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Parada del Sol

Scottsdale event celebrates 66 years

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On the second Saturday of this month, family and friends will pack their chairs, blankets, and umbrellas and make their way down Scottsdale Road to Old Town to enjoy a day of fun at the Parada del Sol Parade and Trail’s End Festival. 

The Parada del Sol was originally called the Sunshine Festival. It was started by a group of local leaders who, along with the Scottsdale Junior Chamber of Commerce Jaycees, wanted to draw more attention to the Scottsdale area. It was early 1953, and the Jaycees set out to recruit “hundreds of horses and entertainment to highlight the spirit of the Old West.” 

“It was originally held in November, but was later moved to February with festival activities such as street gunfights, robberies, kangaroo courts by the Jaycee Mavericks and a ‘best beard’ contest,” said Ellen Bilbrey, who was part of the Scottsdale Jaycee Program. 

Three years later, the Parada Rodeo was added to the parade events and Parada del Sol became the official title of Scottsdale’s Wild West event. 

The original rodeo took place in the lot where Fashion Square Mall now sits. The arena moved closer to downtown in 1959. Then, in 1985, the rodeo moved to Rawhide in north Scottsdale, and later to West World to accommodate the ever-growing crowds. Nowadays, the rodeo takes place in March. 

“I grew up going to and participating in the Parada and it takes me right back to when I was a kid… we would get to dress western on Friday because it was a half-day of school so all the kids could go to the rodeo in Old Town Scottsdale,” said Wendy Springborn, President of the Parade Committee. 

1959 saw Holbrook’s Hashknife Pony Express added to the events. More than two dozen horseback riders, in authentic cowboy clothing, carry U.S. mail 200 miles from Holbrook to Scottsdale and convene at the parade. The Chamber also added the Howdy Dudettes to be ambassadors for the city – they were taken off the roster at one point and were brought back by popular demand in 2017.

In 2008, the Scottsdale Jaycees disbanded, but a select few decided to keep the tradition of the Parada going. Down 125 members, this small group kept the parade afloat for six years until Wendy and her volunteer colleagues Chris Lyman and Don Chiappetti stepped in to help with the parade and other festivities. 

“Come rain or come shine the parade must and does go on. I would say the parade has kept going because of tradition and as a heritage event for Scottsdale, dating back to the time shortly after the city was incorporated when it was run by the Scottsdale Jaycees. The parade is a true community event,” Springborn said. 

“I have been part of the committee off and on since 1988, and my favorite part of the parade is that it is a hometown event…it keeps a little bit of the west alive and shows how our community was when things were much easier. Kids take a break from technology and people enjoy the outdoors,” Lyman said. 

Springborn, Lyman, and Chiappetti each have their own committee that help with different aspects of the parade and Trail’s End Festival. 

“I have been involved with the Parada del Sol for over 50 years – as a spectator, participant, and organizer. I got involved first by watching my dad, a lifetime Scottsdale Charro, when I was a kid. Later I rode with the Hashknife Pony Express for over 20 years, and now I am the Treasurer of the Board of Directors,” Chiappetti said. 

Volunteers head to the festival area

and parade grounds around 4 a.m. to start setting up for the day’s activities. The volunteers help direct announcers and arrange staging on all the downtown streets for entertainers. They also organize the horses and control the parking, traffic, and crowds along the streets. 

After the parade, the Trail’s End Festival will kick into full gear with a day of entertainment, including local live music acts, petting zoo, and Old West “shoot-outs.” 

“The Parada del Sol history is fascinating and has evolved into the huge community event we love today. Over 30,000 people enjoy this event, the oldest in the city, and it has always been a volunteer-organized and community-sponsored event,” Chiappetti said. “The parade and festival celebrate our heritage as the ‘West’s Most Western Town.’ As Scottsdale has grown, I feel it’s important to preserve this tradition. It’s fun, it’s free, it’s family – it’s the Parada del Sol.” 

The parade festivities kick off on Saturday, February 9 at 9 a.m.

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