Originally Published: July 6, 2014 6:01 a.m.
Mother Nature may have given it a whirl, but in the end, the Prescott Frontier Days Parade won out Saturday and finished its promenade around downtown Prescott, raindrops and all.
The annual parade took off at 9 a.m., with nearly 170 entries from all over Arizona. Specialty acts in the Prescott Frontier Days Oldest Rodeo participated in the parade. Eighteen different groups of horses galloped along. Royalty from 10 different rodeos around Arizona were on hand to give their queenly waves to the crowd, estimated at more than 40,000 people five or six deep on sidewalks lining the parade route.
As to be expected during election season, politicos joined in to stump for their campaigns. This year, at least a dozen showed up to be a part of the festivities.
A couple of entries paid homage to the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots who died in the Yarnell Hill fire on June 30, 2013. A highlight of the parade was fallen Hotshot Jesse Steed's 1957 GMC truck, which a Phoenix company restored in his honor and delivered to his family in Prescott this past Thursday.
One of auto industry magnate "This ain't no bull" Tex Earnhardt's clan brought a bull to the parade. And local dance troupes entertained parade-watchers as well.
The theme of this year's parade was "Bringing Alive the Last 150 Years," in honor of Prescott's 150th birthday, or sesquicentennial, that the city celebrated earlier this summer.
The person of special honor in the parade every year is its grand marshal. This year, cowboy artist Bill Nebeker led the parade in that capacity.
"Bill Nebeker was one of the first brought to mind" when the Prescott Frontier Days Board of Directors considered candidates for this honor, parade chairman Debbie Tuttle said.
"He is a great local artist," Tuttle said. "He's a cowboy - a perfect fit."
Nebeker is a renowned artist across the country and a member of the prestigious Cowboy Artists of America.
Of his being chosen grand marshal, Nebeker said, "As a small boy, my mom and dad began taking me to the Frontier Days Parade and Rodeo, and my family has gone or participated in some way almost every year since."
Nebeker's wife, Merry, has volunteered for many years on the parade committee, and marched in the parade with her church, the Prescott High School Band and as a pompom girl, he said.
Nebeker's father, Ted, rode his appaloosa horse with the Smoki People in the parade, and in 1964, Prescott's centennial year, he was part of the parade. Several of Nebeker's children and grandchildren have also been in the parade with their church groups, Boy Scouts, gymnastics teams, and as cheerleaders or members of other school clubs.
"So," Nebeker said, "to have the World's Oldest Rodeo name me as grand marshal of the rodeo parade is one of the most important honors I have ever received.
"With the theme of "Bringing Alive the last 150 Years," I guess my sculptures of the American cowboy, past and present, and Native Peoples of many tribes, has helped keep alive knowledge and appreciation for the culture of the West," he said. "Having my hometown give me such a huge honor seems unbelievable and quite overwhelming.
"I feel so grateful to have lived in Prescott for over 60 years, and have never wanted to live anywhere else."