Arizona has a lot more going for it than the Grand Canyon and "snowbirds," or senior citizens who head south for the winter where it is warmer than up north. Arizona is also cowboy country, with rodeos around the state giving cowboys the chance to display their skills. Parades are a part of any rodeo celebration, but cities in the state also host several big parades that are not connected to rodeos.
Prescott Frontier Days claims to be the world's oldest rodeo. It was first held on July 4, 1888, before Arizona was a state. Prescott merchants called the event "a cowboy tournament" because it gave local cowboys a chance to show off their ranching skills to townspeople. Besides a week of rodeo performances, Frontier Days now includes an arts and crafts show, dances, a children's parade and the crowning of the Frontier Days queen.
Many Arizona rodeos take place in late winter or early spring, rather than the summer months as they do elsewhere in the west. Six days of rodeos are held as part of La Fiesta de los Vaqueros in Tucson each February. This "celebration of the cowboys" has a parade that draws upwards of 200,000 people annually. The group which holds the most rodeos annually, however, features high school students rather than professional cowboys. The Arizona High School Rodeo Association sponsors one rodeo a month at different places in Arizona, giving high schoolers a chance to see if they want to become professional cowboys.
The state's biggest parade, in terms of viewers, isn't affiliated with rodeos but rather with college football. Two of the nation's top college football teams compete annually in the New Year's Day Fiesta Bowl at the University of Phoenix stadium in Glendale. Thousands turn out for the parade, held the day before the game. The parade is televised nationally, making it the most viewed parade in Arizona. The parade, which started in 1972, is sponsored by the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation.
Communities throughout Arizona host parades for many occasions: Veteran's Day, Christmas and Thanksgiving, to name a few, as well as part of annual community celebrations. Sponsors of the St. Patrick's Day parade in Phoenix claim it is the second biggest parade in the state after the Fiesta Bowl. The parade was started in 1983 to share Irish culture with Arizonans. Festivities now include an Irish Faire that features Irish dancing, music, food and arts and crafts.
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