The annual Pioneer Days celebration drew thousands of people to Pima last weekend to celebrate the occasion with food, family and fun.
Pioneer Days is put on by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in remembrance of the church's early pioneers and rotates every year among Safford, Thatcher and Pima. Numerous eventgoers commented on how they look forward to Pima hosting because it is always the most memorable.
The celebration officially kicked off Friday night with a Family Fun Rodeo that included a stick horse race, boot race and greased pig contest for the kids. The event went from 7 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. and also included calf roping and barrel racing.
Clouds gathered early Saturday evening and provided cooler weather for the "Strength of Our Pioneers" themed parade. Crowds lined the parade route and cheered loudly for their local entries.
The entry from Solomon took home the award for "Best Overall Theme." Other parade award winners follow:
• Most Historic – Thatcher First Ward
• Most Patriotic – Safford Second Ward
• Most Creative – Safford Fourth Ward
• Best of Show – Safford Seventh Ward.
After the parade, the throng of people packed onto the Pima School District's Edd Hubbard football field for an evening of food, family, friends and entertainment.
Along with the usual staple of beef barbecue dinners, hot dogs and pie and ice cream, eventgoers this year were treated to a pageant depicting the history of the church from its origins through members first settling in the Gila Valley.
The performance featured a large ensemble cast and used pre-recorded speech and songs, which were broadcast over a sound system for the masses. Some of the action in the pageant was taken straight from journal entries from some of the pioneers who made the arduous trek across the nation to settle in the Great Salt Lake Valley.
In addition to the live action, historical pictures were broadcast on a pair of jumbo screens elevated on each side of the stage.
Youths from the Pima Stake also revisited its song about bringing water to farms via canals and early cotton production.
The song and dance was first performed at the Cultural Celebra-tion before the dedication of The Gila Valley Arizona Temple two years ago.
The culmination of the night's festivities was a booming fireworks show that left the crowd in awe. The colorful fireworks exploded above the football field so close it appeared one could reach out and grab them.
Afterward, groups of people helped clean up the litter as the majority of the crowd easily dispersed through the many exits to the highway.