Henderson to sparkle during diamond anniversary

In Betty Beason’s world, “neighbor” is a verb, something you do with people who live in the same small town as you.

When Beason, 79, was a girl and then a young woman living in a small town called Henderson, there was precious little else to do but “neighbor.” Now, six decades later, she rarely does it. There’s the one friend she has had coffee with every morning for more than 40 years, but that’s it.

“I just don’t neighbor with people like I used to,” says Beason, one of five grand marshals for Henderson’s upcoming Heritage Parade and Festival. “Someone new would move in, I would take cookies over and introduce myself. But people don’t have time to do that anymore.”

That’s what small-town life was like, Beason says. In the 60 years since Henderson was incorporated, it has grown to become Nevada’s second largest city.

Along with the population boom, from 7,000 to more than 250,000 residents, came a more urban attitude.

A mix of that small town life with a big city attitude will be on display during the city’s official diamond anniversary celebration, which kicks off today with a new carnival that runs through Sunday at the Henderson Events Plaza.

The community breakfast, parade, festival and car show are Saturday.

The Heritage Parade, featuring dozens of participants, will wind its way along Water Street in downtown Henderson at 10 a.m. Saturday .

After the parade, world cultures will be celebrated by the International Food & Folklife Association through entertainment and cuisines.

Beason is the daughter of Ida Belle Riggins, a former Henderson councilwoman. She is also one of the city’s first beauty queens, crowned in 1951, two years before Henderson was incorporated. Beason will share grand marshal duties with four other notable residents, including Joe Hill, former Henderson fire chief; David Bennion, a longtime teacher at Basic High School; representatives of Hafen’s OK Tire Store; and LeRoy Chase, the co-founder of Pinecrest Academy. Each marshal will have his or her own vehicle.

Beason will be joined in her car by her son, a granddaughter and a great-granddaughter.

The Heritage Festival will be in a familiar place to Beason — downtown Henderson — but it will be bigger than the ice cream socials she loved to attend as a young woman.

Beason’s family moved to Henderson in 1943 so that her father could take a job at the Basic Magnesium Plant.

During World War II, the plant supplied magnesium, an important ingredient used in munitions and airplane parts, to the U.S. War Department.

Growing up, there was one drugstore and one bowling alley, she says. Beason worked in the ticket booth at the only movie theater, selling tickets for 7 cents each.

“So it was a lot of pennies,” she recalls. “The movie was a big event. There would be a great, big line all the way down the street, just to get in the theater.”

There were no fast food places and few nearby restaurants. The highlight of the year was an ice cream social in a resident’s back yard.

All the Henderson residents would come, bringing their ice cream makers. Ladies baked cakes and the entire town partied.

It was a chance to catch up with neighbors, Beason says, and sample their baked goods.

This year’s Heritage Festival should give people an opportunity to do the same.

Contact reporter Sonya Padgett at spadgett@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4564. Follow @StripSonya on Twitter.