TUCSON RODEO PARADE COMMITTEE, INC.
Tucson Rodeo Parade Puts Southwestern Heritage, History on Display
Over 90 years the Tucson Rodeo Parade has kicked off the annual La Fiesta de los Vaqueros celebration. The Tucson Rodeo has grown from a local event meant to increase tourism and fund a local polo club to one of the top rodeos on the professional circuit.
The first Tucson Rodeo Parade in 1925 was established to advertise and draw spectators to the rodeo to be held immediately following the parade. It featured two military bands, mounted cowboys, cowgirls, and Native Americans, mounted police and the University of Arizona polo team. All cowboys participating in the rodeo were required to participate.
Local businessmen donated cash and merchandise prizes. The prize list included Most Typical Cowboy and Cowgirl, Prettiest Horse, Biggest Hat, Finest Saddle and Bridle, Most Comical Costume, Fattest and Skinniest Horse, and Best Decorated Automobile. The first parades did not claim to be non-motorized as today’s event is.
Quite a beginning for what has become the nation’s largest non-motorized parade. Through the decades, the Tucson Rodeo Parade has become one of the finest and best loved traditions in Southern Arizona, drawing upwards of 150,000 spectators. The parade has become so established that most local school districts close classes for the Thursday and Friday of Rodeo week. Generations of Tucsonans have ridden or marched in the annual parade, and some families wouldn’t think of missing the yearly festivities.
A consortium of local civic groups such as the Kiwanis, Rotary, Lions and Engineers Clubs organized the first two parades. Beginning in 1927, American Legion Post #7, with the backing of the Chamber of Commerce, ran the parade until 1932, when the Tucson Rodeo Parade Committee was formed, mostly comprised of local businessmen and community leaders. Through the years such locally recognizable names as Roy Drachman, J.C. Kinney, Ed Echols, Paul Grimes, Pete Waggoner, Bill West, Bruce Knapp, Bill Breck, Bucky Steele, Frank Roe, and Alex Jacome have served on the Parade Committee.
Today, the Parade Committee consists of 37 active members, with nine associate members, and numerous advisory members who lend their past expertise to the group. The Committee tends to all aspects of planning for the parade from accepting applications to coordinating with the numerous City of Tucson departments that assist with the parade.
Their careers are as diverse as the committee chores. The list includes active or retired engineers, teachers, firefighters, contractors, electricians, salespersons, band directors, and a variety of professionals and business owners. If the job needs to be done by the Parade Committee, chances are they have a member’s expertise to get it done. They pool their talents to share in the work, to experience a little of life in the Old West, and to contribute to the Western heritage of Tucson.
The Committee also operates the Tucson Rodeo Parade Museum, located at the Tucson Rodeo Grounds. The museum houses many displays of Western memorabilia and the Committee’s collection of over 125 wagons, buggies, coaches and other horse-drawn equipment.
The museum is open from January through March from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.Monday through Saturday. It is open limited hours just before each rodeo performance. Be sure to stop by and see the collection of Western history.
About the Committee
The Parade Committee was formed to insure planning, organization, supervision and conduct for the annual Parade of “La Fiesta de Los Vaqueros” in cooperation with the City of Tucson.
Operating what is now the “Largest Non-Motorized Parade in the World” requires maintaining the spirit of the original 1925 Parade organizers while working closely with the Tucson community through the dedicated efforts of the committee members.
The Parade Committee is made up of 36 volunteer members led by a Chairman. It is organized around 18 sub-committee assignments, each with two members. Sub-committees are organized to deal with every facet of the Parade, and the Parade Museum.
The first Parade in 1925 was organized with the support of the Lions Club, Kiwanis, Rotary Club and Engineer Civic Club. For 1926 and 1927 the American Legion supported and sponsored the event. From 1928 – 1931 the American Legion sponsored the event along with Pete Waggoner.
In 1932 Pete Waggoner became RODEO PARADE Chairman. The Parade Committee was sponsored Rodeo Committee under the auspices of The Tucson Chamber of Commerce. That same year Pete Waggoner founded the Tucson Rodeo Parade Committee.
1941 was the year that the Tucson Rodeo Parade Committee framed a Constitution and By-Laws under the recommendation of Mr. Frank Putter.
From 1942-1969 the Tucson Parade Committee was sponsored by the Tucson Rodeo Committee under the auspices of the Tucson Chamber of Commerce. From 1970 – 1986 the Tucson Chamber of Commerce upon the recommendation of President Phil Vito made the Tucson Parade Committee an autonomous committee of the Tucson Chamber of Commerce, separate from the Rodeo Committee. In 1986 the Tucson Chamber of Commerce canceled the autonomous sponsorship of the Tucson Parade Committee.
In 1986 The Tucson Rodeo Parade Committee became known as THE TUCSON RODEO PARADE COMMITTEE, INC.