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Clifton Forge celebrates 103-year-old

Published: Mar. 17, 2021 at 7:03 PM EDT
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CLIFTON FORGE, Va. (WDBJ) - The siren on the old fire engine told them what was happening. “Here he comes!”

Well wishers, like Allen Hickman’s daughter, were already gathered in a small parking lot.

“Well, you know, he always says: I don’t like the publicity,” said Hickman’s daughter, Bonnie Yopp.

But the folks gathered there had organized the parade because no one wanted to let his birthday pass unnoticed.

“All this party was a surprise,” Hickman said. He turned 103 on St. Patrick’s Day.

On most years, he leads the local St. Patrick’s Day parade, which they claim is the shortest in Virginia. The crowd gathers on one side of the street to ceremonially cross it to a local tavern. But that was canceled this year because of COVID.

“He’s a staple, an icon, a legend,” Pam Marshall, Clifton Forge’s mayor, said. “He’s still painting at 103. He’s still able to lead our parades. We’re just so blessed and honored to have the chance to say happy birthday to him.”

And after his well wishers were able to get things all set, the celebrations got underway.

Sirens blaring, police escorted Hickman down the main street of downtown Clifton Forge, waving from the window of the fire engine.

“Have you seen anything like this in 103 years?” he was asked.

“No,” Hickman said, laughing.

They were just keeping up a local tradition, in a slightly different way.

“He’s still going to lead the parade,” Mayor Marshall said. “It’s just his parade today.”

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