Fiesta Bowl Parade
It all began in the summer of 1972. Don Meyers, the Bowl’s second president and a founding member, arrived at the conclusion that every bowl, to be called a “bowl,” must have a parade. He assigned Ray Cox with the task of heading up a group of volunteers to plan the effort, and thus the Parade Committee was born.
The first Parade was themed “Books, Toys & Television Joys” and was a balloon Parade consisting of an exciting assortment of 45 giant air balloons, 18 of which were left over from the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Valley businesses sponsored the balloons, and local Boy Scouts towed them down Central Avenue. A few of the balloons sprang leaks on the route and deflated, causing the Boy Scouts to have to lift them and carry them during the Parade. Nonetheless, the event was a success with an estimated 25,000 people lining the Parade route as spectators.
The 1973 Parade was the forerunner to the present-day version, with bands, floats, silver riders and clowns. Bleachers were erected for the 1974 event and the estimated attendance surged past 100,000. The 1974 Parade is also remembered as the only Parade without a grand marshal as the Fiesta Bowl Parade Committee forgot to escort Grand Marshal Steve Allen to the start of the Parade route. The first Parade Festival Program appeared in 1975.
Floats began to play a major part in the Parade when Don Bent, of Rose Bowl fame, contracted for and entered floats in 1974. In 1977, the Fiesta Bowl’s national sponsors, such as Farmers Insurance, joined the Parade by sponsoring a float. The Portland Rose Festival also participated by entering a truly beautiful unit in 1981.
Prior to the Budweiser Clydesdale Horses initial appearance in 1980, the major animal entry was six goats pulling a wino. The 1980 Parade also was the first to attract more than 200,000 spectators.
Television viewing has matched the live audiences’ growth with KOOL-TV beginning a live broadcast in 1975 and continuing through 1977. KTAR-TV (later KPNX-TV) broadcast the Parade on a delayed basis in 1978 and 1979. A small group of stations were part of syndication in Arizona. In 1980, Broadcast Communication Incorporated syndicated the Parade nationwide with 15 stations, which expanded to 82 stations in 1981.
NBC Entertainment began telecasting the Parade in 1988 on a tape delay. The Parade was seen in West Coast and Mountain regions on December 31, while the East Coast and Central regions viewed it on January 1, immediately following the “TODAY Show” and prior to the Tournament of Roses Parade. In 1989, KTVK-TV (Arizona’s Family) began televising the Parade in its entirety, commercial free.
Today, the Parade is Arizona’s largest single-day spectator event, annually attracting thousands of people who line the Parade route. The growth in size and the quality of the Parade have been phenomenal. This is due in large part to the Parade’s fantastic sponsors, especially Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation as well as the dedicated group of volunteers who have worked long and hard to ensure its success, many of which have been working on the event since its inception.