By Judy Reed
The Red Flannel Festival Board of Directors proudly named Cedar Springs resident Shirley Merlington as the 2015 Grand Marshal for the 76th Annual Celebration, to be held on Saturday, October 3, 2015.
“The Festival is extremely proud and thankful for the many years of Shirley’s outstanding dedication to the Cedar Springs community,” said Michele Tracy, President of the Festival.
Shirley was shocked when she found out the board had selected her. “I was really surprised,” she said. “It never entered my mind.”
Shirley was born in Cedar Springs, at a house on Beech Street. She went to Cedar Springs Public Schools until 3rd grade, when her family moved to Sand Lake. She graduated high school there, and met her future husband there, Ronny Merlington. Shirley and Ronny settled in Cedar Springs after he graduated from Michigan State. “I’ve been in the same house in Cedar Springs for 48 years now,” she said.
Shirley served as Executive Director of the Red Flannel Festival from 1990 to 2003. She also served as Director of the Cedar Springs Chamber of Commerce for 12 years, served on the Cedar Springs Board of Education, the Cedar Springs Women’s Club and was 5th District President of American Legion Women’s Auxiliary. “For 25-30 years I’ve been involved in everything in Cedar Springs,” remarked Shirley. Other positions she’s served in include the Board of Review, the DDA, the Elections Commission, and the Selective Service board. At age 77, she is still active in the Legion Auxiliary and has been for 34 years.
“It’s very obvious Shirley loves the Red Flannel Town, and especially the Red Flannel Festival! Her connection to Festival Founders Grace Hamilton and Nina Babcock is very special to us. The Red Flannel Town is a better place because of her involvement and extraordinary volunteerism!” said Tracy.
Shirley said it’s true that she loves Cedar Springs. “I love it! I love the Red Flannel Festival, and look forward to it every year. We usually have company. It’s always been thrilling to me. Ronny and I were both proud to be involved in it all of these years,” she remarked. “We couldn’t ask for a better town to live in.” Ronny was also a Grand Marshal several years ago.
Shirley will reign this year, the Festival’s 76th, over the two weekends of the 15th oldest Festival in the state of Michigan, sharing the Red Flannel warmth of our community with visitors and residents.
Used with permission from Judy Reed from The Cedar Springs Post