THATCHER — Sack races, barbecue and fireworks wrapped up 2019’s Gila Valley Pioneer Days celebration Saturday evening.
Before all that, the traditional Pioneer Days Parade made its way down Church Street and Stadium Avenue to the Thatcher splash pad. Crowds lined both streets for a ringside view of the parade’s tribute to Gila Valley pioneers, which included several handcarts, a wagon and horseback riders.
A Thatcher Fire Department truck helped cool off paradegoers with a blast of water as it made its way down Church Street, creating a rainbow over the parade, and children scrambled to catch ice pops tossed out by parade entrants. Closing out the parade was the Safford Fire Department’s new ladder truck.
This year’s theme was “Honoring All Pioneers,” both past and present. That included parade grand marshal Chesley Goseyun Wilson, described by event announcers as a pioneer of the San Carlos Apache Tribe. Wilson, born in Bylas in 1932, has made and performed with the Apache fiddle, and has been a singer, dancer, actor, model, silversmith and medicine man.
After the parade, crowds filled Eastern Arizona College’s John Mickelson Field to cap the celebration with food, fun and fireworks. Barbecue plates and drinks were a highlight, but there was also a whole range of food vendors whose offerings ranged from Navajo tacos to hamburgers to donuts. Children enjoyed such activities as sack races, tug of war, a fishing game and a dunk tank. The evening, and the weekend’s celebration of pioneer spirit, ended with the fireworks display over Mickelson Field.
According to a statement released by Thatcher Chief of Police Shaffen Woods on Saturday at 1:12 p.m., the man was found deceased in an irrigation canal near Bauer Avenue and 8th Street.
According to Woods, the Thatcher Police Department is investigating the situation and more information will be released when it is available.