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Mon, Sept. 23

Christmas City defends its title with '150 Years of Memories' parade

Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier<br>
Prescott Frontier Days Rodeo Queen Sabrina Swearingin rides with her court in the “150 Years of Christmas Memories”  parade through downtown Prescott Saturday.

Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier<br> Prescott Frontier Days Rodeo Queen Sabrina Swearingin rides with her court in the “150 Years of Christmas Memories” parade through downtown Prescott Saturday.

Here in Prescott, the parade tradition runs as deep as North Pole snow.

Most in the crowd (estimated by the Prescott Fire Department at 5,000) seemed to agree with the lines from one marching band selection: "We need a little Christmas, right this very minute."

And Prescott delivered, with a 32nd annual parade that likely would scare off any challengers to its title of "Arizona's Christmas City."

On a crisp fall day featuring sleigh-shaped clouds hanging like decorations over Thumb Butte, the parade started with fire and police sirens leading the way. They were followed by the Bradshaw High School marching band, cranking up the likes of "Hark the Herald Angels Sing." Chris Tenney, the band director, said the parade went well. "We did the Prescott Valley light parade last night - that was good practice," he said.

The high school band was followed by dozens of floats, featuring kids dressed as presents, dogs dressed as reindeer, men dressed as Wise Men and throw-back locals dressed as frontier folk. There were flatbeds, antique autos, pickups, go-carts and garbage trucks - all festively outfitted.

It was a perfect holiday kickoff for Laura Swesey, who had a prime seat at Gurley and Montezuma streets - literally, as she and 26 of her family members had seats propped up in the intersection.

"I love this," said Swesey, a New River resident celebrating

her 29th wedding anniversary. "We've been coming here for 22 years."

She said the first time she came here, she and her husband stumbled on to the Yavapai County Courthouse lighting ceremony that follows the parade. "Right when they were reading the Christmas story," she said, "it started snowing. That sold us. We've been back every year since."

Her favorite of the 90 floats?

"I love them all," Swesey said. "They're so great, so much ingenuity."

And she loves Prescott, especially on Christmas Parade day. "It's great - it's Christmas town," she said. "We've been here in rain, in sleet, in snow."

Over on the other corner of the courthouse from the visiting Swesey party, hometowners Alma, Karen and Audrey Black stood on a bench in front of the post office, watching the Prescott High band march by to the tune of "Jingle Bells."

Audrey, 6, also didn't have a favorite float. "They were all good," said the Lincoln Elementary School first grader.

"I'm just glad it's not raining or cold," said Karen, Audrey's mother - as Karen's mother-in-law Alma nodded in agreement.

This wasn't Karen Black's first rodeo. "I was in the parade when I was her age," the Prescott native said, nodding toward her daughter.

Just then, Audrey's attention was captured by the parade's last float, put together by Yavapai Big Brothers Big Sisters.

From a decorated flatbed, a jolly old man in a white beard, wire-rimmed glasses and red suit was waving to the crowd - which was giving him a standing ovation.

"Santa!" Alma Black and other kids and adults were shouting. "Santa Claus!"

As the song blaring outside one downtown store hinted, it was beginning to look a lot like Christmas, here in North Pole, Arizona. Most seemed to agree it was about time for joy to the world.

Follow Tom Scanlon on Twitter @tomscanlonpress

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