In February every year since 1925, Tucson, Arizona has held a Rodeo and a corresponding parade. Back when it started, the town was still considered a frontier town. The first Tucson Rodeo was held in the middle of Prohibition. With so many visitors expected, decisions were made to clean up the town. Arizona State Prohibition Director Frank Pool led a force of federal officials to town two weeks prior to the rodeo. The Arizona Daily Star reported that 25 stills were captured and an estimated 3000 gallons of moonshine destroyed.
When it first started it was a 3-day event. The first day began with a 2-mile parade through the downtown area then turning south toward the Rodeo Grounds. Since its inception this parade has been the world’s longest non-motorized parade and the largest outdoor, midwinter rodeo in the United States. Each year the procession grows and it includes such old horse-drawn vehicles as buckboards, surrey’s (with or without fringe on top), western stagecoaches, and Conestoga wagons. All floats are pulled either by hand or by horses and of course there are many cowboys and officials on horseback. There are also many marching bands. The highlight of the parade is the float carrying the “Rodeo Royalty”. After the parade, everyone goes to the Rodeo Grounds for the actual event.
As a young child, I always looked forward to the parade. The Rodeo/Parade ran from Friday through Sunday. Since this was a major event for the town, on Friday we could wear our “western” clothes to school. Back in those days girls were not allowed to wear pants or shorts to school so it was a treat to wear jeans! In the 1st and 4th grades our class rode the school bus to Downtown to watch the parade. Another exciting thing to do for a kid who only lived 3 blocks from the school! When we returned to school we would have a picnic type lunch in the classroom, then spend the remainder of the day learning the history of rodeos’, Vaqueros (cowboys), and the western way of life.
As an adult, I took my 3 children to the parade and to watch the rodeo. My Dad had taken us a few times when I was younger and I wanted my children to experience it also. When I was 20 years old I participated in one of the marching bands, playing my clarinet. I gained respect for all those who perform in those bands. It wasn’t easy to march at a brisk pace, playing a wind instrument for 2 miles. Today the Rodeo is a 7-day event and still draws thousands of rodeo fans each year.
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