Samuel Niyimbabazi had never seen a rodeo parade before.
Actually, he hadn’t seen many horses at all in his seven years of life.
“There are no horses in the Congo,” said Samuel, who was wearing a 10-gallon hat on his tiny head.
Samuel moved from Congo to Tanzania and then to Tucson with his parents and brother two years ago.
He was at the 84th annual Tucson Rodeo Parade with Jim Hogan, a volunteer at an after-school program run by Abounding Grace Church that helps students with homework.
“Uh, that horse just peed,” Samuel told Hogan as the first set of horses crossed their path.
Hogan smiled. “You’ll see a lot worse than that before the parade is over,” he said.
And, of course, he did.
Samuel also liked the marching bands, and discovered they apparently are allowed to break from formation to avoid something brown, warm and gooey in the roadway.
Jasmine Valles, 3, might have had the best seat of all for the parade – atop the shoulders of her father, Mario Valles.
“That way she can see and I can keep track of her,” said her dad, who has been coming to the parade since he was a kid and now takes his wife, Monica Pederie, and their five children, who range from 3 months to 10 years old.
Gabriella Bustamante is only 2, but she was super-interested in “the horses, the princesses and the drums!” she said.
She especially liked a tiny pony that was at the start of the parade.
“I would like to ride that baby pony,” she said.
Most children appeared enthralled until about half way through the parade, when the adage, “If you’ve seen one (horse, marching band or wagon), you’ve seen them all,” appeared to be kicking in.
Kids were playing in the dirt and on rocks that were plentiful along the Park Avenue stretch of the parade.
For the most part, spectators abided by the rules, not sitting on the curbs and not crossing the street while the parade was in progress.
A woman from Colorado had a brief run-in with a police officer after she crossed Park to buy a soda from parents and students at Quail Run Elementary, who were raising money to send a cheerleading team to a national competition.
“I’m sorry,” said Lynnette Schindler. “This is my first Rodeo Parade. In Glenwood Springs, Colorado, we’ve had a Strawberry Days Parade for more than 100 years and you can always cross the street. I guess our parade and streets are a little smaller.”
By 11:20, parade participants had finished their route and turned into the Rodeo Grounds at Irvington Road and South Sixth Avenue.
Then the members of the crowd poured into the streets heading toward their cars. Some carried cushions, other carried lawn chairs. Some carried water bottles and others pushed babies in strollers, no doubt the next generation’s Rodeo Parade fans.
As the spectators walked away, Western fiddle music came over the public address system at the nearby grandstands, which had been nearly full during the parade.
Some spectators stayed to the very end.
Yasmine Andrade, 3, who was sitting in a chair eating a corn dog and playing with a plastic gun, was one of them.
She clapped enthusiastically for the eight city street cleaning vehicles cleaning up what the horses left as they passed in front of her.
84th Annual La Fiesta de los Vaqueros
Producer: XAVIER GALLEGOS/Tucson CitizenSlideshow #2
By Mary Bustamante, Arianna Hermosillo, David L. Teibel