It was 1998.
The cost of a gallon of gasoline was $1.15. It was the year Google was founded. The President Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky scandal broke, leading to an investigation. “Titanic” was one of the leading movies of the year. The No. 1 pop song of the year was “Too Close” by the group Next.
The year 1998 also saw two then-Ironton residents don headsets and microphones for the first time as co-anchors of the television broadcast showcasing the longest, continuous-running Memorial Day parade in the United States.
For 20 years now, J.B. Miller and Terry L. Hapney Jr. have given the “play-by-play” and “color commentary” of the Ironton-Lawrence County Memorial Day Parade — an Ironton tradition that began in 1868, celebrating its 150th anniversary this year.
Miller and Hapney are longtime radio colleagues and friends. Last year, they added their friend Jason Toy to the broadcasting mix, enabling additional coverage of the parade from the street.
Parade organizer Lou Pyles says the committee that plans and organizes the parade appreciates the work Miller, Hapney and Toy do for the parade broadcast.
“This parade is near and dear to our hearts,” Pyles says. “We appreciate them greatly. They broadcast the parade. They’re our hometown people. They make our parade successful. Everybody enjoys watching and listening to them.”
Pyles says the parade committee works year-round to make the parade a success for the community and veterans.
“[J.B. Miller, Terry Hapney and Jason Toy] put the plus on that,” Pyles says. “They know the people (in the parade) and talk about them (during the broadcast). We really appreciate them.”
Growing up as a participant in many parades through the years, Miller, who celebrated his 40th year in radio as morning host on “Big Buck Country 101.5” radio station and manages the Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Huntington, says he is “honored” to still be part of this historic event for 20 years now.
“It’s great to be behind a microphone, talking about our veterans and our community, with thousands worldwide enjoying it live through Facebook,” Miller says.
Hapney, a Marshall University professor, radio professional of 30 years and news anchor with “Mix 99.3,” “Classic Rock 107.5 The Breeze” and “Fox Sportsmouth 1260 WNXT,” says the joy he receives from co-anchoring the parade with Miller is paying tribute to the many veterans whose service ensures freedom in the U.S.
“Millions of men and women throughout the history of our country died and sacrificed in other ways to give us freedom,” Hapney says. “My grandfather was one of those who made a major sacrifice by fighting in five major battles in the Pacific in the Navy during World War II. I’m thankful for Papaw and all of those who have served the U.S. — many of whom never came back.”
While Ironton officials say they expect tens of thousands of people to line the streets of the city for the parade that begins at 10 a.m. Monday, thousands more will watch the live parade webcast via the Ironton-Lawrence County Memorial Day Parade Facebook page, produced by David Lucas Communication of Ironton.
As technology has evolved during the past two decades, so has how the parade broadcast is produced. Lucas says the parade will be streamed live on the parade’s Facebook page, and is then archived and available for playback. He says it will be replayed, periodically, on Armstrong Cable. The 2017 parade webcast, also produced by Lucas, was viewed nearly 170,000 times. Lucas says DVD recordings of the parade are available for $15 each.
“This comprises one of the greatest and most historical events ever recorded in the Tri-State,” Lucas says. “If you think about it, this is a world record. Nowhere in the world have you ever had a parade honoring the American military, continuously, for 150 years.”
Toy, of “Big Buck Country 101.5” radio station and “MRN — The Voice of NASCAR” fame, says “it’s going to be a great time” on Monday.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s hot, cold, nice or rainy, it’s going to be a special time when the community comes together,” Toy says.