Findlay Market Parade legend Jim Scott to serve as grand marshal

Jim Scott – the longtime voice of the Findlay Market Opening Day Parade – had the script flipped on him recently when he learned the organizing committee picked him to serve as next year’s honorary grand marshal.

Scott is a well-known figure to many in Cincinnati, both because of his long-running morning show on 700 WLW and his years of volunteerism and support of charities across the region.

Given his radio voice and love for the Cincinnati Reds, Scott has been the official spokesperson for the parade for more than a decade.

Jim Scott (right) with Neil Luken, Cincinnati Mayor Aftab Pureval, Phil Castellini and the Reds’ mascots

Living a largely public life, Scott announced earlier this year that he’s battling Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS, formerly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

To recognize his years of service, Findlay Market selected Scott to serve as the ceremonial leader of the 105th rendition of the parade. Members of the parade’s organization committee took the stage at Duke Energy Center on Dec. 1 to announce the news in front of legions of baseball fans at the annual Redsfest celebration.

Unfortunately, Scott was unable to attend the announcement. Instead, his wife, Donna Hartman, and one of his sons, Casey Boland, attended in his place. But Scott appeared in a video thanking fans for their decades of support.

The Findlay Market team gifted Scott a Reds jersey with “Grand Marshal 2024” on the back. He plans to wear it during the upcoming parade on Thursday, March 28.

Hartman – Scott’s wife of 23 years, and best friend of more than 30 – referred to his role as grand marshal in the upcoming Findlay Market parade as really special to her husband and family.

Opening Day’s biggest fan

Over the years, the annual march from Findlay Market through downtown Cincinnati on Reds Opening Day has meant a lot to Scott. He attended his first Findlay Market parade shortly after moving to Cincinnati in 1968.

Scott hasn’t missed one since.

For more than 50 years, Scott has walked or ridden in the parade, working to get fans excited about the start of baseball season. He often refers to it as his “favorite day of the year.”

“The Findlay Market Opening Day Parade is as good as a parade gets, and it’s ours,” Scott said.

“High school marching bands and floats and decked-out people representing all the types of organizations that make our Greater Cincinnati such a great place to live,” he continued. “The parade celebrates Opening Day and who we are, all in one.”

Everyone “loves a parade,” Scott said; however, he also views the event as an important recognition for Findlay Market and the dozens of vendors at the historic Over-the-Rhine site the other 364 days of the year.

“I have always admired how all the Findlay Market shopkeepers, who work so hard every day, have kept up the tradition of the parade for over a century,” he added.

‘The Jim Scott Parade’

Scott’s favorite Findlay Market parade was probably 2015, he said. It also happened to mark his first day of retirement.

“I just didn’t expect so much affection and recognition as I walked the parade route that day,” he noted, recalling signs in the crowd honoring him, loud chants of support and a drove of Jim Scott fans coming off the sidelines to give him a hug.

“It was all so sweet and kind,” Scott added.

The parade resulted in a lot of fond memories for Hartman as well. She remembers running down from Findlay Market to Washington Park to grab a curbside seat alongside thousands of other fans gathered in the area. The feeling of “astonishment” washed over her as a wave of his fans overwhelmed Scott with love and support.

Hartman referred to 2015 as the “Jim Scott Parade.”

“As Jim hits the area, I’m watching this love fest of a half-century of radio listeners. “Oh my God,” I thought. I need to watch this, so I just jumped the parade and walked maybe 20 feet behind him just to experience the outpouring,” she said.

Hartman contrasted that with the experience of last year’s parade.

At the time, only the couple and Scott’s doctor knew of his diagnosis. His walking was getting “wonky” by that point, Hartman said, so the week before the parade, they walked the 1.4-mile parade route together to make sure Scott could manage it.

“I was worried for him,” Hartman said. She watched every step he took closely, admitting to holding her breath and white knuckling the wheel of a small all-terrain as she traveled closely behind him. 

But as he has every year for the past five decades, Scott completed the whole route – and displayed his picture-perfect smile the whole way.

Flipping the script

Though Scott’s appearance always draws a strong reaction from parade-goers, the star of the show every year is the grand marshal. 

Typically, those picked are former Reds greats or celebrities with local connections. Over the years, grand marshals have included numerous members of the Big Red Machine, NFL Hall of Famer Anthony Muñoz, country music legend Kenny Rogers, Jerry Springer and NBC News’ Linda Vester, who was born in Cincinnati.

During his tenure as spokesperson, Scott has announced his fair share of grand marshals, who includes the likes of Cincinnati baseball royalty: Marty Brennaman, Johnny Bench, Sean Casey, Lou Piniella, Dave Concepcion, The Nasty Boys, George Foster and more.

Now, all these years later, it’s Scott’s turn to lead the parade.

Scott’s passion, energy and kindness have made him a perennial fan favorite and a parade fixture, said Kelly Lanser, director of communication for the Corporation for Findlay Market.

Lanser described Scott as kind, a great listener and someone who cares. Outside his family, his greatest loves are Reds baseball, the Findlay Market Opening Day Parade and the people of Cincinnati, she said.

“He is everyone’s favorite person,” Lanser continued. “We can’t think of anyone better suited for the (role) than our friend, Jim.”

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