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2023 Pine Tree Festival Grand Marshall: Dess Smith III

Updated: May 13

By Deanna Ryan

When Chamber of Commerce CEO Ken Warnock showed up at Dess Smith’s house the Wednesday before the Pine Tree Festival to let him know he was this year’s parade Grand Marshall. Dess told him, “Y’all have just messed me up because I’m 81 years old, and I won’t be able to fire my flintrock.” As a member of the Sons of the American Revolution, Dess and his fellow compatriots march in historic militia attire at the parade and every 50 yards or so fire rifles for the curb-side audiences.

Dess now laughs as he recalls receiving the green jacket. “Really, I’m overwhelmed. It’s an honor to be chosen and I was able to ride with my four children.” His eldest son Dessie Smith was at the wheel while Anna Kate, Richard and Mary Ellen were in the back.

Dess has participated in the Pine Tree Festival for 76 years except for two or three years when he was in the service. Along with being marching the the SAR, he’s ridden horses, been on floats and when he was in the Georgia Military College Band in Milledgeville he came back home to play in the parade.

The Pine Tree Festival was established in 1946 by the Kiwanis Club and Dess’s Grandfather was a charter member. In his grandfather’s footsteps he is a member of the Swainsboro Kiwanis Club where he has served as president twice. He is also a member of Swainsboro First United Methodist Church and on the Board of Directors of the Emanuel County Historic Preservation Society.

Even though Dess will be expected to wear the green jacket to the parade each year, underneath it he says he’ll be in his militia outfit with his skunk hat in hand.

To see Dess Smith’s full biography, visit the Swainsboro-Emanuel County Chamber of Commerce Facebook page.

Smith in green jacket

Smith with son Dessie Smith at the wheel and in back seat (l to r) Anna Kate Willoughby, Richard Smith, and Mary Ellen Smith.

Green Jacket recipients (l to r): Milton Gray, Daisy Reeves, Smith, Tim Goodman, Lynn Brinson, Wade Johnson.