The Christmas holiday is financially important for Phoenix in more ways than retail revenue. The week between Christmas and New Year’s is when the Phoenix metropolitan area hosts two bowl games: The Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl (December 28) and the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl (January 1). In the 2010-11 season, during the middle of the recession, the two games generated $354 million. The many events (e.g., pre-game parties, tournaments, etc.) fill hotel rooms and restaurants throughout the Valley. The 43rd Fort McDowell Fiesta Bowl Parade may not get the national attention the games do, but most accurately reflects the “Spirit” (the mascot of the Fiesta Bowl) of Arizona and the holiday season.
With tales of fan-on-fan violence becoming more common, Phoenix is noted for its well-behaved fans and treatment of visitors. Fans from the visiting bowl teams filled the stands, most thrilled with the sunshine and warm temperatures they would not get at home. Hope and Steve Hayward journeyed from Gables, Michigan to see their son, Brian, play trumpet with the Michigan Band. Right in front of them sat David Blanding, a Kansas State graduate, who has attended 16 out of 17 Kansas bowl games. Parade band members and their proud relatives came from all over the country from New Hampshire to Georgia to California. Happy visitors have helped fuel the $1 million in economic benefits over a five-year period.
The Parade’s diversity belied the recent criticism of Arizona as a “racist wasteland.” The importance of Native Americans was evident from the name sponsor (Ft. McDowell) to the floats and balloons provided by various tribes. But there were cowboys and cowgirls (e.g., the Bill Williams Mountain Men to the Wild Women of the West), too. There were Buffalo Soldiers and dragon dancers. Beautiful costumes adorned the Arathi School of Dances, Ballet Folklorico Alegria, and Caribbean Zone dancers. People of all ages (4-year olds in Club Dance Studio to the Ms. Senior Arizonas) marched.
Differences were put aside as politicians of all persuasions (e.g., Governor Jan Brewer, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Phoenix Mayor Stanton) rode in the parade. While there were superheroes marching (e.g., Arizona Ghostbusters, Justice League Arizona), the standing ovations were reserved for the real-life heroes (e.g., Yarnell Firefighters’ families, POW/MIA/KIA Honor Guard).
The Ft. McDowell Fiesta Bowl Parade was everything Arizona aspires to be. It displays a spirit that is socio-economically beneficial to maintain every day of the year.