.It is not unusual to see Pete Alexander, Maple Syrup Festival Chairman, moving from one venue to another on Festival weekend to meet any unforeseen needs. However, this year, Pete and his family will also be seen near the front of the Parade as he has been selected by the Festival Committee as the 2021 Grand Marshal. This is a well-deserved honor for one who has overseen the Festival for over 20 years.
Evelyn and Ray Alexander moved their family from Wisconsin to Shepherd in 1963. Pete and his siblings soon became involved in all the “kid” jobs of the Festival: dumping sap pails, bussing milk crates into coolers, carrying pancake trays, etc. As Evelyn teamed up with the hard-working ladies who set up the school cafeteria on Friday mornings, Pete learned to wash roasters, set up coffee pots and unload grills. Who among all Festival workers remember hauling refrigerators into the classrooms along the Middle School hallway so every serving room would have cold milk and butter handy?
Just a few years after his 1975 graduation, Pete opened “Pete’s Piccadilly”, a convenience store in “downtown” Shepherd. It was located just west of Jenny’s restaurant. Operating the store and helping with the family sheep farm kept him busy but he was an active fire department member also. He credits former fire department chief, Walt Dean, with seeing the areas where the fire department could step in and help the Festival and those traditions have continued over the years.
It was the fire department where Pete met his wife-to-be Lisa Cross. They married in 2000 and have four children: Logan, Landon, Layne, and Lexi. Lisa works in the Emergency Room at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, has been the Festival Arts and Crafts Coordinator in recent years and is the current president of the Shepherd Women’s Club. Pete continues as the shepherd of Shepherd raising lambs that are especially enjoyed by passers-by. Coordinating all aspects of the Festival seems to be almost a year around volunteer job also!
When recalling past Festivals, Pete remembers the excitement of the trailers coming to town, filling both sides of streets and being hosted by townspeople who provided electrical and water hook-ups. The small-town hospitality was enjoyed by visitors from all over the state.
But, Pete also remembered the “mudbog” year when the carnival was rained into the Salt River Park. It took heroic efforts of local people to get the carnival out to the road and on their way!
Pete is pleased that Festival attendance has been fairly consistent over the years and appreciative of the improved facilities made available to the Festival by Shepherd Public Schools. The gyms added in 2010 have allowed the Arts and Crafts exhibits to greatly expand. Pete shares the hope with so many Shepherd residents for a return to a “normal” Festival in post-pandemic years. He is also proud and amazed that the Shepherd Maple Syrup Festival,
as well as the Shepherd Sugarbush, are completely volunteer organizations!
The community thanks Pete for his continued leadership of the Festival; maintaining the excitement of the weekend for the long–established goal of providing support for local youth recreation..