When Vernon Conrad was named New Richmond’s 2013 Citizen of the Year, he didn’t realize the title came with Fun Fest grand marshal duties.
It wasn’t until he read the article about himself in the New Richmond News that he discovered the added responsibility.
“Oh was I happy,” he said.
Conrad, a developmentally disabled adult, immediately contacted Wally Lind, who, along with his wife Esther, acts as Conrad’s legal guardian, to tell him about the honor.
“I wasn’t so sure, so we had to call the Chamber to confirm it,” Lind said.
Conrad was dubbed New Richmond’s No. 1 Band Booster in the 1980s and participated in the Fun Fest parade for many years as an honorary cymbal player, Lind said.
It’s his long history with the band that made former band teacher Rich Gregerson step forward after hearing about Conrad’s honor.
“Rich contacted me about using his Jaguar convertible to drive Vernon in the parade,” Lind said.
Conrad said he went right to work writing letters to his friends and relatives to tell them about the parade. Now, he’s expecting around 25 people to attend the parade to cheer him on.
Lind recently had a shirt made for Conrad that identifies him as grand marshal of the parade and the 2013 Citizen of the Year. Conrad has since purchased brand new shorts to wear with the shirt on the day of the parade.
Conrad said it’s not hard to be a fan of New Richmond because there are so many ways to be involved with the community.
“I go to a lot of baseball games and am part of the Knights of Columbus and the Sons of the Legion,” he said. “I also collect money for the Legion baseball team and the Millers.”
Born in Amery in 1946, Conrad lived in New Richmond as a young boy before moving into a Chippewa Falls institution. He returned to New Richmond in 1973 and has been an active Tiger ever since.
Conrad said along with the Fun Fest parade, he’s looking forward to visiting the carnival, chatting with his friends and watching the Millers play Osceola this week.
“I really hope they beat Osceola this year,” Conrad said. “That’s a big rivalry there.”
In the meantime, Conrad said he’ll be at home practicing his wave.