When he and Terry Hapney finished describing Ironton’s Memorial Day Parade 15 years ago, veteran local broadcaster J.B. Miller figured it was a one-shot deal.
After more than a decade of providing the parade’s play by play, Miller now jokes, “I’ll probably be doing it until the time of death.”
Miller, who is the morning personality on Big Buck Country 101.5 FM and manager for the Huntington Area Habitat for Humanity Restore, is an Ashland resident and Ironton native who has a lifelong association with the nation’s longest-running Memorial Day celebration. His grandfather was a member of the United Commercial Travelers and Miller said his family was among the many who always watched the parade from a favorite spot. To this day, Miller said he knows of people who will stake out a spot by placing a lawn chair along the parade route a day early.
“I marched in the parade myself as a Cub Scout and Webelos and later in the Ironton Junior High Marching Band,” he recalled, adding he was working in radio by 16 and found himself riding the parade route waving to people from radio-station vehicles. “And, for the last 15 years, I’ve watched the entire parade from start to finish.”
With plans to broadcast from the same corner as in years past, Miller said he looks forward to traditions, including an interview with the mayor, which is certain to include discussion of the official’s tie, as well as talk about anything new in Ironton. Despite the nonstop demand of the job describing the parade, Miller said he is also certain many who have known him for years will try to initiate casual conversations with him while he is on duty.
“It is just fun. I get to see people I only see once a year,” he said. “I respect that parade and understand what it means. I don’t get paid for doing it, nor would I accept it if I did.”
Miller said he has witnessed plenty of change during his 15 years as an announcer for the parade, including replacement “rajahs” swinging swords and leading the Shriners’ marching band.
“I guess there’s only so many years a man can swing that sword and thrust his belly,” he said with a chuckle.
Noting the parade has never been rained out, Miller said he is confident the sky will be sunny Monday.
“In my 15 years, I’ve never been rained on. I’ve never gotten wet during that parade. I’ve certainly gotten a lot of sunburns,” he said. “I absolutely love it.”
Miller said he has noted seeing parade participants grow from young children to high school graduates and even been reminded of his own years when he sees the junior high marching band pass by. He’s also had his share of awkward moments, Miller admitted.
“You’re wearing a headset and people walk up to be interviewed and you don’t know who they are,” he said, explaining he was familiar with former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, but didn’t recognize the governor’s wife when she filled in for him one year. “The first lady of Ohio came over and I interviewed her thinking, ‘Who in the world is this woman?’”
Miller and Hapney provide the voice-over descriptions for the parade video completed by students from Ohio University Southern.
TIM PRESTON can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2651.