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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

For the week of Aug 28 - Sept 3, 2002


Old-timers honored as parade co-marshals

Bill Johnston and Jim Hitson

Express Staff Writer

Bill Johnston

If the Wagon Days Big Hitch Parade is one of the West’s most western events, then this year’s two grand marshals are as western as Stetsons and leather cowboy chaps.

Fact is, Bill Johnston, 53, and Jim Hitson, 83, are genuine old-timers with the parade—Hitson has marched in it every year except the first parade in 1958, and Johnston has participated for 18 years, usually on a horse color guard.

But Johnston, a dairy farmer in Richfield some 60 miles southeast of Ketchum, has an unhappy distinction that no other participant in the history of the parade can claim: fingers on one of his hands were accidentally blown off two years ago by the parade cannon that he helped fashion 20 years ago from a large pipe. The cannon, resembling a Civil War cannon, was fired to signal the parade’s start.

Jim Hitson

As for Hitson, he’s one of the area’s colorful old-timers with a quick wit and rapid retort, a North Dakota-born onetime child prodigy competitive alpine ski jumper who wandered eastern slopes until he decided on Sun Valley in 1956 and still instructs beginning skiers (he’s known as "President of Dollar Mountain").

Why beginners? "They need help and appreciate it," he says.

As he’s done in all past parades, Hitson will be dressed in the buckskins of a mountain man—but this time riding in a wagon as a VIP marshal, instead of walking as he has in past parades.

"I’m not gonna put on a tux for this," Hitson cracks.

Both Hitson and Johnston are stunned by their selection as co-grand marshals for the parade.

"Kind of a nice surprise after all these years," a subdued Hitson remarked.

"It’s quite an honor," Johnston says, "considering all the other people who’re more deserving."

Both men are military veterans—Johnston from Vietnam, Hitson from Navy service during World War II in the Pacific on landing craft.

In fact, it was Hitson’s Navy service that led to his settling in Sun Valley: he was sent here for rest and recuperation when the Sun Valley Lodge was turned into a wartime Navy rest facility.



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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.