Henderson to celebrate diamond anniversary with Heritage Day Parade and Festival

Since his arrival at the Basic townsite in 1952 — just months before its incorporation as a city — Joe Hill recalled attending the annual parade at various points of his life.

“It was the highlight of the year,” he said. “We all looked forward to it.”

Whether it was watching in awe when he was 8 or observing his grandchildren gasp from excitement now, Hill never could have imagined all his times coming to the parade that he would be its grand marshal one year.

“When (the city) called, I thought it was a prank at first,” Hill said. “It’s an honor and a pleasure.”

Hill is one of five grand marshals for the 60th Henderson Heritage Parade, scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday in the Water Street District.

The parade has gone through many changes, starting out as the Industrial Days Parade, then becoming Spring
sational before transforming to the Heritage Day Parade and Festival.

Hill has seen most of them.

“It’s gotten bigger, but it hasn’t really changed,” he said.

He moved to Henderson when he was 8 when his father was seeking a job.

After graduating from high school, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. He moved to Los Angeles after his four years in the service.

“But I hated it,” he said. “I couldn’t stand the traffic.”

Hill moved back to Henderson to work as an auto mechanic.

“We had a neighbor who was a firefighter,” he said. “He told me I should take the test. I didn’t want to be a firefighter, but he kept bugging me.”

Giving in, he tested and within three months was working for the Henderson Fire Department.

“It just kind of happened,” he said. “It’s not like these guys today who have to work and work at it. But it was the best decision I’ve ever done.”

During his career and the expansion of Henderson, he oversaw negotiations for four new fire stations and a fire training center.

“It was an exciting time,” he said. “Everywhere was growing.”

Hill worked his way through the fire department.

“The highlight of my career was becoming the fire chief,” he said.

Other grand marshals are scheduled to be Betty Beason, a Henderson resident of 70 years; David Bennion, a Henderson native who has taught for more than 30 years in the Clark County School District; and LeRoy Chase, who has lived in Henderson since 1954 and taught for more than 42 years.

Representatives of Hafen’s OK Tire Store, which was started by Henderson Mayor Andy Hafen’s father, Herschel Hafen, in 1953, are also scheduled to be grand marshals. Herschel Hafen died in December.

Beason, the daughter of Henderson’s first female elected official, Ida Belle Riggins, arrived at the townsite in 1943.

She graduated from Basic High School in a class size of 36.

“I was the first girl to receive the governor’s citizens trophy,” she said.

Beason remembers a time when the parade wasn’t called the Industrial Days Parade.

“It was just the Henderson parade before it was incorporated,” she said.

As one of the city’s first beauty queens and winner of the Miss VFW contest in 1951 — changed to Miss Industrial Days in 1953 — Beason has been in the parade before.

“I never would have dreamed I’d be back in the parade,” she said. “It’s an honor.”

Alongside her, she plans to have four generations of Beasons.

The four-day event is scheduled to kick off from 4 to 10 p.m. Thursday at the Henderson Events Plaza, 200 S. Water St.

It is slated to run from 4 to 10 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday.

The festival is also scheduled to include breakfast with the City Council, a car show, food vendors, a carnival and entertainment.

Admission is complimentary.

For more information, visit hendersonlive.com.

Contact Henderson/Anthem View reporter Michael Lyle at mlyle@viewnews.com or 702-387-5201.

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