Who’s That Star?

Over the last 48 celebrations of St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin and Laurens County many celebrities have visited us during the parade and throughout the month long series of Irish events. You often hear, “I see her!” or “There he is!” Or, sometimes someone will ignorantly say, “who is that riding in that car?

Karl Slover, Munchkin 2006

There have been the times when local celebrities and politicians have served as grand marshals, speakers and festival guests. We all know, or should know, who they are. But, then there are the national celebrities, the ones some of us have grown to know and to love, and quite frankly, some we have grown to hate. I’ll let you know about one celebrity in particular later.

Demaryius Thomas

Most of the famous celebrities appear in the St. Patrick’s Parade, sponsored by the Dublin Civitan Club. This year one of our own, Demaryius “Bay Bay” Thomas, will serve as the Grand Marshal for the 48th St. Patrick’s Parade. Thomas, a star athlete at West Laurens High and Georgia Tech, was selected to the Pro Bowl in his third season in the NFL. Atlanta Falcon stars William Andrews and Tony Casillas served as grand marshals back in the early 1980s.

Erik Walden, a former Dublin High school football player, was a last minute addition to the 2013 parade.  Originally named a grand marshal, Walden could not commit because of pending free agent negotiations.  Walden, who started for the World Champion Green Bay Packers, signed a 16 million dollar contract to play for the Indianapolis Colts.

Erik Walden
In its early years, the St. Patrick’s Festivals hosted some of the greatest musical talent in the country. Danny Davis, who earned fame as the nation’s premier country music big band leader, brought his famed “Nashville Brass” to town for a show in 1974. Two years later, Brenda Lee, a country music and pop legend, performed on the local stage during the St. Patrick’s Festival. Big band leaders Guy Lombardo, Wayne King, Charlie Spivak, and Vaughn Monroe performed in the late around festival time in the early years.

Music, especially great jazz, was an integral part of the Arts and Crafts Show in Stubbs Park in the 198os. Nationally known jazz artists like Ed Shaughnessy, (left) Yank Lawson, Johnny Mince, Bobby Barnett and Milt Hilton had festival goers tapping their feet and clapping their hands in a 1983 concert.

The 8th St. Patrick’s Festival in 1973 may have been notable for, if for nothing else, a visit from the most vexatious vixen of day time soap operas. The celebrity of the festival that year was Eileen Fulton, who portrayed the constantly scheming, intensely jealous and never satisfied Lisa Hughes. Miss Hughes, who married one husband short of a baseball team in her fifty-year tenure on the cast of As The World Turns, was the hit of the evening as emcee of the Miss Saint Patrick’s Beauty Contest which was then held in the auditorium of the VA Medical Center.

Miss Fulton arrived at the Laurens County Airport to the cheers of large crowd of well wishers. Her uncle, C. Fulton Glenn and his wife, Mildred Leavitt Glenn, hosted the popular soap opera star in their Dublin home.

Former Dublin resident, Cassie Yates, (left) who starred in movies and television shows for three decades, reigned as the Grand Marshal in the 1978 parade. Bobbie Eakes, of nearby Macon and Warner Robins, a former Miss Georgia, and a member of the cast of the CBS Soap Opera, The Bold and The Beautiful and ABC’s All My Children, appeared in the parade in the early 1990s. Donna Douglas, who portrayed everyone’s favorite animal loving, beautiful tomboy, hillbilly girl, “Elly Mae Clampett” on the Beverly Hillbillies has appeared in couple of parades in recent years.

Donna Douglas "Elly Mae Clampett" 2011

Although he never came to Dublin, TV talk show host Joey Bishop was made an honorary leprechaun for the 1968 festival. Bishop saluted the festival for an entire week on his nationally broadcast show.

During the 1960s, celebrity guests were often invited to attend the festival. Some of those who accepted the invitation were the legendary, then very youthful, University of Georgia football coach, Vince Dooley. Paul Anderson, of Vidalia and once billed as the “strongest man in the world,” came too. So did Johnny Boyd, who raced in the Indy 500 from 1955 to 1966.

In 1982, Bill Rodgers, (left)  a four-time winner of the Boston Marathon and the New York Marathon as well as being twice named the #1 marathon runner in world, competed in the 1982 ten thousand meter road race along with former Olympic runner, Jeff Galloway, known as the founder of the Peachtree Road Race.

You probably know that a President of the United States has participated in the St. Patrick’s Festival. As Governor, Jimmy Carter made appearances in St. Patrick’s activities. And as governor, Jimmy Carter signed four St. Patrick’s proclamations for the years 1971-1974. Then there were appearances by United States Senators Sam Nunn and Herman Talmadge, two of the most iconic senators in the state’s history. Of course, there have been a host of congressmen, state officials, and all sorts of government officials who come to town. You usually seen them during election time.

In fact, nearly every governor of the state from the beginning of the festival with Lester Maddox to this year’s Joint Civic Luncheon speaker, Governor Nathan Deal, have joined in on the wearin’ of the green.

Karl Slover, 2007

And of course, there have been local celebrities as well. In recent years, Munchkin Karl Slover, Brigadier General Belinda Higdon Pinckney, (one of the United States Army’s highest ranking female African American generals), and renowned blues singer, E.G. Kight have served as grand marshals of the St. Patrick’s Day parade. Although they were not as famous, the veterans of our community, who served with unceasing patriotism and pride with no hope of any reward, were chosen to lead the parade in 2011.

E.G. Kight, 2012

Brigadier General - Belinda Higdon Pinckney, 2009

Local politicians and government officials like six-term congressman, J. Roy Rowland, Jr. and Georgia Supreme Court Justice Conley Ingram were featured in St. Patrick’s activities.

And, you may just catch a glimpse of a celebrity, not in the parade nor on the stage, but sometimes they appear in the crowds. Few, if any people, recognized acclaimed film maker Spike Lee, as he watched the parade incognito while he was in town researching his family’s roots here for the NBC genealogy program, Who Do You Think You Are?.

We really don’t know which famous people have been here during the festivals. You never know, there is always a possibility of a “Honey Boo Boo” sighting. Col. Rusty Henderson has invited her to ride along with him in his Dukes of Hazzard “General Lee’ Dodge Charger. After all, Dukes of Hazzard star, Ben “Cooter Davenport” Jones was here in 1985. So, keep your eyes out, y’all!

So, in the days to come and in the festivals of the future, keep your eyes open. One day, you just may have the irresistible urge to exclaim, “There he is!”