Berl and Mary Harris have been selected by the Gravette Day Committee to serve as grand marshals in the 2020 Gravette Day parade to be held at noon Saturday, August 8th. Berl, known to some as Berl Dean, is the owner of Harris Auto Sales which is reputed to be one of the longest continuously operated businesses in Gravette.
Berl is the son of Berl L. and Effie Harris, who were long time residents of the Beaty area. He attended Beaty Elementary School and graduated in 1957 from Gravette High School. He met Mary Choate from Miami, Okla. at a rodeo in 1969. They married soon after and have three children, Jed, Samantha, and Gabe and 12 grandchildren. They live in the Beaty area and attend Maysville Missionary Baptist Church.
Berl began buying and selling cars before learning to drive, buying a 1937 Chevrolet when he was just 13 years old. After serving in the U.S. Army, he took a job in the parts department of a Bentonville business and resumed trading cars. He originally opened Harris Auto Sales on Main Street before relocating to its current location on 1st Avenue NE in 1963. He traded cars and horses until 1969 when he discontinued the sale of livestock.
“Many in Gravette have bought a car or two from Berl or attended the Harris Auto Sale on Beaty Road, especially the long-time residents” said Heather Finley, Gravette Day chairperson. “Berl has a heart for Gravette and it shows. He certainly tells a good story too.”
Berl’s favorite Gravette Day memories involve fundraising with the Jaycees who cooked and sold chicken to raise funds for community projects. One such project was raising funds to purchase an ambulance. The Jaycees always sponsored a contestant for Gravette Day Queen and held car shows. He was also a member of the Gravette Lions Club. Mary recalls the many Shriners who participated in Gravette Day events.
Berl is excited about the Gravette Day Parade. “We’ve missed so many activities this year,” he said. He credits Gravette with being a good community where people are friendly and get along. One activity that COVID-19 didn’t interrupt was a daily game of Dominoes. He and several long-time friends have played Dominoes twice a day for over forty years.