This year’s Ennis Fourth of July Parade will be full of colorful floats, patriotic moments and an abundance of hometown pride.
But for the first time in many years, Ennis’ Mary Oliver won’t be announcing the grand spectacle.
Oliver will be the grand marshal of the 2012 Ennis Fourth of July Parade and will be leading the procession down the Main Street of the town she loves and has devoted much of her energy and time to throughout her life.
You can’t talk to many people in Ennis, who don’t personally know Oliver and many of them will call her a friend.
And if collecting great friends earns you a special spot in heaven, she’s set. But beyond her friendship, Oliver has devoted much of her life to philanthropic pursuits.
If you think you’re busy, try her schedule on for size. Oliver volunteers her time with Ennis Big Brothers Big Sisters, Ennis Parade Committee, Madison Valley Medical Center Foundation, Madison Valley Cultural Corporation, Virginia City Preservation Alliance, Madison County Economic Development Council, Sheridan Main Street Improvement Team, Rocky Mountain College National Advisory Council, Montana Chamber of Commerce, the Montana Preservation Alliance and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
This year, the Ennis Chamber of Commerce’s parade committee decided to make Oliver grand marshal to recognize not only her service to the biggest event each year in Ennis, but to all she’s meant to the town over the years, said Ennis Chamber of Commerce President Karen Willet
“She’s been instrumental in keeping this thing going,” Willet said. “Mary needs to be honored for her accomplishments and dedication to the town.”
Oliver grew up as a ranch kid in the Madison Valley and attended Ennis High School where she was nearly as active as she is today, participating in cheerleading, band, the school newspaper, Rainbow Girls, 4-H and choir.
After high school, she went to college and came back to work at First Madison Valley Bank, where she still works today as vice president of marketing and public relations. She also raised her two children, Brent and Bobbie, in Ennis.
Over the years, Oliver has many fond memories, both in Madison County and abroad. She shook hands with former Russian president Mikhail Gorbachev on the boardwalks of Virginia City in front of The Bale Of Hay Saloon.
She managed a trip to Berlin in 1990 with several mothers and their high school children. In Berlin the adults, who grew up during the Cold War, watched their high school-aged children as they tore down parts of the Berlin Wall that hadn’t been torn down in November of 1989. The experience was made possible because Oliver had met an ex-Berlin police officer that became an international tour guide for the group.
Through her friendship with the late Jinny Combs, Oliver met Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Conner and was able to visit with her for two hours prior to watching a Supreme Court hearing.
Through it all, Oliver has made a point of opening her home to new friends and complete strangers needing a place to stay or a meal. It’s important to honor the biblical verse “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing, some people have entertained angels without knowing it,” she said.
Oliver’s passion for the Ennis Fourth of July Parade comes from both a love of her community and of her country. The parade is a perfect opportunity to celebrate our patriotism and the beauty and simplicity of small-town life.
The theme for this year’s parade is “Main Street Ennis – Where it Happens.”
Oliver still leads the parade committee and was instrumental in choosing this year’s parade honorees: The 150th anniversary of the Homestead Act and 100 year anniversary of Montana 4-H.
The two really were instrumental to life in the Madison Valley, Willet said.
“Downtown Ennis, where it all happens, really wouldn’t have become downtown Ennis without the Homestead Act,” Willet said.
And 4-H has been a crucial organization for many in Ennis through the years as local kids learned a wealth of life lessons.
According to their website: “4-H is the largest, out-of-school youth development program in the state, reaching about 25,000 youth in all counties each year. In 4-H, if you can dream it, you can do it! 4-H offers more than 100 different projects and learning experiences that will engage you actively while you’re having fun.”
The Ennis Fourth of July Parade is put on by the Ennis Chamber of Commerce and is an important event for the community and businesses as thousands of people flood into town for the celebration, Willet said.
“Not only is it an important day in our nation’s history, but it also really highlights, as a small town, what built America,” she said. “Plus we get to showcase our beautiful city and town.”
The parade begins at 10 a.m. July 4. However, other events are held surrounding the parade, including the Ennis Rodeo, which begins July 3 at 8 p.m. and then a second performance is held July 4 at 2 p.m.
Also, the Madison Valley Volunteer Fire Department will have their pancake breakfast July 4 starting at 6 a.m. at the Ennis fire hall north of town.
The Ennis Chamber of Commerce will also be selling 50/50 raffle tickets before the parade on July 4.
There is also a car show on the lawn of the Sportsman’s Lodge from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on July 4.
And of course don’t miss the fireworks show beginning at dusk on July 4 in Virginia City.
The chamber is also selling fireworks at Madison Foods beginning June 25 and all proceeds go to the Ennis Chamber of Commerce scholarship fund.
Ennis Fourth of July t-shirts are already on sale at the chamber office on Main Street, at First Madison Valley Bank and at Madison Foods for $15.
For more information on the parade or to volunteer to help out, contact the Ennis Chamber of Commerce office at 682-4388.