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How Scottsdale continues to be ‘The West’s Most Western Town’


Since 1951, Scottsdale celebrates its Western heritage every year with the Parada del Sol parade and festival.

Joan Fudala, who is an author and local historian who spoke at a presentation during Western Week, shared the roots of Scottsdale’s tradition.

Along with the parade and Fudala’s presentation, festivities included an artwalk in Old Town, farmer’s market, the Arizona Indian Festival at the Civic Center, performances by Montee Sinquah at Native Art Market, and free admission to Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West with an exhibit of photographer Edward Curtis.

The 69th Parada del Sol parade on Feb. 4, following the original route on Scottsdale Road, included 125 entries from local schools, tribal communities, law enforcement, ranching community groups, animal welfare groups, local businesses and elected officials.

“Western Week is a great way to remind residents, both new and old, of our city’s roots in western culture. My family and I look forward to celebrating it every year, including how the Parada del Sol parade keeps families connected to the heritage and character that make Scottsdale so special,” Scottsdale Councilmember Berry Graham said.

According to Fudula, Scottsdale was a small cattle ranching and farming community from the time it was founded in 1888 through World War 2, until it became a city in 1951 and tourism picked up.

“After WWII, people traveling here were interested in Hollywood’s version of Western towns,” Fudala said. “During WWII, people would go to the movies to escape from the realities of the war, rationing, worrying about loved ones. What was in the movies: A lot of Westerns.”

During the war, people who watched western movies at the theaters built up a curiosity about the West and a desire to travel. Cars and gas were available and air conditioning was better, so it was more comfortable to travel to the West, Fudala explained.

In 1951, Malcolm White was appointed as Scottsdale’s first mayor and adopted “The West’s Most Western Town” as its official motto.

Scottsdale and the Phoenix area became prime for visiting.

“The ‘50s were really the launch pad,” Fudala stated.

That’s when most of Scottsdale’s signature events started: Parada del Sol in 1951, the first spring training games and Arabian Horse Show in 1956 and the Phoenix Open every other year at the Arizona Country Club.

The Parada started as a smaller festival called the Sunshine Festival, run by the Chamber of Commerce and a couple of nonprofit organizations.

As a new small town with 2,000 residents the first festival was also small and only lasted 20 minutes, Fudala said. It had a short parade, barbecue and street dance.

The Scottsdale Jaycees formed in 1953 and agreed to take over running the Parada del Sol. By 1956, it was expanded from a parade and street dance to include a rodeo, which was built where Fashion Square is now on the corner of Camelback and Scottsdale roads.

The rodeo’s location has since moved around and has now been at WestWorld of Scottsdale since 2005. The 70th Rodeo Scottsdale will take place March 9-12.

In 1953, the mayor also began proclaiming Western Week.

“One of my favorite things from the early days was they had a beard growing contest called the Whiskerino,” Fudala said. “They had judging on the most unique beard, scraggly beard, longest beard, grayest beard.”

For the beard growing contest, men went to a barber for a clean shave on the first of December, received a photo and a note attesting to their clean shave and then were judged in the contest during Parada del Sol in late January or early February.

According to Fudala, the Jaycees also put on a fundraiser where they would mock arrest people and then friends would donate money to the Jaycees to bail them out. The money was donated to local nonprofits, particularly those for youth.

“It’s a wonderful tradition to have so many people involved in the parade, and just the whole atmosphere and Western spirit even though we’ve grown a little bit more sophisticated,” Fudala said. “The fact there’s now a rodeo museum and the Western Spirit museum here, you don’t have to wait until Western Week to enjoy our western heritage.”

From a Sunshine Festival to a Super Season of events, Scottsdale continues to carry its Western heritage.

MacKenzie Brower can be reached at mbrower@iniusa.org. We’d like to invite our readers to submit their civil comments, pro or con, on this issue. Email AZOpinions@iniusa.org.