Lost Dutchman Days Parade and Rodeo

IMG_0102wThis weekend was the annual Lost Dutchman Days. Saturday’s festivities kicked off with the parade. Just to give an idea of how big a deal this is in Apache Junction, the parade route starts at the intersection of Old West Highway, Idaho Road and Apache Trail – winds west down the Trail (a divided highway) for about a mile, makes a U-turn and doubles back in the eastbound lane. The parade is more than an hour and a half long. The entire parade route is packed with spectators four and five deep. By contrast, the Christmas parade barely lasts twenty minutes.

IMG_0121wIn keeping with the Old West theme, and with AJ being an equestrian town, there are a lot of horses in the parade. The AJ Mounted Rangers are deputized citizens that provide security at events. They patrol the shopping centers during the holidays, and are regulars at the Superstition Mountain Museum events.

IMG_0156wThe Shriners arrive en-force. They are usually soused by the time the parade begins (9AM).  When I grow up I want to be a Shriner because they get to drive those cool little cars in the parade.

Our plan was for me to get photos of the parade, especially photos of Liz n the 1956 Thunderbird, representing the Museum. Then I would save a seat at Captain’s and wait for her, grab a bite to eat then head out to the rodeo.  As fate would have it, Liz was the last vehicle in the parade, not counting the semi-truck for the local food bank.

IMG_0230wIt is a good thing I was thinking ahead. Before the parade I slipped Casey, the bartender, some cash to reserve a couple stools at the bar. She said it wasn’t going to be packed after the parade, and I told her I suspected it would be. When I arrived after the parade, there were two empty seats. On the bar were two glasses – one of Coke and one of Sprite!  By the time I sat down, she had replaced the soda with an Alaskan Amber.

IMG_0190wThis was the second day of the rodeo. The first day had record crowds, and the bleachers were packed Saturday as well. This year there were no injuries to either animal or rider.

The nice thing about the rodeo is that all proceeds go to charity.  Beer is $3 a can – so they are not out to rip you off. The Johnsonville Brats are one of my fave’s.  On the rodeo grounds is a carnival for those not interested in the rodeo itself. Two sound stages with live music all day, Ferris Wheel and other kid’s rides, food vendors galore and tents hawking saddles and riding gear, leather jackets, flags, belt buckles, boots and cowboy hats, all against the backdrop of the Superstition Mountains.  You can’t get anymore west than this, before you hit a bunch of bleach-blonde surfers.

IMG_0609wWe sat and listened to Outside the Line for an hour or so.  They were excellent, and are a regular act at Lost Dutchman Days. The dance floor quickly filled, and it was a pleasant way to wind down the day.

IMG_0602wThe day was a perfect chance to play with my new camera. I brought only the camera with the 18-55mm lens, and a spare battery. At a little over 300 photos the battery died, so that was a smart move on my part. Since smart moves are rare these days, I felt I had to mention that!

I didn’t lug along the camera bag, since I didn’t want to be saddled with the bag – get it, saddle bad? – for eight hours. But I sure wish I had brought the telephoto lens along for the rodeo. The bronco’s would get out in the middle of the arena allowing for some good action shots, but the bulls bucked out of the chute and threw the riders right out of the gate – bulls 10 – cowboys 0. No decent shots. I know better for next year!

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