The Ahwatukee Foothills Easter Parade has spanned five decades, from the 1970s to the 2010s, and is still going strong.
For the 35th annual Easter Parade on Saturday, April 23, head organizer Mike Schmitt said he expects approximately 60 floats that will carry about 2,500 people. The parade will start at Warner Road and go up 48th Street to Elliot Road, about one mile total.
Several local politicians will be riding the route with the Arizona Classic Thunderbird Club, including David Schweikert (R-Ariz.), Mayor Phil Gordon and some of the mayoral candidates.
For music, Schmitt said this will be the first time that they have ever had five local bands playing in the parade. Not only will Desert Vista and Mountain Pointe participate, but also Kyrene Akimel A-al Middle School, the Salvation Army band and students from La Joya High School in Avondale will perform.
"Getting bands this time of the year is not easy," said Schmitt, who has been in charge of the organization of the parade for 19 years. "We were excited to be able to get all five of them."
Center Pointe Dance has become a highlight of the event each year, Schmitt said. Last year, their "bumble bee" theme earned them Best Youth Dance Group. This year, owner and director Bianca Caryl said they plan to have a new theme and more than 100 kids on and around the parade float.
"I grew up with the Ahwatukee Easter parade and it's been a tradition for me and for the studio before I took it over," Caryl said. "Last year was one of our biggest and this year we are going to do something completely different."
Donations collected from float registration goes to the Kiwanis Club of Ahwatukee, which works with local children's charities, including the YMCA Strong Kids Campaign and Reading is Fundamental.
"Ninety-nine percent of what we do is benefitting children's charities in the community," Kiwanis president Andi Pettyjohn said.
Pettyjohn and the Kiwanis Club are also responsible for the Spring Fling, the other main event on Saturday at the Ahwatukee Community Center Park.
"We have 47 vendors signed up right now but that includes five that signed up just today," she said. "We expect that number to go up before the event."
Schmitt has been involved with the parade since the 1980s. He wrote a book on how to plan it, called "79 Steps to Putting on an Easter Parade."
"There's one step for each day and if you follow it, it shouldn't get too crazy near the end," he said. "There are a lot of steps to do so (the book) was a way to keep everything organized."
Police estimate that between 5,000 and 7,000 people come out to the event each year. To find out more, email Schmitt at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (480) 759-0007.