On Monday we wondered why all the Tucson schools were in session and no one was celebrating Presidents' Day. This was so all the students could have today off to attend the rodeo parade. Last year we left Tucson before the rodeo began. On TV we saw that they had two inches of snow here on the day of the rodeo parade. It was hard to believe. Today we saw the parade on another warm day with bright sunshine and blue skies.
The rodeo is a big deal here. The first La Fiesta de los Vaqueros (Celebration of the Cowboys) in 1925 lasted three days. Today, the event has grown to a nine-day celebration centered on the Tucson Rodeo, one of the top 25 professional rodeos in North America. About 650 contestants from the United States and Canada compete for more than $460,000 in prize money. The Tucson Rodeo, the first major outdoor event on the PRCA schedule, gives visitors an opportunity to see real-life cowboys and cowgirls display their ability in the only sport in the world developed from work skills. Rodeo events include bull riding, bareback and saddle bronc riding, steer wrestling, tie-down roping, team roping and women’s barrel racing. Also featured each day are kids’ events -- Dodge Mutton Bustin’, when four-to six-year-olds test their riding skills on sheep, and the Justin Junior Rodeo for young cowpokes ages 7-12.
As urbanites we knew little about rodeos, but in the last few years we have attended a few, the most outstanding being the Calgary Stampede. So we decided to skip the rodeo itself, but to see the parade, which is billed as the world’s longest non-motorized parade. This two-hour spectacle features western-themed floats and buggies, historic horse-drawn coaches, festive Mexican folk dancers, local Indian tribes, marching bands and outfitted riders. We joined an estimated 200,000 spectators to watch.
We cased the parade route last night and found a great spot to park for only $5, a short stroll from the stadium. We set up our lawn chairs behind a group of five little girls, whose grandma bought them all pink cowgirl hats. This cute little posse drew extra attention from many of the groups that rode by. The parade moved at a VERY leisurely pace. I had read in the paper that they try to keep the groups of horses apart from each other in case they get aggravated and bolt. But we saw very well trained rodeo horses that handled their responsibilities with grace and aplomb. Area high schools sent their marching bands, which kept the horse groups even farther apart. Latino beauties marched with beauties from the local Indian tribes. Overall the wagons were rather plain - horses pulling a wagon without much in the way of decoration. The Rose Bowl parade this was not.