REEDLEY – A longtime resident and avid community volunteer will get to take on a new role this year as Reedley Fiesta Parade Grand Marshal.
Pete Penner, who may be known for his work with the Greater Reedley Chamber of Commerce, as a former owner of the Mid Valley Times/Reedley Exponent or as a local farmer, was selected by the Reedley Rotary Club to be the grand marshal of a parade he himself has helped run for years on end. As grand marshal, Penner will lead the Fiesta Parade through its route downtown, kicking — or rather marching — off the beginning of Reedley’s favorite celebration.
“Who ever expects to be grand marshal of a parade, right?” Penner said. “Even if I’ve been involved a lot and a lot of people know me … I just appreciate the fact that people appreciate me enough to put me in a position like that.”
Born to Russian immigrants in 1932, Penner has lived in Reedley his entire life and loves to work with the community. He has been married to his wife for 69 years and the two have three children, six grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.
His long list of accolades includes former positions as chairman and vice chairman of the Sun-Maid Growers of California Board of Directors and multiple leadership positions with the Reedley Rotary Club, including serving as district governor of Rotary International District 5230 in the 1980s.
Penner is also active in the Reedley Mennonite Brethren Church, was on the board of the former Kings River State Bank in the 1980s and was appointed to the California State Board of Food and Agriculture by former California Gov. Pete Wilson in the 1990s.
In 2006, the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives named Penner the Farmer Cooperative Director of the Year with more than 12 years of experience.
As a Rotary Club member for the last 54 years, Penner has done a lot of volunteer work in the area, including helping run the Fiesta Parade. Penner said this will be only his second year not working the parade.
“For Rotary, I was in charge of making sure the parade flowed evenly,” Penner said. “That was my job for many, many years. I turned that over to another fellow just last year.”
Penner said that to be named Fiesta Parade grand marshal this year comes with what is simply a good feeling that he is being recognized by the people that he knows and works with, and that those people are willing to name him in such a role. His favorite aspect of Reedley Fiesta reflects everything he has done in Reedley in his life, which is the act of engaging in the local community.
“I think it’s just the fact that this is a great community, and people come (to Fiesta) just to get together,” Penner said. “The parade is important, Fiesta is important, but I think the fact that people come to just associate and fellowship together — and then of course the food is always a lot of fun.”