Hawkins named Heartland Days grand marshal
This year's Hammond Heartland Days Grand Marshal will not be leading the parade in a convertible. Leon Hawkins, the 2012 Heartland Days Grand Marshal, will be leading the parade, behind the American Legion honor guard in his horse-drawn wagon, with his family in the back.
Hawkins is a Hammond native and has been raising draft horses since the late 1980s. And he has been bringing them to parades in Roberts, Baldwin and Hammond for years. When he was named grand marshal, Hawkins said there was only one way he wanted to travel through the parade.
"I've been in parades for 20 years with these horses and that's what I wanted to do." Hawkins said.
Hawkins has two Belgian draft horses, King and Cody, which he uses to pull his wagon in every parade he rides in, including the Heartland Days parade.
"I'm honored to be picked as grand marshal," Hawkins said. The Hammond Lions Club named Hawkins grand marshal through a committee process.
Hawkins's wife, Ilene, said Hawkins has lived in Hammond his whole life and she is very proud of him.
"He, in turn, is proud of Hammond, too," Ilene said.
Hawkins has done a lot of volunteering in Hammond and the surrounding area. In addition to bringing his horses and wagon to parades in Roberts, Baldwin and Hammond, he gives wagon rides in River Falls and Hudson for community events.
"People really love an old-fashioned, horse-drawn wagon ride," Hawkins said, "winter or summer."
Hawkins has also helped coordinate the Draft Horse Hitch Show at the St. Croix County Fair for many years. He has been president of the Wisconsin Draft Horse and Mule Association for the past few years and has been active in coordinating their annual spring and fall Yesteryear Field Days.
Hawkins is a charter member of the Hammond Lions Club and has been a member since the mid-1980s. He has served as president and has helped with the annual Hammond Heartland Days celebration for many years, before being asked to lead the parade as grand marshal this year.
"I've been helping with this celebration for umpteen years," Hawkins said. "Through thick and thin."
The Hawkins family will ride in the wagon with him through the parade. Hawkins and Ilene have three children and six grandchildren and most of them will be there for the parade.
"That'll be kind of fun," Hawkins said.