The grand marshal of the city’s 175th anniversary parade will be local historian Ralph Gregory, a World War II veteran, who has been researching this area’s history for more than five decades.

“Our committee has been talking about it for over a year and we decided who better to represent Washington as the grand marshal for our 175th birthday parade than Ralph Gregory,” said Judy Tobben, parade committee co-chair.

“Mr. Gregory has lived through so much of Washington’s history and growth and at 104 years young he is still active in telling Washington’s story,” she said. “He truly is a Washington legend.”

Gregory, who was born Sept. 27, 1909, has written more than a dozen books and his research on this area’s history has been a valuable contribution to several historical organizations.

He also wrote many historical articles for The Missourian.

Marc Houseman, director of the Washington Historical Society Museum, said Gregory is the ideal person to lead a parade celebrating Washington.

“Ralph is definitely the area’s foremost historian, and has spent over 50 years researching the subject,” Houseman said.

“He is the founder of the Washington Historical Society, Franklin County Historical Society and Phoebe Apperson Hearst Historical Society, as well as continuing to attend meetings of those societies and others,” he said.

“At age 104, he remains independent; lives alone, cares for his dog Sandy, prepares his own meals, tends to his property and researches and corresponds with many regarding local history.”

Houseman said Gregory still holds the position of curator at the Washington Historical Society and attends the monthly board meetings and other events.

“Currently, he is attending local history classes at East Central College, firmly believing that an active mind is the key to good health,” he said.

Gregory is a combat veteran of World War II, who was held for a period in Turkey after his Army Air Corps airplane made a crash landing in that country.

Seeking Entries

Tobben said the deadline is quickly approaching for businesses, schools, churches and groups to enter a float in the parade to be held Memorial Day weekend.

The parade will highlight and honor the history, traditions and generations of people who have and still call Washington home, said Tobben, who is co-chairing the committee with Moira Vossbrink.

The parade will take place Saturday, May 24, beginning at 11 a.m. in Downtown Washington.

May 24 is the actual anniversary date for Washington’s founding.

Tobben said parade applications and entry fees are due by April 21.

“This is such an important event and it only comes around every 25 years,” Tobben said. “For the 150th celebration, we had a huge parade with many floats and we really want that to happen again for the 175th. It was a really big deal.”

All participants are required to have decorations on their entries which reference Washington’s history. All floats must be built on a flatbed and not on the back of a pickup truck.

“We are seeking attractive floats or other entertaining entries from local organizations and businesses decorated to commemorate the city’s 175 years,” Tobben said. “We will have world-famous Clydesdales coming back. They were last here for the 150th birthday celebration. We also have a bubble truck, the Moolah Shriners and their Yomo mini patrol in the parade.”

No political entries and no alcohol will be allowed in or around the parade.

Floats will have an opportunity to be judged. Prizes will be awarded. The first-place float will win $100; second place, $75; and third place, $50.

Awards will be announced at the 175th picnic at the fairgrounds immediately following the parade. The picnic will be held from noon to 7 p.m.

Two informational meetings for parade participants are planned. A representative from each group is asked to attend one of the two meetings, scheduled for Tuesday, April 22, and Thursday, April 24, both beginning at 7 p.m. at the Bank of Washington, fourth floor meeting room.