Tom Elliott, the 2019 Marigold Festival Grand Marshal, was notified of his selection during a surprise ceremony while he was having his morning coffee at a local McDonald’s.

“Some of the committee members came there and presented (the certificate of appointment),” he said. “I was without words at the time. It really took me back. I was pretty emotional thinking about the past and things that took place. When you’re surprised like that, it takes time to sort things out.”

According to a May 30 news release from the Pekin Area Chamber of Commerce, Elliott arrived in Pekin more than 40 years ago to complete an internship in Parks and Recreation with the Pekin Park District. He retired in 2017 after serving as the Superintendent of Parks for more than 40 years

In his four decades as a Pekinite, he has more than made the community his home. He has made it his mission to make Pekin a better, brighter place to live. 

In addition to developing many parks during his tenure with the Park District, Elliott has served on the Marigold Festival Committee for about 30 years and was entrusted with the responsibility of hiding the Pepsi Marigold Medallion.

“The medallion was a lot of stress for me because it meant so much to the community,” said Elliott. “I wanted to see it go well. When I hid the medallion, I always worried somebody was going to get hurt looking for it or they weren’t going to find it.”

Elliott was also a major driving force behind many public improvement projects, according to the Chamber news release. The projects include a large addition to the Eugene Miller Senior Citizens’ Center, renovation of the Mineral Springs Park lagoon, and collecting cans for the Kiwanis Club of Pekin’s recycling program.

In her nomination letter to the Marigold Festival Committee, Terri Gambetti, a friend and former co-worker of Elliott’s, wrote that he should be named grand marshal because he “cares deeply for his community and is consistently doing what he can to make the world around him a better place.”

Elliott’s duties during the festival will be to ride in the traditional parade and attend various events including the Miss Marigold pageant. While he is honored to have been selected, he has derived his greatest satisfaction from so many friends and colleagues seeming to be happy for him. Elliott’s wife, Lucy, was possibly the most gratified about Elliott’s nomination and selection.

“I feel like this is a much-deserved reward that has come after a long time of hard work and putting in extra time and energy,” she said. “Tom has been involved in many, many different facets of the Marigold Festival.”

The theme of the 2019 Marigold Festival is Celebrating Marigold Heroes. The Marigold Festival Committee noted in the nomination form that Elliott is a perfect example of a hometown hero and a Marigold hero. Gambetti wrote that Elliott “is a friend, supporter and steward to every group, organization, business, committee and family in our community.”