FEATURE – There is something wonderful about a parade. Little parades, big parades, it doesn’t matter; I love them all. To me, parades are as much a part of the American landscape as baseball, and the Dixie Roundup Rodeo Parade only serves to reinforce this belief.
The etymology of the word “parade” dates back to the late 1600s and has varied meanings. Merriam-Webster defines “parade” as follows:
- A public celebration of a special day or event that usually includes many people and groups moving down a street by marching or riding in cars or on special vehicles (called floats).
- A military ceremony in which soldiers march or stand in lines so that they can be examined by officers or other important people.
- A long series of people or things that come one after the other.
Parades existed worldwide long before the Macy’s department store decided to have people march giant balloons down the streets of New York City, but I still can’t seem to shake the Norman Rockwell-esque picture in my mind of a parade ripe with Americana.
It is a picture that comes to life every time I witness the Dixie Roundup Rodeo Parade. The storied parade combines the rich history of the American West with a welcoming nod to the future. It bridges generations in a perfect symphony of squealing kids, blaring emergency vehicle sirens and big marching bands.
Oh, and of course, horses – all the pretty horses.
While the credit for the parade’s organization goes to the St. George Lions Club and Lady Lions who produce the parade alongside three nights of professional rodeo annually, I would like to think that I have made my own little contribution to the spectacle.
From the time I was in fourth grade until the year I graduated high school, I marched in the Dixie Roundup Rodeo Parade. Nine consecutive years. I know that probably isn’t a lot for some, but it was enough for me to make a lasting connection to this parade I look forward to seeing every year.
The first year I participated, I had just moved to Southern Utah. My parents had gone through a bad divorce, and my mother was determined to give us an amazing life despite our obstacles. With this in mind, she enrolled me in gymnastics, a favorite pastime for which I still have a great passion. At the time, my new gymnastics troop was participating in the parade, and I was elated.
I vividly remember riding in the back of a red truck, hopping out occasionally to wow the crowd as I walked on my hands or turned a cartwheel. I remember the hot asphalt and my blackened hands. And I remember the streets lined with people who came out to enjoy the parade.
For the next eight years, I continued to participate in the parade in one form or another. I was a flag twirler, banner carrier, piccolo player and drum major – basically I was a band geek. A very happy band geek.
There was even one year when my two siblings and I all marched in the parade with various community groups.
Jerry Parker, long-time member and past president of the Lions Club, said in a previous St. George News report that parades have been part of Dixie Roundup history since the 1940s. At one point, the Roundup even held a parade every day of the event to draw the crowd down to the rodeo grounds. Thursday night was the beauty parade. Friday night was the children’s parade. And Saturday night was the general parade.
The parades were held in the late afternoon and as a former band member who marched in a full band uniform, I can tell you, it’s hot.
In 2015, organizers moved the parade to 9 a.m. Saturday to give viewers and participants relief from the late summer heat and to have more time to prepare for the final night of the rodeo.
But despite the changes, the parade remains an integral part of the Dixie Roundup Rodeo weekend in St. George.
This year’s parade is themed “Kickin’ the Dust Up at the 82nd annual Dixie Roundup Rodeo.” The parade will start at 9 a.m. Saturday and will travel down Tabernacle Street from 400 West to 200 East.
I hope you’ll go wave at the participants, dance to the bands, clap for the performers and make the Dixie Roundup Rodeo Parade part of your Americana for years to come.
- What: Dixie Roundup Rodeo Parade.
- When: Saturday, Sept. 17, 9 a.m.
- Where: Tabernacle Street from 400 West to 200 East in St. George, see route.
- The parade is free to attend.
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