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Giannaris named grand marshal

September 29, 2005|by TIFFANY ARNOLD

tiffanya@herald-mail.com

Nick Giannaris, owner and president of the Four Points Sheraton and co-owner of the Airport Inn, was named honorary grand marshal for the Alsatia Mummers Parade, club officials announced Wednesday.

The 81st annual parade is Oct. 29 in Hagerstown and will feature more than 10,000 entries, parade chairman Jim McCleaf said. He said the parade draws around 150,000 spectators each year.

The parade's grand marshal traditionally is a well-known community leader, said N. Linn Hendershot, a parade organizer.

McCleaf said the marshal's main responsibility was to "sit back and have a great time."

"What can you say bad about Nick Giannaris?" McCleaf asked. "What better person is there for the grand marshal?"

Giannaris, 71, once said that his dream job was to become a great philanthropist. He grew up in Greece and came to the United States when he was 20 years old. He purchased the Airport Inn restaurant nearly a year later.

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For many years, Giannaris held a free Christmas dinner at the Sheraton, where he was able to feed hundreds of people.

Giannaris, who has Parkinson's disease, was not able to keep the tradition due to his failing health and canceled the meals in 2002 after 17 years of service.

The event, known as "Christmas with Nick," served up to 1,500 meals per year, organizers said.

Giannaris also has hosted an annual fundraiser, "An Evening with Nick," that has raised more than $500,000 for local nonprofits.

Giannaris said he was excited about serving as this year's parade marshal.

"It's truly an honor to be selected," Giannaris said.

The Alsatia Club, founded in Hagerstown in 1911, started the parade as a way to keep children out of trouble during Halloween.

McCleaf said there was talk last year of disbanding the parade because the club lacked the money to sponsor it.

"That really stirred up some attention," he said. "The community came back and rallied behind us."

McCleaf said there are changes in store for this year's parade, including a horse-drawn bookmobile like the first built in the nation. People also may purchase tickets on The Maryland Theatre's Web site, McCleaf said.

Tickets go on sale Monday at the theater.

Hendershot said people seeking information about the parade should call 301-766-9155. For ticket information, call The Maryland Theatre at 301-790-3500.

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