Jack Basil has marched through the Mountain State Forest Festival Grand Feature Parade for nearly 60 years, but never did he imagine that he would ride through in a convertible as the Parade Marshal.
"It's something I never expected to do," Basil said. "It's been a big shock to me. It's quite an honor. I really appreciate that they would even consider me for something like this. I'm so used to them bringing in some big name from outside the community."
After being involved in the Grand Feature Parade for more than five decades, Basil said this is the first year he couldn't march because of physical problems. He has been a member of the West Virginia Highlanders of Davis & Elkins College for 60 years and served as Elkins High School band director for 15 years, the Elkins Junior High band director for band 10 years and the Homestead Elementary School band director for one year.
"The best I can remember, I've marched through the feature parade more than 55 times," Basil said. "I know for seven or eight years, I marched through it twice. I would march through with the Highlanders because they always lead the parade off and then the Elkins High School band. By tradition, they would always be the very last band in the parade, so I would get a ride back to the high school or walk back over and put my band director's uniform on and march back through with the band."
Basil's role in this year's parade came as a surprise to him during a conversation with MSFF Executive Director Renee Heckel and Director of the Queen's Department Denise Wallace at the Opening Ceremony on Saturday.
"I never thought I would be the parade marshal," Basil said. "This came on really fast. I was sitting at McDonalds a few weeks ago telling the guys how I sure hate it that I am physically unable to march this year, and they all said, 'Get a ride.' Then Bill Hartman said, 'I've got a convertible for you to ride in. You can ride right behind the Highlanders.' I said, 'OK,' but I didn't think anything more about it.
"Then on Saturday morning, I went up to play with the Highlanders for opening exercises and the director came up and asked if I was going to do it. I said, 'What are you talking about?' She said, 'You're going to ride in the convertible, right? Hasn't anybody talked to you? You're going to ride in the convertible right up front behind the Highlanders and we're going to put a sign on it that says parade marshal.' That was the first I heard about this."
Basil's son, Brad Basil, said it is a huge honor for his father to be named parade marshal. He said it means "a great deal" to his father.
"He's grown up here and helped with the community all these years and been so involved with the Forest Festival," Brad Basil said. "It's a huge event to him, as it is to most of us who grew up here. He's as giddy as a school kid for being chosen. He's always felt it has always been a position held by people of great stature and he's really honored to be considered and accepted it with gratitude. Something like this brings out the child in him. He's thankful for everything."
Jack Basil will be accompanied by his granddaughter, Madison, in the convertible.
MSFF Assistant Director Mike Karlen said Basil has been involved in more festival parades than anyone else.
"Jack is a gentlemen that has been involved in the community for years," Karlen said. "Out of 74 festivals he has participated more than any other person."
Karlen said Basil was a perfect fit to be the parade marshal.
"Typically you have a celebrity as parade marshal but the experience he has in the parade and his involvement in the community makes him our local star," Karlen said. "It is an honor to have him represent our community."
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