Grand Marshal

Gary Gillis

2024 Pekin Marigold Festival Grand Marshal

The Pekin Marigold Festival Committee of the Pekin Area Chamber of Commerce is pleased to announce Gary Gillis as the 2024 Pekin Marigold Festival Grand Marshal.

Gary is a long time Pekin resident and loves to be involved in the community. Mr. Gillis has served as a leader in a variety of ways, including the following boards and committees: United Way of Pekin, Build Pekin, Good Shepherd Lutheran School, Tazewell County Unit of the American Cancer Society Board (as chair for two years), Pekin Civic Center Authority, Prison Fact-Finding Committee (as chair), Trinity Lutheran Church (one year as chair, several years on finance), Pekin Main Street (one year as president), and the Pekin Marigold Festival Committee from 1981-2017 (serving as chair for three years). Additionally, he has volunteered as an advisor for two local investment clubs.

Gary enhances our community by presenting classes, lectures, and seminars for the YWCA, Pekin Public Library, Pekin Community High School, and Tazewell County Farm Bureau. Furthermore, he presents programs to residents of Cedarhurst of Pekin several times a year, as well as for other organizations.

Gary is a dedicated member of the Pekin Rotary Club. Shortly after moving to Pekin, he served as president from 1987 to 1988 and again from 2015 to 2016. He co-chaired the Rotary Silent Auction for decades. He is a Paul Harris Fellow and presently serves as the president of its charitable foundation, Pekin Rotary Charities.

Gary has also been a Pekin Park District Commissioner since 1993, serving as board president three times. He has been the Park 4-H Representative, Special Recreation President of IRVSRA, and Park Recreation Chairman. He helped pioneer the creation of the Pekin Park District Foundation, where he served one year as president. He chaired Pekin Park’s 100th Anniversary Celebration in 2002. He envisioned a pergola in Mineral Springs Park for years, which finally came to fruition.

His commitment to parks extends beyond the Pekin community. He has served on the IPARKS Board since 2017, acting as chairman in 2018 and 2020. He also serves on the Illinois Association of Park District Board of Trustees since 2018, currently as Vice Chairman.

He also serves on the Pekin Public Library Board as treasurer and as the treasurer of the Dirksen Congressional Research Center. Additionally, he volunteers at the Pekin Outreach Initiative and hosts an annual Pekin History Bicycle Ride for the Pekin Park District.

Most recently, Gary can be found co-chairing the Pekin Bicentennial Commission and keeping the community up to date on all the latest happenings by hosting Pekin’s podcast, “What’s the Story, Pekin?”

Gary is gearing up for his 36th year as “The Cluemeister” of the Marigold Medallion Hunt.

Pekin Marigold Festival Grand Marshal

Each year, nominations are accepted from the community for the coveted title of Grand Marshal of the Pekin Marigold Festival. This tradition dates back to the first festivals in 1973 and 1974, when Mrs. Louella Dirksen was honored. Today, the nominees are selected based on their contributions to the Pekin community. Nominees should demonstrate their passion and dedication by giving generously of their time and talent to a variety of charitable and community organizations and activities.

Marigold Festival Past Grand Marshals

1973 Mrs. Louella Dirksen
1974 Mrs. Louella Dirksen
1975 David Burpee (developed Seed)
1976 Mrs. Louella Dirksen
1977 Mrs. Louella Dirksen
1978 Mrs. Louella Dirksen
1979 Ernie Banks
1980 Dorothy (Mrs. Eugene) Miller
1981 Tim Soldwedel
1982 Roy (Peach) Preston
1983 Mayor J. Norman Shade
1984 John & Juanita Kriegsman
1985 Wilbur Korsmeyer
1986 Bud & Jean More
1987 Virginia Sams
1988 Mike & Mrs. Norma Caringello
1989 Erven & Eleanor Abel

1990 Chuck & Nina Dancey
1991 Rev. Hubert Entwisle
1992 Robert & Dorothy Doan
1993 Bill & Sandy Sevier
1994 Joe & Shirley Carver
1995 Larry & Janet Homerin
1996 Kathryn Learned
1997 Henry & Alice Cakora
1998 Roy & Jackie Williams
1999 Ernie Cretaro
2000 Al Gasper
2001 Frank Starcevich
2002 Bob Moore
2003 Ivan & Shirley Berg
2004 Carol Shields
2005 George Beres
2006 Ralph & Marilyn Brower

2007 Jan & Jim Donahue
2008 Jerry Hall
2009 Larry & Willowdean Stone
2010 Ken White
2011 Dr. Dennis Stoller
2012 Dorothy Barker (& Late Richard Barker)
2013 Rich & Nancy Kriegsman
2014 Ivagene Wheeler
2015 Mr. & Mrs. Dean Cooper 
2016 Ms. Judy Streid
2017 Brett Bode
2018 Dale Sandrock
2019 Tom Elliott
2020 Mary Haynes
2021 Greg & Gloria Ranney
2022 Jim Fairchild
2023 Marcella Harms