Thank Hank for cleaning up the Strawberry Days Parade route
GSPI News Editor
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – The Strawberry Days parade isn’t all floats and fancy cars.
There’s dirty work to be done, and luckily for Glenwood Springs, someone is willing to return each year from Tennessee to do it.
When the horse poop hits the pavement along the parade route, Hank Pendley is there to pick it up. And he makes it fun in the process, for himself and parade-goers.
Over the years, Pendley, 35, has become an institution at the parade.
The Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association, which organizes the event, lists him as a parade highlight, noting his “inimitable style” and calling him “Hank the pooper scooper.”
He’s a super pooper scooper, at that.
“He just loves it,” said an appreciative Shiela Mugford, a chamber staff member who years ago was given the challenging task of finding someone to keep the parade route free of equine effluent.
“Nobody wants to volunteer for that job,” she said.
“The first year I did the parade, we couldn’t find anybody and we rounded up Hank. We were on the corner of 8th Street the morning of the parade. Hank says, `I’ll do it.’ I said, `Cool.'”
Back then, downtown was a good place to find Pendley. A client at Mountain Valley Development Services who participated in its support employment program, he worked for several downtown employers, doing chores such as keeping storefronts clean. It made him a natural for a one-day-a-year job in which he trades broom for shovel, and puts on a show.
“It’s kind of fun,” Mugford said of Pendley’s act. “And he’s not embarrassed by it.”
He brings to the task a reputation as a reliable worker, and a love of interaction with other people. Mugford said the first year, Pendley entertained onlookers by pretending he was going to toss his collections at them.
“The next year he said, `I have my Super Soaker. Is it OK if I use that?’ He was really excited. I said, `Go ahead!'”
Pendley has been hooked on the job of “pooper scooper” ever since.
“Now he calls us,” Mugford said. “He comes in and says, `I’m ready; do you still need me?'”
That’s no small commitment these days.
Pendley, who came to Glenwood Springs in 1989, moved in July 2001 to Pikeville, Tenn., where an aunt lives.
He left Tennessee Monday evening on a Greyhound bus and arrived Wednesday afternoon.
While Pendley times his return around the parade, it isn’t the only reason for coming back. He’s catching up with his many acquaintances, such as those at Colorado Mountain College and the Elks Lodge, which used to employ him.
This week, a former familiar figure on the streets of Glenwood – a hefty, onetime Special Olympics weightlifter with an ever-present ball cap on his head – can be seen returning to his favorite haunts.
“He had a lot of friends in town. He enjoyed going around, talking to people all the time,” said Jim Garland, who coordinates Mountain Valley’s support employment program and continues to keep in touch with Pendley.
Pendley also loved to bowl and play softball when he lived here.
Now, he’s keeping busy trying to clear some acreage he has bought in Tennessee, with an eye toward installing utilities and building a home there.
“Things are going pretty good for him,” Garland said.
But he’s not about to miss a Strawberry Days reunion, or the attendant poop-scooping duties.
Pendley said after the work he’s recently put in cutting, raking and baling hay in Tennesee, the parade gig is a welcome change of pace.
“I don’t mind doing it,” he said. “A lot of times, a lot of people get a kick out of me getting them going, laughing and joking around and stuff like that.
“It keeps ’em happy, so I’ll come back next year.”
He said he forgot his Super Soaker this year, and may have to borrow one. But he’ll be equipped for sure with a shovel, a trash can on wheels – and hopefully some time to charm the crowd, in between banking deposits made by horses.
“If there are more horses, it’s hard for me to keep up with them,” he said.
He said the smell that goes along with the task doesn’t get bad until the end.
“It kind of starts getting to me a little bit, but it doesn’t bother me,” he said.
“If the ladies want me to keep doing this, I’ll come back every year,” he said of the chamber staff.
Said Garland, “He looks forward to that every year. I think he’s got it in mind that they can’t have Strawberry Days if he’s not there.”
Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. 516
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