June 25, 2018
Writer: Cinthya Rubio
The Rexburg Independence Day Parade will be led by Melvin and Rama Griffeth as the Grand Marshalls. The parade will begin at Smith Park at 10 a.m. and will finish at Porter Park.
Melvin and Rama were both raised in Preston, Idaho and began dating while they were in high school.
“I was a junior and he was a senior at Preston High school,” Rama said “We met and dated for five years before we got married.”
Melvin said he asked Rama on their first date after a group of boys bet him that she wouldn’t say yes to him.
“I was driving a car and a bunch of boys bet me she wouldn’t go, so I drove up to her driveway and invited her to go,” Melvin said. “She said she would go on drive with me, and when she came out there were five boys and her.”
On September 1957 they were both married in the Logan, Utah LDS Temple.
After graduating from Utah State University, Melvin and Rama moved to Rexburg, Idaho in 1963.
Melvin taught at Ricks College for 40 years. He taught biology, genetics, zoology, and also created the class biology-a-horseback.
“I was sitting in my office one day and a couple of kids come in said, ‘we understand you know how to ride a horse?’ and I said ‘well yeah I probably do,’ and they said ‘oh good you’re our new rodeo coach.’ That’s how I got involved in the western world,” Melvin said.
Rama has played the piano since she was a young girl and later became a piano teacher when she got to Rexburg.
“My goal as a piano teacher was to love music,” Rama said. “I wanted them to serve the Church and serve the community. It wasn’t to make them become great musicians of any kind.”
While teaching at Ricks in 1981, Melvin was asked to organize a grand entry for the Whoopee Days Rodeo in Rexburg.
He noticed he had six black horses in his 4-H group, so Melvin decided to create the “Black Horse Group” which would later be renamed to “Americana’s.”
“We put together a little drill for the rodeo and thought that was the end of it,” Melvin said. “Two or three days later, I remembered I was in getting my haircut and some guy came walking in and said, ‘hey Mel that was pretty classy at the rodeo the other night,’ and I said ‘well thank you’ he said ‘probably you’ll be on national television someday.’”
After the first performance, Melvin said the group and performance kept growing every year.
Over the last 37 years, “Americanas’” have performed over 500 shows. They have performed in Rexburg more than 100 times and have performed in national stages such as the Pasadena Rose Bowl Parade and three times in Washington D.C.
Melvin said performing in Washington D.C. was one of the best experiences they have ever had.
“It was unbelievable,” Melvin said. “It was one of those feelings you just can’t explain, just a really special feeling.”
After Melvin retired from Ricks College, he remained as the rodeo coach for a few years until they began their new career, herding registered Black Angus cattle.
“Because we both were raised on farms, it has been something that we both have loved,” Rama said.
Rama said that although she didn’t attend a lot of Melvin’s shows she has always supported him especially with making sure he always had good meals on the road.
“I didn’t go on many of the trips with him because we have four daughters and I needed to stay home, but I sure packed him a good lunch when he went,” Rama said.
As they prepare to have a new experience this year as the Grand Marshall’s in Rexburg’s Independence Day Parade, Rama said they were not expecting this at all.
“Chris Mann, the Chamber president came out here with Travis Wade and they just knocked the door and they came in and sat down and they said, ‘you’ve been chosen to be our Grand Marshall’s’ and I was totally shocked,” Rama said.
Melvin and Rama said they are both honored to have this opportunity and can’t wait to share the moment with the rest of their family.