Step one of 74 to prepare for the 37th Annual Ahwatukee Easter Parade began the week after Christmas when parade boss Mike Schmitt asked the Kiwanis Club of Ahwatukee if they wanted once more to sponsor the parade.
Once he got approval the next step was to buy stamps and check addresses to send out more than 300 invitations to businesses, groups and previous entries.
Now as entries are slowly flowing in, Schmitt is working on the next steps. He’s meeting with city staff to help coordinate shutting down 48th Street, he’s calling around to make sure he has microphones, tables and chairs for announcers, he’s inviting special guests and he’s waiting for Saturday, March 30 when it will all come together.
This is Schmitt’s 21st time being parade boss. It’s a lot of work, but it’s something he feels must be done and, frankly, he knows how to do it.
The Easter Parade is a long-standing tradition that happens rain or shine in Ahwatukee. Each year, 48th Street is shut down from 7 to 11 a.m. and more than 50 entries ranging from school bands, dance groups, politicians and even the occasional kid on a bike march the one-mile stretch from Warner Road to Mountain View Lutheran Church near Elliot Road.
Schmitt said his favorite groups are the ones that make a lot of noise and the ones that leave an impact. He does his best to make sure local marching bands are included as well as the Salvation Army Band. The Girl Scouts always make him smile and so does the child that convinces their parents to let them march all by themselves.
“There was a 5-year-old once that rode this big wheel and it had a wagon attached, carrying his sister in it,” he said. “He drove that big wheel for the entire route. The kid was amazing. He got a trophy too, for working so hard.”
This year the parade will begin at 10 a.m. Spectators are welcome to line 48th Street to view the parade.
Schmitt said he only has about 40 entries signed up so far, but expects at least 60 participants to submit their entries before the deadline this Thursday, March 21. On Friday, Schmitt and his wife will clear their dining room table and lay out the order of the parade. He’ll assign each entry a number so they know exactly where to stand on parade day.
Once the parade is over, the fun is not. A Spring Fling will be at Ahwatukee Park, 4700 E. Warner Road, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. There will be carnival rides, vendor booths, food and fun for all ages.
“It’s one of those things that yeah, it’s a lot of work, but it’s very satisfying when it all happens,” said Andi Pettyjohn, who is heading up the Spring Fling committee for the 13th time. “You can look back and say, ‘Wow, I did this.’ There’s an opportunity for the entire family to come out and have fun for the day.”
During the Spring Fling there will be Easter egg hunts for the young kids. A new hunt will begin about every 20 minutes and the Easter egg hunts will continue throughout the day.
While the parade and Spring Fling is the Kiwanis Club’s largest community event it’s not the only thing they do. The club works on many projects throughout the year to help local children. For more information, visit www.ahwatukeekiwanis.org.
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