Payson courts spotlight with entries in Fiesta Bowl Parade

Payson High School Marching Band

Photo by Michele Nelson. |

Payson High School Marching Band


On Dec. 29, the little mountain town of Payson will strut its stuff with both a float and a marching band before an estimated 8 million U.S. viewers at the 40th annual Fiesta Bowl Parade in Tempe.

“This is very exciting due to the number of people that will see the float, both in person and on television,” said Cameron Davis, Parks, Recreation and Tourism Director for the Town of Payson.

The town float will appear in the parade because of its relationship with Arizona Public Service (APS).

In addition, the Payson Longhorns Marching

Marching Band will take a stroll on national television.

Davis said that while discussing APS’s continuing sponsorship of Payson’s holiday Electric Light Parade, APS Relationship Manager Brenda Hazlett suggested the town participate in the Fiesta Bowl Parade. She and APS even arranged for the town to have the $15,000 entry fee waived.

The Fiesta Bowl’s Web site said the parade started in 1972 when the president of the Fiesta Bowl decided the bowl game needed a parade.

The first parade used giant air balloons, some formerly used in the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade, towed by local Boy Scouts. As with any first-time experience, the inaugural parade had its difficulties. Some of the balloons lost air and the Boy Scouts had to hold them up to finish the parade.

The parade continued to gain fame, with help from sponsors like the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation, the scope of the event has expanded over the years.

Today the parade is Arizona’s largest single-day spectator event. Thousands line the route to watch bands, floats and horse groups walk two miles to kick off the bowl game, said its Web site.

Payson’s history fits perfectly with this year’s parade theme of “The Spirit of the Southwest.” Davis said the town plans to create a float that depicts the Mogollon Rim, its ponderosa pine trees, and the western and outdoor recreation traditions of the Rim Country.

The Payson High School Marching Band, which last year participated in the 50th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, will march in front of the float and play “Reflections of the Rim,” by Barry Hurt.

Immediately after announcing the news, numerous Payson organizations and businesses stepped up to help out, said Davis.

Wes Chapman will provide the trailer for the float.

Payson’s Water Department will supply the truck to pull the float.

Dave Daily and his construction company will help to frame the infrastructure.

Gary Johnson will lean on his 30-plus years of welding experience to help make the float structure.

Sue Malinski and the Western Village will provide a seven-foot elk and other forest animals to dress up the float.

Thomas Walling from the high school drama department will design, shape and mold the Mogollon Rim.

The Home Depot will donate building supplies.

The Payson Roundup will supply pictures and paper.

And Jim Lewus of Lewuson Enterprise, LLC will provide 1,600 square feet of space at the Payson airpark to build the float.

But the town needs more help, said Davis.

“The town has asked for 20 to 30 volunteers that are willing to dress up in homemade pine tree costumes that are being constructed by master seamstress, Susan Garrett,” said Davis.

Families are welcome to volunteer, but children must be at least 10 years old, said Davis. The parade route is two miles long. The parade will start at 11 a.m. on Central and Montebello avenues. It proceeds south to Camelback and then east to 7th Street, where it turns east to Minnezona Avenue.

“Arizonans and visitors alike annually line the two-mile parade route in central Phoenix to witness this spectacular celebration, making the parade a holiday custom known and loved by locals as well as fans traveling to the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl,” said Davis.

If interested in volunteering for the parade, please call Cameron Davis at the Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department at (928) 474-5242 ext. 7. Or stop by the office in Green Valley Park to fill out volunteer paperwork.


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