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Deb Copeland grew up with Pepper Fest

Debi Copeland is this year's Pepper Fest Grand Marshal. She literally grew-up with the festival, volunteering and serving in nearly every position over the years.1 / 2
This photo ran in the Hudson Star-Observer in August of 2007. Four generations from one family pitched in to help set up for Pepper Fest. From the left are daughter Deb (Gregerson) Copeland, grandfather Wally Gregerson, granddaughter Mandy Huston and great-grandson Tyler Huston.2 / 2

Accepting recognition is not something that comes easy for Deb Copeland. The passionate Pepper Fest volunteer is this year's Grand Marshal.

"The first time I worked during the event, was when Sue Fox said she needed help serving beer," said Copeland, "I ended up serving beer the whole weekend." That was in 1977.

"All of us children would show up and help dad set up, he was village president and in charge of physical facilities for Pepper Fest," said Copeland. Her father, Wally Gregerson is a long time North Hudson resident and volunteer. Today, Copeland's son Ryan has taken over for his grandfather. Ryan is on the Pepper Fest Board and in charge of Physical Facilities.

"My dad says he was involved with Pepper Fest since the beginning of time," said Copeland. The Gregersons moved to North Hudson and became involved with the festival in the 1950's. The festival ceased for 15 years. When it returned in 1975, Wally and his family, including Deb and her siblings stepped right in to help.

Growing up in North Hudson, Copeland and her four siblings walked to St. Patrick's School. She graduated from Hudson High School in 1974. This week she celebrated her 30th wedding anniversary with her husband Dan.

Wally and Bernie Gregerson, Copeland's parents, were the Pepper Fest Grand Marshals in 1998.

"Because of the example both of my parents gave us. All of us kids grew up civic minded," said Copeland.

"I am usually the one that always picks and gives names for who might be the good neighbor and grand marshal," said Copeland. "I couldn't believe it that they chose me. This is awkward for me, when they were going on and on about the person they selected I finally asked who it was. I would rather be behind the scenes."

Copeland has been anything but behind the scenes to the other folks who have volunteered over the years. From years of helping her father set-up to serving on committees and on the board of directors Copeland has basically done it all.

"It is a part of my family history," said Copeland of Pepperfest. "I always found things for the kids to do when we were setting up and as they grew older they took on more responsibility."

"I am really proud to have grown up in North Hudson and I am very proud that my parents taught me the importance of community involvement and that they raised me the way they did."

"I believe in giving back to the community," said Copeland. "If I was to pick any charity it would be the North Hudson Pepper Fest. I still like the fact that they give to a variety of organizations." Copeland acknowledges that a lot folks come back to serve even though they are not on the board or a committee they comeback to help with everything including set-up. There are also several multi-generational families in addition to Copeland's.

"Deb and I are what's left of what is considered the old guard," said Dan Barber, long time president of the Pepper Fest Board. "It is her dedication to the community. She is very passionate about North Hudson and has been an instrumental part of Pepper Fest for years."

"To me personally she really shined during the North Hudson Centennial," said Barber. "Picking up the ball and helping make it all happen."

"This was an honor that was overdue," said Barber. "She has had almost every role from serving on the board, to volunteering on almost all the committees and she knows the history of North Hudson and the Pepper Fest. She is a great historian as well as volunteer."

"This is a great compliment," said Copeland, whose son Ryan knew two weeks before his mom that she would be have a place of honor this year as the Grand Marshal of Pepper Fest, after years and years of volunteering with unmatched passion.