On a spring morning as flawless as the rhythms of the Desert Vista and Mountain Pointe high school marching bands, the 41st annual Kiwanis of Ahwatukee Easter Parade stepped off to the delight of young and old alike along 48th Street on Saturday.
Many of the 75 entries featured decked-out vehicles or brightly attired children and adults who had begun gathering at least two hours before the parade’s 10 a.m. start. City Councilman Sal DiCiccio said he unofficially estimated that 15,000 people lined up along 48th Street.
The parade marked at least two record-setting appearances as Easter Parade Boss Mike Schmitt directed the procession for the 25th consecutive year and Mountain View Lutheran Church and its preschool remained the only entrant that has been in all 41 marches.
“We couldn’t ask for better weather, and everything else is perfect,” said Ahwatukee Kiwanis President Scott Ryan, who rode in one of six 1950s-era convertible T-birds supplied by the Arizona Classic Thunderbird Club. The group is the largest of its kind in the country dedicated to the preservation of the 1955-57 models of the legendary Fords.
Among those with guest-of-honor positions in the other T-birds were state Rep Jill Norgaard and state Sen. Sean Bowie, both of Ahwatukee.
“I’ve been going to this since I was a little kid,” Bowie said.
Although a Thunderbird had been reserved for him, DiCiccio elected to walk the parade route from Warner Road to just south of Elliot Road.
The colorful assortment of four-wheeled vehicles included classic Ford Mustangs, a restored 1965 station wagon, a miniature locomotive large enough to accommodate an adult “engineer,” several miniature cars and even a horse-drawn stagecoach provided by Wells Fargo Bank. AFN Publisher Steve Strickbine drove a red, convertible 1971 Cadillac as his daughters handed out candy.
About 100 Ahwatukee Girl Scouts and Daisies from several units were on hand, as was Ahwatukee Cub Scout Pack 278, led by Scoutmaster Todd Norman.
Adding to the kaleidoscope of colors and flash were about 30 girls from the Center Point Dance Club who had made headdresses of tutus in pinks, purples and greens.
The Ahwatukee Recreation Center, led by a member riding a John Deere tractor, included several of its pickleball club players.
The parade drew entrants from beyond Ahwatukee’s ZIP codes.
Several Tempe dance groups and a church were on hand, as were groups from Mesa and Chandler.
Camelback High School’s award-winning color guard made its sixth appearance in the Ahwatukee parade, carrying a huge American flag that nearly stretched the distance between the curbs on four-lane 48th Street.
Following the parade, many marchers and spectators flocked to the second act of the Kiwanis Club’s salute to Easter and the community – the Spring Fling Carnival and Crafty Fair at Ahwatukee Community Park.
Both events help fund a variety of Kiwanis Club of Ahwatukee projects, including Reading is Fundamental, Children’s Book Drive, Back to School Shopping Spree, adoption of group homes for teens in foster care, Bikes for Tykes, Key Clubs at Mountain Pointe and Desert Vista high schools and Horizon Honors Secondary School, six Middle School Community Service Awards, Ahwatukee YMCA and the Eliminate Project.