Alice Bennett of Kennewick is uncomfortable with any kind of attention that focuses on her.
On the flip side, she has no trouble saying what's on her mind. She also is the consummate business owner whose credo is making her customers happy. It is her quiet and tireless community service that led the Benton Franklin Fair Board to name Bennett, 86, as this year's grand marshal for the fair parade, which starts at 10 a.m. today in downtown Kennewick.
"Alice Bennett is a fixture in downtown Kennewick and has been serving the fair as long as anyone can remember," said Lori Lancaster, fair manager. "Bennett Rentals is also a longtime sponsor of the fair. We like to honor people who may not always be in the limelight but work tirelessly behind the scenes to support community events."
Bennett said it's always been important to support the community and the fair is a community event. Her business donates rental supplies to the fair each year.
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And though Bennett prefers to donate her community service quietly and stay out of the limelight, she is honored to be grand marshal, she said.
She and her husband Boyd moved to the Tri-Cities from Portland in 1955 to open their rental business on the corner of Fruitland Street and Columbia Drive. They moved the business up the street on Fruitland near Canal Drive 23 years ago. After her husband died in 1991, Alice and the youngest of her four children, David, continued to run the business. They rent almost everything needed for minor home improvement projects to punch bowls for parties.
"We don't rent any heavy equipment," she said. "But just about everything else."
Bennett also doesn't let her age get in the way of tackling home improvement projects herself.
"I've pulled up a few kitchen floors and redone them, with the help of my son. And I've refinished the floors in two houses. And I'll probably continue to do it for as long as this old body can manage it because God has blessed me with good health," she said.
There's another reason she was determined to learn how to refinish floors.
"I strongly believe that if I didn't learn how to do projects like that, with the equipment we rent, then how could I give our customers intelligent and correct guidance when renting our equipment?" Bennett said. "I certainly don't know how to use all our rentals, but that's what I have David for."
Bennett admitted she's a little embarrassed about all the attention she's received after being named grand marshal.
"I have to give a speech at a dinner on Saturday night and that makes me even more nervous," she said. "There are so many other people more worthy than me, but I truly am honored as well. I just hope they let my great-granddaughter (8-year-old Olivia Rose, who lives in Puyallup) ride in the parade with me."
Bennett will be riding in a Corvette that has room for only her and the driver, fair officials said.
The parade starts at 10 a.m. at Keewaydin Park on Dayton Street. It travels north on Dayton to First Avenue, where it turns left.
The parade then turns right on Fruitland Street, then right on Kennewick Avenue, travels through downtown Kennewick, then turns right on Auburn Street and ends at the corner of Auburn and Sixth Avenue.
-- Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @dorioneal