At age 224, ‘James Hart Stark’ returns as Colorfest Parade’s Grand Marshal

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Jim Waddell in his role as James Hart Stark. He will portray Stark as grand marshal of the Colorfast Fall Festival Parade.

Jim Waddell in his role as James Hart Stark. He will portray Stark as grand marshal of the 32nd Annual Louisiana Country Colorfest parade.

Louisiana, MO – The Grand Marshal of the 32nd Annual Louisiana Country Colorfest parade will be none other than James Hart Stark, the founder of Stark Bro’s Nurseries & Orchards Co. The parade will commence at 10:00 am, Saturday, October 15, at the riverfront.

One might wonder how a 224-year-old man could get out of bed in the morning — let alone serve as the Grand Marshal of a parade — but James has been active around town for a while now. “James” is actually Louisiana native Jim Waddell, perhaps the country’s most famous Mark Twain impersonator. Lately, he has been moonlighting as “James Hart Stark,” appearing at a number of events throughout Stark Bro’s 200th anniversary of their founding in 1816/

“I think he looks pretty good for 224,” says Stark Bro’s owner Cameron Brown at the company’s recent Bicentennial Celebration.

“My ancestors settled in Pike County just 11 years after J. H. Stark,” explains Waddell, “and my family has long recognized the vital position the nursery has occupied in the community for two centuries and counting. It was both a challenge and a privilege to be asked to portray a man whose legacy has meant so much to so many.”

Waddell feels doubly honored to be chosen as Grand Marshal of the big parade. “I’m an old farm boy,” he says. “Born and raised in Louisiana. There is something almost magical in being asked to fulfill something as conspicuous as the place of honor in your home town’s parade.”

Another guest of honor who will be making a special appearance is Delphine Brawner, Stark Bro’s oldest living retiree. She will celebrate her 102nd birthday this year. Delphine was also fêted at the 200th Anniversary Celebration, and was overwhelmed with emotion at the kind attention she received.

Colorfest is a long-standing fall tradition organized by the Louisiana Chamber of Commerce. There will be plenty of food, beverages, entertainment, and vendors on the grounds for everyone to enjoy, and admission is free. The parade is one of the most anticipated highlights.

Stark Bro’s will show off its “200th Birthday Cake” float, built by an all-volunteer construction crew. Employees will also be staffing a booth, handing out coupons good for purchases at the Stark Bro’s Garden Center on West Georgia St. in Louisiana.

Visitors who present the coupon will be offered a complimentary piece of birthday cake and a $5 discount on any purchase of $15 or more. A drawing will be held for a pair of 7-gallon fruit trees, worth $114. The Garden Center will be serving the birthday cake until it’s gone.

About Stark Bro’s Nurseries & Orchards Co.
Stark Bro’s, founded in 1816 — the world’s oldest fruit-tree nursery — offers more than 150 varieties of fruit, nut and shade trees and other garden plants. The company mails out 2 million catalogs each year to home gardeners, and ships more than 1 million trees and plants to consumers and commercial orchardists nationwide.

Stark Bro’s is still located in Louisiana, Mo., along with its retail Garden Center, warehouses, greenhouses and main test orchards. Nursery stock is also grown in Atlas, Illinois. For more information, please visit http://StarkBros.com.

George Freeman is a veteran journalist and photographer. An award-winning writer, editor and columnist in Springfield, Mo., with more than 50 years experience. His preference is for positive and uplifting stories about people, places, traditions and trends that make the Ozarks one of the most livable regions anywhere. A member of the Garden Writers Association of America, he is a past-president of the Society of Professional Journalists of Southwest Missouri, the Kansas and Ohio AP societies; a board member of Friends of the Garden and a member of the Rotary Club of Springfield. In 1976, he traveled to India as a member of a Rotary Foundation Group Study Exchange Team.

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