The images of the old west one may conjure when daydreaming are perfectly embodied by a Saturday afternoon in February at a place many in the Valley of the Sun envisage as “The West’s Most Western Town.”
The 68th Annual Scottsdale Parada del Sol Parade & Trail’s End Festival will go off in early February 2021 — and aims to be a keynote representation of Scottsdale’s past, present and future.
But this year, a group of local community stewards — American cowboys at heart — are spearheading the effort in partnership with the city of Scottsdale and legacy Parada del Sol leadership.
“It is an honor for the Charros to be leading and managing this parade,” said Scottsdale Charros Executive Director Dennis Robbins.
“The western heritage of Scottsdale is important to maintain because it is a part of our community’s history, the Charros have ridden in the parade for over 50 years, and the parade promotes our local public schools. The parade is a free event focused on our families and our citizens. Besides, who doesn’t love a parade?”
For nearly 60 years, the Scottsdale Charros have been instrumental supporters of public education and in constant pursuit of improving the lives of Scottsdale residents while preserving the community’s ties to its western heritage.
The support of public education is a keystone of the nonprofit’s effort, but all the group’s philanthropy is spurred from the idea of the “gentleman cowboy,” Mr. Robbins explains.
“The mission of the Scottsdale Charros is to promote the city of Scottsdale and its community through sports and cultural activities,” he said. “As philanthropic ambassadors, membership is focused on providing support and funding for youth, education and local charities. Building on heritage and camaraderie, the Charros remain committed to bringing leadership, vision, and action to benefit Scottsdale and its citizens.”
But make no mistake — a lot is riding on this year’s Parada del Sol, which is set for Saturday, Feb. 13, along and around Scottsdale road in Old Town Scottsdale.
For Scottsdale Charros Patron Jason Klonoski, getting it done and getting it done right is of paramount concern.
“To be honest with you, the idea of taking on the Parada del Sol parade was initially daunting,” he said.
“A few of us went to their board meetings for several months to see what kind of effort it takes, what the potential for giving back was, and would the city continue to support it? The answers to those questions are: It is a big lift, but current structure and vendors will stay in place.”
Mr. Klonoski knows the value of maintaining tradition and finding new ways to give back — especially during the time of the novel coronavirus.
“The giving potential is there,” he said of the Charro pursuit. “We thank our corporate partners who are coming on board. Lastly, the city, like us, sees the value in keeping this tradition alive in ‘The West’s Most Western Town.’ Part of our mission is to keep that alive, and we are honored to have this opportunity.”
As patron of the Scottsdale Charros, Mr. Klonoski contends, his top concern is ensuring the philanthropic outfit is fulfilling a true community need.
“As patron, my biggest concern is making sure we are helping as many as we can in our community, and that our efforts are efficient and mission-centric,” he said. “It is well over a six-figure commitment, and it will take a considerable amount of our time. We will continue to lean on the vendors and the city who have made this a great free event. They have pledged to help us with the operational transition.”
--- Jason Klonoski
Taking on the Parada del Sol could spell more charity opportunities for the group, Mr. Klonoski points out.
“Where we really think we can help is fundraising,” he said. “When we get the opportunity to sit down with a potential sponsor, show them why they should support one of our initiatives and they see where the money goes, it is an easy sell. Almost every dollar flows through us back to the community.”
Taking on a major public event amid a global pandemic is a tricky proposition, Mr. Robbins admits.
“Taking over an event in the middle of a pandemic was probably not the best idea,” he quipped. “However, the committee over the last five years has done a tremendous job of creating a highly successful community event. The Charros believe that we can take a very outstanding parade and make it even better. The Charros cannot pull this event off by ourselves.”
It takes a village, Mr. Robbins says.
“The beauty of this parade is that it is a community event run by a group of highly committed volunteers,” he pointed out. “We hope to add value in the areas of sponsorships, community connections and administration.”
As with all things 2020, Ryan Schubert — a Charro and Parada committee member — says initial plans for the 2021 Parada Del Sol have been met with logistical concerns for public safety.
“The pandemic has most definitely been the biggest challenge,” he said. “Our committee as well as the city continue to work to determine if we can host the event safely and effectively. We are still in the process of gauging how the pandemic will affect both spectator attendance and parade-entry participation.”
Innovation is often born through necessity, Mr. Schubert says.
“We want to make sure we can put on a dynamic, fun parade that we all have come to expect year after year,” he said. “Something new that we are still planning and determining if feasible in this COVID world is a fun new evening event that will be known as the ‘Stampede Street Concert’ from 7 to 10 p.m. We view this as an event that will likely grow into a larger country music event over the next several years.”
--- Ryan Schubert
First and foremost, Mr. Robbins points out, is ensuring the safety of all who are able to join the Parada celebrations.
“The Charros are committed to having a safe event during this public health situation,” he said. “However, we realize that there are many issues outside of our control. We will be looking at all options to make sure we comply with all of the rules and regulations necessary to keep the public as safe as possible.”
All options are on the table to ensure safety at this year’s Scottsdale Parada del Sol, according to Mr. Robbins.
“We do not want to cause any unnecessary harm to anyone in our community,” he said. “We are working closely with city officials and others to determine the best course of action.”
Mr. Schubert offers the words of a beloved American essayist as the precipice for the love affair so many have with visions of bucking broncos, green pastures and — above all else — freedom.
“I think of a quote from Henry David Thoreau, ‘Eastward I go by force, but westward I go free.’ The allure of the old, wild west puts us in touch with our sense of survival, independence, grit and being free in a vast, wide-open place,” he explained.
Jose Leon, a Charro and Parada committee chairman, echoes a similar tone on the purpose of keeping western heritage alive in Scottsdale.
“The involvement of the Scottsdale Charros in the Parada del Sol Parade allows us to be a part of a tradition first carried on by the Scottsdale Jaycees,” he said of those who came before. “It is an honor to be a Charro helping contribute to the rich history of the parade.”
Mr. Leon explains no matter the challenge, the way of the Old West was forged through perseverance.
“Events like the Parada del Sol Parade are staples of the community that needs to be continued despite the challenges we may encounter any given year,” he said. “The Western way would be to roll up your sleeves and find a way to persevere. Time will tell how we accomplish that during these trying times.”
--- Jose Leon
With great opportunity also comes great responsibility, Mr. Leon explains.
“I believe that the Scottsdale Charros are entrusted with maintaining the western heritage in our community, and the Parada del Sol Parade embodies the traditions of Western heritage here in Scottsdale,” he said.
Helping others, the community, and the less fortunate of Scottsdale is what the Charro organization seeks to accomplish in its philanthropic capacity, Mr. Klonoski explains.
“I am here to humbly serve my community,” he said. “As a group, we believe deeply in helping others and each other. That it is incumbent upon each to do everything we can to improve our community and help those in need. We are not afraid to get our hands dirty, in fact, we like to. The harder the work, the more we like it.”
The Scottsdale Parada del Sol is more than a parade, fundraising opportunity, or just another event, Mr. Klonoski contends, it's an opportunity to keep a hold onto history.
“It is a great opportunity for each of us to come together to honor our history and keep a piece of it alive,” he said. “The Parada is a reminder to residents and visitors of our western heritage, to explore this beautiful city, state, its history, and that we really are a community. Hike, ride, shop in Old Town, go to The Rusty Spur or just sit somewhere and enjoy to cowboy sunsets. Scottsdale is amazing and unique — we celebrate that!”
Executive Editor Terrance Thornton can be reached at email@example.com