The Ahwatukee Easter Parade Bunny cheered on spectators

 Under a brilliant, blue sky with a light breeze that kept conditions relatively comfortable amid quickly rising temperatures, more than 85 scouts, bands and other organizations stepped off this morning for the 43rd annual Ahwatukee Kiwanis Club Easter Parade.

Kiwanian Scott Ryan thought this year might have seen a record number of entries and, regardless, several new floats debuted as the festive procession rolled down 48th Street from Warner to Elliot Road.

Young and old alike participated in the parade – the only Easter parade in the region.

They included all the clubs that are part of the Ahwatukee Recreation Center; marching bands from Akimel A-al Middle School and Desert Vista and Mountain Pointe high schools; and several local dance schools, including The Dance Loft and Classic Image Dance.

Among the new floats was a replica of Mountain View Lutheran Church, built by volunteers from the church, Kiwanis Club and Ahwatukee Recreation Center’s Woodworking Club.

The float had been one of the last dreams of Pastor Don Schneider before he passed away last year. He also was a co-founder of the Ahwatukee Kiwanis Club who, as pastor of Ahwatukee's oldest church, was an enthusiastic booster of the parade. His widow participated in the parade as well, wearing a broad-brimmed Easter hat.

Also new were colorful trailer-drawn floats by the Ahwatukee Republican Women; Mountainside Martial Arts Center, which is celebrating its 40th year in Ahwatukee this year; and the Ahwatukee School of Rock, which featured a band that came equipped with amplifiers.

A bag pipe contingent and the Shiners in their midget cars also were part of the parade.

Mountainside Martial Arts founder Rick Savagian said his students spent Friday putting together the float, which included the silhouette of a pagoda and a nine-foot replica of a karate student made of white balloons with a black balloon belt.

“We closed off the parking lot after we were done and barbecued,” Savagian said. “I want my students to learn the importance of community and giving back, so they were involved in getting ready for this parade.”

A record number of dignitaries participated, including new Mayor Kate Gallego, U.S. Rep. Greg Stanton, Legislative District 18 Reps. Mitzi Epstein and Jennifer Jermaine as well as Sen. Sean Bowie; and county Recorder Adrian Fontes.

Epstein eschewed a chance to ride in one of the classic Thunderbird convertibles that the Arizona Thunderbird Club provides for special guests and instead rode the length of the parade on a bicycle, stopping frequently to hand out candy to the scores of bystanders who lined 48th Street.

Bowie ended up walking the last quarter or so of the route when his T-bird broke down.

But Bowie, who just recovered from a bout with pneumonia that put him in the hospital for a couple of days, stepped briskly along to the end of the route at the ARC parking lot.

Bowie is no stranger to the parade.

“I tell people this is one of the best annual events anywhere,” he said, recalling how he was part of the Mountain Pointe Theatre Club contingent when he was in high school that put on scenes from “Grease” as part of their parade routine.

After the parade, the Kiwanis Club held its fundraiser Spring Fling in Ahwatukee Park until 4 p.m. Scheduled speakers included Gallego and Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams.

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