Horseback riders, clowns, politicians and saloon girls entertained a large crowd at the Payson Rodeo Parade, transporting onlookers into the past — fitting for an event that celebrated Arizona’s Centennial.
The parade started at Green Valley Park and rollicked past old homes built before Arizona became a state and clapboard buildings adorned with plaques recounting tales of past Payson residents. Arizona official state historian Marshall Trimble served as grand marshal, adding another historical touch to the proceedings.
The Arizona Public Service entry included clowns wearing huge, brightly colored, foam cowboy hats, polka dot and ruffled costumes and perky music to accompany their letter “Cs” cut out of cardboard and covered in decorations representing the five Cs of Arizona — cotton, citrus, cattle, climate and copper.
As the clowns walked down the street, adults and children alike lit up with smiles. Some of the audience even broke out in a few dance moves, while children scrambled to grab as much candy as they could.
As one father wandered by with a small girl in tow, a bystander called out to her, “Hey, I like your hat, man!”
The girl giggled and the father looked proud.
Just as in the good old days, politicians running for every office in the county entered the parade. They wooed voters with bottles of water, candy, glad-handing and baby smooching.
Darrell Stubbs, candidate for sheriff, not only had a horse-drawn wagon, but four vehicles entered in the parade to support his race.
Adam Shepherd, also a candidate for sheriff, convinced friends and family to dress in costumes representing the five Cs. He strolled behind his float, waving to the crowd.
Mac Feezor, running for recorder, and Ronnie McDaniel, candidate for supervisor in District 3, surrounded themselves with family on their floats.
Even politicians from Globe came up to wave and introduce themselves to northern Gila County voters.
Dale Hom, the current assessor, and Deborah Savage, the treasurer, waved from a truck bed decorated with signs.
Most of the Democratic candidates banded together to cover a flat bed trailer with bales of hay upon which sat friends and family waving and greeting the voters.
That occasioned a certain amount of grumbling from hard core Republicans at curbside, since northern Gila County has a lopsided Republican majority.
Both the Rim Country Republican and Tea Party had entries in the parade.
One organizer said he tried to get the politicians to shovel poop because they had the experience. Instead he said they paid $200 to enter.
The only prop needed to complete the blast to the political past was space for a stump speech at the end of the parade.
The Payson High School marching band made its first appearance of the season at the parade. Behind them, the cheerleaders perched on vintage cars, such as Corvettes and Porsches shaking bright, metallic pom-poms in the air.
The football players preferred to ride astride beefy half-ton trucks.
So enthusiastically did they throw candy to the children, some of the players yelled to parent supporters for more candy less than a third of the way into the parade.
“You boys better pace yourselves,” came the reply instead of candy, “If you’re out of candy now, you’re in trouble!”
To top off the 100-year-old theme, Payson Care Center announced it has two centurions living at its facility.
All told, the parade had 55 entries.