The Grand Marshal is the ceremonial leader of a parade.
The Grand Marshal is the ceremonial leader of a parade.

The rank of Marshal is traditionally bestowed on a person who shows exceptional leadership qualities and deserves a place of honor. In parade organizing, a Grand Marshal is named to take the lead in the processional and in hosting festivities. The ceremonial titleholder is often renowned as a community leader or cultural hero.

Traditions

Although the Grand Marshal is commonly recognized for parade visibility, there are other traditional roles. In the military, the title ranks just under a Field Marshal. As a government title, the person plays a role in legislative proceedings. The honorary position is also awarded in academia, religious and mystical orders.

Ceremonial Duties

In a parade, the Marshal takes the lead and may organize the procession lineup, serves as a liaison with participating organizations and hosts the day's festivities. As an organization leader for religious orders or secret societies, the person serves as an honorary meeting chairperson, master of ceremony or sergeant at arms.

Past Titleholders

Those most sought after to serve the role are politicians, athletes, movie stars, and religious and civic leaders. In some cases, more than one person can assume the duties, such as the Apollo 12 astronauts, who were Grand Marshals for the 1970 Rose Parade. Other notable parade Grand Marshals have included John Wayne, Shirley Temple, Hank Aaron, Bob Hope, Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse.