding the awards to try and attract those from outside Pahrump to also get involved to bring more floats and influence to the parade for a larger event,” he said.

Van Winkle also said the entire fall festival allows Pahrump to become more like a large neighborhood rather than a small rural town.

“It’s the time of year where our entire town comes together for an event that all of us can enjoy in one central location of town,” he said.

This year’s parade theme will allow participants to hark back to another time in American culture by “Remembering When.”

Jackson also cautioned that the vehicles participating in this year’s parade must be presentable or the owners will face disqualification.

“They can pick the 20’s, the 30’s or whatever but they just have to be true to the era and if they are not decorated, they are not going through the parade. We didn’t allow it last year and it’s not going to be allowed this year. Dirty cars, trucks, or whatever will not be going through. This is not a drive to Walmart. In the past we had muddy and dirty vehicles go through and that in my opinion is not a parade. The judges want to see them cleaned and decorated,” she said.

The station owner provided an example of how determined the parade committee is to adhere to the rules no matter who the entry represents.

“Last year, Mitt Romney’s bus showed up for the parade and I told them that they were more than welcome to participate but their bus had to be decorated. When they arrived, they were not decorated. The group told me that the bus was a federal vehicle. I told them that if they were not decorated, they were not going,” she said.

Jackson then said that her urging actually generated a few dollars for one local business.

“I told them that there was a party store nearby. They went to the party store and bought balloons and crepe paper,” she said.

The cutoff date for parade entry applications is Sept. 25.

Applications may be picked up at the town office or the Pahrump Fall Festival magazine.

The parade will be broadcast live at 8:30 a.m. on channels 41 and digital 46.

The event will be rebroadcast throughout the weekend and the following Monday.

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