Wanda Plourde is Pepper Fest's grand marshal
Wanda Plourde got her first taste of Pepper Fest when she was 10 years old.
A new resident to the village of North Hudson, she went all out for one of Pepper Fest's first parades. Dressed in an old blue prom dress with a crown made from pipe cleaners and a sash fashioned from meat wrapping paper, Plourde posed a written question, "May I be queen when I'm 16?"
"I'll never forget it," she said, describing the outfit in detail.
That moment made a mark. Though she never ran for royalty, Plourde found her way back to the parade as its organizer for 10 years.
And this year, she'll be leading the parade as the Pepper Fest Grand Marshal.
The title recognizes Plourde's quiet volunteer efforts over the years, Pepper Fest Board President Tim Zais said.
"We are overdue in recognizing Wanda and thanking her for her efforts and gracious that she accepted to be our 2018 North Hudson Pepper Festival Grand Marshal," Zais said.
Plourde said she was honored to be chosen as the Grand Marshal, though she's not used to having the spotlight on her during the parade.
Though she had long since moved out of North Hudson, Plourde started organizing the parade 20 years ago when a friend got her involved.
"I got into it and I liked it so I stuck with it," she said.
The planning starts in February, organizing all the different participants into one cohesive parade through the village. Her busiest year had 137 participants.
Plourde works to space out the various types of floats, making sure bands won't be drowned out by other music and that the crowd doesn't see too much of anything in a row.
"I just scatter them," she said.
Plourde said she had no clue just how much work it would be to prepare, but the parade day is always fun.
"All the people that come are so happy to be there," Plourde said.
She misses those mornings now, the excitement as all the work comes to a head. The afternoons, once the parade wrapped, were marked by pajamas and sleep before heading back for more Pepper Fest that night.
The parade is of course a favorite, but Plourde said she also enjoys the food at Pepper Fest and seeing the park filled with people she knows from the community, from the people she graduated with to the kids she used to babysit, now grown up.
"It's a lot of local people, it's a lot of catching up," Plourde said.
Warm — that's how Plourde describes the whole festival, and the community that hosts it.
"I love North Hudson," she said. "Growing up in that town, it was amazing."