Simon Estes named grand marshal of Veishea parade

Devin Wilmott

Veishea, the annual weeklong tradition at Iowa State University commences April 7 through April 13. Veishea brings approximately 35,000 people from various locations to celebrate its parade that has nearly 100 entries and floats. The annual parade will begin at 10:30 a.m. April 12 Iowa State’s campus. 

“I am most excited to see all of the float designs come to life. We have connected design students with eight different organizations to build more extravagant floats in the 2014 parade,” said Ethan Lambert, senior in animal science and Veishea parade co-chairman. “We have seen many drafts and sketches of each float, and I cannot wait to see the final products as they roll down the street through the parade.”

Along with an array of floats, Veishea crowns a person as its grand marshal every year. This person is known to be made the “leader” of the parade and someone honorable enough to attain this position.

“The first quality we looked for last year was someone who had a direct link and connection to Iowa State University. We also looked for somebody that students as well as alumni can relate to,” Lambert said.

Dr. Simon Estes is internationally renowned and applauded for his booming baritone voice. He has performed in over 100 major roles internationally and served as a professor to numerous universities during his career.

Each wall of Simon’s office at Iowa State comes together to create a timeline filled with awards, honorary doctorates and photographs of memories during his life time. A Centerville, Iowa native and grandson of a slave sold for $500 at auction, Estes provides the world with a story of how an African American conquered operatic stardom in a time that would not allow it.

Estes was born in 1938 in a town of 8,500 people where only 300 of those were black. Without much opportunity he seized his acclaim to stardom and since his 1966 debut and becoming a bronze medalist in Moskow’s Tchaikovsky competition, Estes has performed with over 115 different orchestra’s, played in more than 102 different roles and sang in 84 different opera houses around the world. 

“We explored a variety of people with ties to Iowa State University. Simon Estes was the best fit, and we were thrilled when he accepted our request,” Lambert said.

“I was very touched and humbled,” Estes said after accepting the position of grand marshal. “I’ve been grand marshal for a number of parades in my life but never grand marshal for Iowa State University and I am very excited about it.” 

Several famous people have previously been named grand marshal of the Veishea parade in the past including Cecil B. DeMille in 1952 and Ronald Reagan in 1958. Veishea has chosen to honor one of our own internationally renowned faculty this year in the parade.

“We chose Simon Estes because he is an internationally renown opera singer and is an arist-in-residence here at Iowa State University. He is someone students, as well as alumni, can relate to,” Lambert said.

What began in 1922 as a parade of departmental club floats has manifested itself into being a main highlight of the Veishea celebration. Despite adverse weather conditions, the parade has history of bringing as high as 75,000 attendees to Iowa State’s campus.   

“I have been in three Veishea parades but this is my first time being grand marshal. I remember every time I’ve participated in the parade it was a beautiful-sunshiny day so I hope I don’t jinx it this year,” Estes said. 

Along with being named 2014 Veishea Parade grand marshal, Estes will speak at the opening ceremony at 4 p.m. April 8 at the Sun Room of the Memorial Union.

“This is my sixteenth year as a part of Iowa State faculty and I will be talking about how much Iowa State University has achieved and why we should be proud as a community,” Estes said. “Great people have passed through here and great things have been done through us and I think that’s something we should all celebrate as well as acknowledge.”