She came for the love of horses and got a camel of a surprise.
Heather Artis, 10, and fellow parade-goers were treated to an array of entrants at the town’s oldest Rodeo parade Saturday morning, including two, one-hump camels, courtesy of the El Zaribah Shriners of the Valley.
And although camels on Main Street surprised almost everyone, Heather, a Charlotte, N.C. native, flew to Payson for one reason and one reason only — Rodeo!
A life-long love of horses convinced her father, Gary Artis, it was time he delivered the real deal and the two took their annual father-daughter vacation to Arizona — home of the oldest continuous rodeo.
Being her first rodeo ever, Heather was determined to see it all. From barrel racing at the women’s rodeo Thursday (her favorite event) to bucking broncos at the Tough Enough to Wear Pink event Friday, Heather was ready for the sights and sounds of the parade.
The procession started strong with the only U.S. Marine Corps Mounted Honor Guard. What followed was a dizzying array of participants that filled Main Street for close to an hour.
From Shriners in mini cars, on motorcycles, in classic cars, on horseback and in clown sacks, they stretched far down Main Street and brought with them a charter history dating back to 1896.
One parade-goer said it was the most Shriners she had ever seen in one place.
Other standout groups included the local tractor club, represented by one John Deere classic tractor, dancing women on a Curves float, rodeo queens from around the state, Payson High School cheerleaders and band, a Hot Shot fire crew, Tonto Rim Search and Rescue volunteers and the badest group of misfits around (a group of business philanthropists), announced DJ Michael Rose of Payson Sound.
It was Rose’s first year announcing the parade and he was determined to make the entrants the star.
“My version of a host is not trying to steal the show, but to add a little color,” he said.
The parade was the perfect outlet for everyone to live out his or her alter ego. Whether it be a clown or a cowboy, 61 entrants added their own unique flavor and made a lasting impact on one girl from North Carolina.
“I never knew there was so much fun stuff (in Arizona),” Heather said with a huge smile on her face.
And although she had to fly back Saturday, Heather carries with her a piece of Arizona history.