HAZEL — Forgive City of Hazel Mayor John “Scooter” Paschall for his exuberance during the parade for Saturday’s annual Hazel Celebration in that Kentucky/Tennessee border community.
He really was having the time of his life as he rode in the bed of a pickup truck that was leading the way for the Hazel Baptist Church float that won best float honors. Throughout the parade, he proudly displayed the trophy, while sending some commemorative balloons to the many people lining Third Street and U.S. 641, the two streets that comprised the parade route.
“I can’t lie. I was having an absolute blast up there,” Paschall said, explaining that the parade ride was just part of why he was feeling so excited Saturday. “This is what this day is about. It’s about having fun and kind of unwinding and really enjoying this small community we’ve got, as well as seeing what we’ve got.
“It’s about all of the vendors and eats and business and art districts and I think every bit of that, in one way or another, was represented in this parade. This, in fact, was one of the bigger parades we’ve had here in a while and (Hazel Celebration Committee Chair) Alli Robertson and the staff with the Hazel Day crew have done a great job.”
This year also marked 30 years for the event, which may have also provided a spark for organizers. Entertainment was provided by the George Dunn Band from Nashville, Tennessee, a country music group that has been on bills with such stars as Brad Paisley and Lonestar.
Traditional activities like a car show and cake walk were also included, and no Hazel event would be complete without a wide variety of antiques being available for purchase, going along with the town’s reputation for being one of the antique destinations in the country.
However, this year’s Hazel Celebration was utilized for the anticipated debut of a Vietnam War-era ambulance that Billy Lane Lauffer American Legion Post 73 of Murray obtained last year and has been working to renovate. It was unveiled during Saturday’s parade.
Post 73 member Dave Groesbeck had the honor of driving the vehicle.
‘I’m not doing too bad, since I rode in the back of one of these back in 1970,” said Groesbeck, a Marine Corps veteran, who was injured during the war while stationed with Marine Observation Squadron 2 (VMO-2) at Da Nang in South Vietnam. “It’s been quite a while, April 8, to be exact. All I remember is getting in the back of it. It was dark, so I wasn’t seeing the inside of it real good.”
Post 73 Service Officer Mark Kennedy also has experienced riding in the back of such an ambulance, having sustained major injuries during a shootout with a Viet Cong soldier. He survived, though, meaning he was able to see all of the hard work performed on the ambulance – possibly the only one from that era still in existence today – come to fruition.
“It means a lot, especially when you’ve seen pictures of it when it had trees growing in it,” Kennedy said of the ambulance that was recovered after sitting in an east Tennessee wooded area for several years. “We’ve had a lot of guys work on it – Eddie Cook, Ed Ward, Jimmy Clemons and others – that just jumped right on this and worked diligently, and it runs good now.”
Paschall, whose brother served in Vietnam, said he felt especially honored that his hometown is where the ambulance made its first public appearance being recovered.
“This is wonderful. It’s wonderful to see (Post 73) represent themselves and come here to the City of Hazel,” he said. “We also have a lot of military people here and, sometimes, they’re forgotten and it’s a good way for them to be remembered.
“I hope the people here today enjoyed it and respected it and I think this shows that Vietnam vets are starting to get remembered the way they should. They served our country and they need to be remembered.”