What a great way to finish off the year — winning the top two awards in the Fiesta Bowl Parade with a float that represented a true community effort.
Tourism Director Cameron Davis figures the region reaped about $500,000 worth of free publicity with a float that stressed outdoor recreation. The float perfectly captured the rich array of recreational activities that remain Rim Country’s mainstay. Volunteers perched atop the float wore outfits representing mountain biking, fishing, cowboying and camping.
Moreover, the high-spirited, often-honored Payson Longhorn marching band captured the town’s spirit and energy.
And what can we say about the loveable dancing trees? They wore hoop-skirted getups adorned with floppy triangular leaves lovingly hand-stitched by 20 expert local seamstresses — complete with silly, perfectly designed hats. All along the two-mile-long parade route, the dancing trees ran over to the sidelines where children cried out for hugs — as spectators shouted out “good job, Payson.”
The dozens of people spent hundreds of hours in the past two months designing and building the float and tree costumes.
Western Village loaned the float-makers life-sized elk, eagles and deer. Contractor Dave Daily built the framework for the float. The town lent the truck and trailers that the volunteers turned into the float. Skilled quilters created the costumes. A host of volunteers put the whole thing together, disassembled it for the trip to the Valley, reassembled it in storage — and then took the whole thing apart again right before parade day when they discovered the door was too short to roll the float out. Through it all, the volunteers worked with the good-natured dedication so typical of this community. They called on an amazing array of talents, overcame every difficulty with a joke, an eye roll and a grin.
Everyone assembled on Saturday morning, donned their uniforms and costumes and then stood around for two hours waiting for their turn to swing into the parade lineup. Then they marched, slogged, spun, waved and hugged delighted children along the parade route for the more than two hours. Finally, they schlepped their costumes along the busy streets of Phoenix to find the bus back, while curious Valley residents hurtled past, smiling at the strange procession.
No doubt, the region will reap benefits from this latest attempt to blow our own trumpets (flutes, mellophones, tubas and whatnot). We’ve learned the hard way how hard we have to work to sustain our tourist-based economy. We believe that all these efforts will pay off with a much better year — with the economy recovering, the Blue Ridge water on the way and ASU on the brink of a deal.
But that’s not the most inspiring thing that came from a day spent with that amiable host of volunteers. Nope. The day proved once again that despite the splendor of the scenery and the lure of the woods, the best thing about living in Rim Country remains the people you encounter here.
As a host of delighted children discovered along the parade route, it’s enough to turn you into a tree hugger.