80th Strawberry Festival enjoys fair skies for parades

Governor Haslam keeps it light, ‘I’m still awake!’

In keeping with tradition, Gov. Bill Haslam was presented with a crate of Gibson County, Tennessee strawberries after speaking at the Governor’s Luncheon Friday. Festival president Ashley Culpepper (left) and general chairman Melissa Swingler present the berries along with luncheon co-chairs Alex Smith and Greer Lashlee.

When all is right with the world it doesn’t rain on Strawberry Festival parades.

And all was right Thursday and Friday despite the weatherman predictions otherwise. Both parades marched through Humboldt’s Main Street without delay or dampness.

Rain held up almost up till time for the horse show later Friday afternoon, when it finally found Humboldt just in time to soak the Chalmus Davenport Arena and postpone the show.

But the sun rose Saturday in all its glory, shining on 5K runners, car show enthusiasts and BBQ cookers, and saving the horse show.

About 175 entries rolled and floated down Main Street, along with several bands and dancing groups, under overcast but dry skies Friday morning during the Grand Floats Parade.

After the Friday parade, Tenneessee Governor Bill Haslam was the featured attraction at the annual Governor’s Luncheon. Committee co-chair Alex Smith welcomed the large crowd at the Humboldt Medical Center’s conference area.

“I appreciate you all holding off the rain today,” he told those gathered for the luncheon.

Smith noted some of Haslam’s accomplishments including landmark improvements in education, thousands of new private sector jobs and shrinking the state debt to the lowest in the country.

The governor was in Asia last year during the festival trying to recruit jobs. “I would have rather been here,” he said noting the unfamiliar food. When he and wife Christy arrived there, an elaborate reception awaited them on the tarmac. Mrs. Haslam was presented with a huge bouquet of roses. She told her husband it was more roses than he had given her in 30 years of bouquets. They were surprised by the fanfare at the airport but later learned the people were “just practicing” for the G-8 Summit coming up the next week.

As he approaches the end of his tenure as governor, Haslam says his role is more fun now. “It’s harder when you are running,” he confirmed, noting all the soon to be candidates already campaigning.

He recalled asking Mrs. Haslam how she could listen to him giving the same talk over and over. How could she force herself to look at him adoringly through 5,000 renditions of basically the same speech? I learned how to look at you and not listen, she explained.

Haslam looked back, noting how it felt wanting to be governor almost eight years ago compared to now. Now he is in the last 20 months of his second and last term. “Everyone is looking at my corpse in the casket, but I’m still awake!”

Haslam joked about moving to Gibson County and running for mayor, to which County Mayor Tom Witherspoon, from his seat on the stage piped up: H____, I’ll back you!

Seriously, Gov. Haslam continued: “Serving as governor has been an incredible honor.” Unlike some governors, Haslam has enjoyed a great General Assembly to work with.

He credits his GA for working to create the fastest improving educational system in the country.  It’s now easy for adults and young people to receive two years free at a community college or technical school. The result is more people being educated and being trained. And the result of that is more industry interest than ever before in the state of Tennessee.

He said he believed in government harnessed the right way for good. It’s like fire. Fire controlled is wonderful for heat, cooking and warmth.

Fire uncontrolled just burns all, Haslam said.

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