On Friday, May 4, a proposal was made by Jerry Estes suggesting that State Representative Lori Benedict and State Senator Missy Irvin lead the parade for "the dollars" they have brought to the community since being elected in 2010.
The e-mailed nomination touched off a string of responses, including one from County Judge Charles Willett. Willett questioned allowing the two Republicans to lead the parade, saying the committee should keep the parade non-partisan. Willett said he would not participate in homecoming events if Benedict and Irvin were Grand Marshals.
An e-mail from Salem Alderman Betty Teague suggested the Homecoming Committee should honor Monte McCullough as Grand Marshall. McCullough, who served as Homecoming chairman for years, is ill and unable to be involved this year. If he was unable to ride in the parade, it was suggested his daughter and father could be asked to sit in his place.
When the Homecoming Committee met on Thursday, April 10, it began by discussing how work was progressing on the many tasks that have to be completed to insure Homecoming events go smoothly and on time.
But committee member Jimalee Thomas finally suggested it was time to discuss the delicate subject of the Grand Marshal selection.
Carolyn Lewis said she distributed Judge Willett's letter to committee members because, since it is an election year, she saw his point that "some people could take it that we're being biased" -- promoting Benedict and Irvin over their opponents.
While committee members expressed gratitude for state funds Benedict has distributed for fairground's improvements and other community needs, they generally agreed it may not be a good idea to allow candidates seeking re-election to lead the parade.
Sherry Jackson, Benedict's daughter, pointed out Willett and other leaders did not object to Representative Curran Everett, a Democrat, serving as Parade Marshall in 2010, as he ran for the state senate.
After a lengthy discussion, a motion was made setting a new policy for this year and future years -- no politicians seeking re-election can serve as Grand Marshal in the Homecoming Parade in an election year.
"We are in no way saying politicians are not welcome to ride in the parade," Lewis said. "Candidates have always been a part of the parade. They need to be in the parade."
The change is to keep politics out of the Grand Marshal's seat in election years.
"We need to do something for Monte to show we appreciate all he's done over the many years he has run the Homecoming, and served as our chair," committee member Mary Sanders said.
The committee agreed McCullough is the person who should serve as Grand Marshal.
It was announced that the Homecoming Parade will begin at one p.m. this year, an hour earlier than past years.
In other business, a new organization, which is raising money for a river rescue boat, will sell barbecue dinner plates from the North Arkansas Electric Orange Room, as a fundraiser on Friday, May 25. Sales will begin during the lunch hour, and continue into the evening, until food is sold out. The Orange Room will be open Friday evening for people to gather, eat and visit as Homecoming events begin.
|In addition, food vendors who plan to operate on the Salem square on May 26, are encouraged to set up on Friday night, to offer food and drinks while the street dance is going on.|
The band "Stealin' Country" will perform at the street dance.
It was announced that area fire departments will help Bank of Salem employees with traffic control during the Apple Pie 5-K Run, the first event of a full day of Homecoming Festival activities on Saturday, May 27.
As Homecoming Day approaches, the committee has discovered a large supply of Homecoming t-shirts left over from past years. They are now on sale for one dollar, at the fairgrounds office in the Hickinbotham-Miller Building from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 2012 Homecoming t-shirts will be on sale Homecoming Day in front of Tees to Please and More on the Salem square.