Grand Marshal Criteria Nominees for this position of honor are chosen by the NorthEaster Parade Committee for being a pillar in the El Paso Community, Citizens who exemplify and embody all the virtues and valor of our diverse culture and community, especially the diversity of the Northeast Community.
Wayne Thornton although born in New Orleans, Louisiana was raised in El Paso, Texas at Fort Bliss from the age of three. Later he attended St. Joseph’s School, Blessed Sacrament, Bliss Elementary and then Ross Middle School with two years at Burges High School before moving to Okinawa, Japan and graduating in 1972 from Kubasaki High School there on the island.
After graduation Wayne came back to El Paso and attended UTEP, getting his Bachelor of Arts Degree and in 1973 along with Donald Lewis the pair started the UTEP Women’s Basketball Program. Wayne served as an Assistant Coach for four years before becoming the Head Coach in 1977-78.
Each summer during college Wayne worked for El Paso Parks and Recreation and after his stint as the UTEP Women’s Basketball Coach, he started fulltime with Parks and Recreation in 1978 until his retirement in 2020.
His initial job in the El Paso Parks and Recreation Department was at Lincoln Center, the famed building underneath the Spaghetti Bowl in central El Paso where he was tasked with creating programs for the arts, seniors, youth, and teenagers. He was there for 28 years until it closed in 2006.
In 1980 he created the Miss Lincoln Center Beauty Pageant to raise funds for the Parks and Recreation Department while showcasing the many talented participants in the contest and also garnering support from world renowned beauty pageant gurus Guy-Rex. The Lincoln Park developed underneath the spaghetti bowl was established in 1980, and still stands today as one of the few parks in the southwest located underneath a freeway as Wayne created outdoor basketball and flag football leagues and a High School Superstar Competitions, city-wide Cheerleading Competitions, outdoor roller disco fun nights, along with Easter, Halloween and Christmas Parties at the center for area youth.
Lincoln Center was a mecca for unique programming with the annual Art in the Park, outdoor arts festival and the Center hosted the only Art Gallery in the Parks Department featuring renowned artists from the community.
While at Lincoln Center, Wayne also became involved with the annual Christmas Tree Lighting in Downtown El Paso from 1985 through his retirement in 2020 however his most notable achievement was being involved with the Midnight Basketball Program partnered with the Junior League of El Paso and the El Paso Police Department from 1994-2003.
Wayne has volunteered with the Sun Bowl Association since 1991 and in 2005 served as Sun Bowl President and over the years has hosted television and radio shows, podcasts, written podcasts, written weekly newspaper columns all the while spotlighting individuals and organizations from throughout the city. Other volunteer opportunities over the years has been with Crimestoppers of El Paso and Drowning Prevention Coalition of El Paso to name a few and in 1995 he was inducted into the El Paso Athletic Hall of Fame and in 2022 the UTEP Hall of Fame.
As you can see from the list of activities and events Wayne enjoyed calling the El Paso Parks and Recreation Department home for over 40 years, longer than anyone else in the Recreational field. Most importantly he always wanted to ensure the spotlight always shined brightest, on someone else.
2022 Grand Marshal
Dr. Richard Teschner is a Professor Emeritus of Linguistics and Spanish who taught full-time at UTEP from 1976-2010 and part-time ever since. He’s been active in El Paso land conservation for the last twenty years. Originally from Milwaukee, Richard has been since 2011 an honorary member of the Castner Heights N.A. For his many activities and donations, Richard received awards from the City such as the Conquistador, the Star on the Mountain, and the Lifetime Achievement of the El Paso Environmental Services Department. In addition, Richard is an active member of the Northeast Business Alliance and elected Vice Chair of the NEBA Foundation, the “Northeast Scholarship” campaign. And then there’s the Castner Range. Richard says: “El Pasoans—especially Northeasterners—have been trying to conserve this land since 1971. The most beautiful parts of the Franklin Mountains are the ones that we see every day, right here in the Great Northeast. Northeasterners know this, and strongly support the conservation work. So GO NORTHEAST, GO NEBA, AND GO CASTNER RANGE!!!”
2021 Grand Marshal
Joseph C. "Joe" Pickett (born December 6, 1956) is an American politician who served as a Democratic member of the Texas House of Representatives from 1995 until his resignation in January 2019. Pickett represented the 79th District, which encompasses part of El Paso County.
Pickett started his political career as a City Council member for the City of El Paso, Texas, defeating the incumbent in 1991. He served on the City Council until he was elected to the position of State Representative for the 79th District in 1994.
2019 Grand Marshals
The El Paso Rhinos are number one in our book, what about you El Paso? Most deserving for their stellar accomplishments but more importantly for their team effort to give back to the community of El Paso.
The team shaved their heads as a Children's Hospital fundraiser for children with cancer to name one of many charity events which give back to our community.
The NorthEaster Parade Committee encourages you to support the El Paso Rhinos.
2018 Grand Marshal
Sheriff Richard D. Wiles was raised and educated in El Paso, graduating from Andress High School in 1979. Sheriff Wiles joined the El Paso Police Department in 1982 and rose quickly to leadership positions serving as a Patrol Officer, Detective, Sergeant, Lieutenant, Captain, Deputy Chief, Assistant Chief, Interim Chief of Police, and was appointed Chief of Police in 2004. In December of 2007, Sheriff Wiles retired from the Police Department to run for El Paso County Sheriff and after being elected, took office in January of 2009.
Sheriff Wiles was named Andress High School's Outstanding-Ex in 2004 and he attended the University of Texas at El Paso where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice in 1995. He attended and graduated from the Federal Bureau of Investigation's National Academy, the National Executive Institute, and the Bill Blackwood Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas. Sheriff Wiles subsequently pursued and earned a Master of Science in Criminal Justice from Sul Ross State University in 2001 where he was also named Outstanding Criminal Justice Graduate Student.
Sheriff Wiles has taught at the El Paso Community College, Park University, and still instructs at the University of Texas at El Paso. Sheriff Wiles has extensive experience in the area of local law enforcement and immigration, as well as border security. As a result, his input is sought out at both the State and Federal levels.
Grand Marshal Tony Lewis 2017, owner of Tony Lewis Collision and Paint, Tony gives back to El Paso, working with and donating to many local causes and non-profit groups. He has been active in local politics for many years, striving to improve Northeast El Paso business climate, housing, lifestyle, and schools. He also promotes environmental sustainability. He has been quoted in the El Paso Times regarding electricity created by solar energy. (His own house has several solar panels.)
In 1999, Tony was the founding president of the Northeast Business Alliance (NEBA) and is now the NEBA Chairman. This organization promotes local northeast business (their motto “Shop Northeast”). They also create a platform from which local candidates may discuss Northeast issues, get involved in community events, and collect for and support northeast charities like the Child Crisis Center.