Officially, the streets of downtown Phoenix host around a half-dozen parades every year, including processions in honor of Saint Patrick's Day, the holiday season, and the Fiesta Bowl. None of these, however, are as uniquely creative and unusual as the Phoenix Annual Parade of the Arts.
The ultra-funky event, which takes place each year in early November, is a creative cavalcade of both colorful costume and a series of creative and bizarre floats. Previous editions have featured such curious creations as a ginormous rolling UFO, a roving rave-like dance party on wheels, or an enormous bowl of noodles.
Sahar Mitchell, one of the parade's organizers, hopes that the 2012 edition of P.A.P.A. (which takes place on November 10) will be just as spectacular.
The theme of this year's edition of the parade is "Legend City," which Mitchell and other parade organizers hope will inspire "a lot of creativity" amongst participants. While she says the theme in loosely related to the famous bygone local theme park, it mostly has to do with the fact that Phoenix is "a city filled with legends and stories."
"We kinda liked the idea that the theme of 'Legend City' kinda had a double meaning," Mitchell says. "Not only does it tie into this legendary theme park in Phoenix history with its own sort of lore, but it also had a broader meaning of the idea that we're a city of stories and legends."
However, she adds, the theme is open to interpretation and could include anything from floats relating to the old school Legend City theme park, costumes depicting legendary figures from Phoenix's past, or anything else relating to the "local, personal and popular stories that imbue our lives."
"We like to leave each year's theme kind of open to the imagination to a certain degree and give people a chance to interpret it in their own way," Mitchell says. "It's part of the participatory aspect of the event and the whole Legend City theme is just a springboard for people to construct their vision of Phoenix's stories and legends for the parade."
In addition to a variety of non-motorized floats and displays, participants in costume, or piece of mobile artwork, Mitchell says that the parade typically includes people who decorate their bicycles for the event, including adorning their two-wheelers with everything from skulls to flowers. Participants in previous parades have also brought out giant puppets held aloft by a half-dozen people, like a giant monkey skeleton that was a part of P.A.P.A. in 2009.
As with previous editions of the event, this year's edition of P.A.P.A. will involve a trek around the downtown area and arts district before heading back to the starting point at the Downtown A.R.T.S. Market at Fifth and Roosevelt streets.
A variety of live entertainment will be offered during the pre- and post-parade activities, including performances by local bands Of the Earth and World Class Thugs, a number of daring feats by the Circus Farm troupe from Mesa, and a showstopping display of aerial and fire artistry by Tucson's Flam Chen.
Awards and will also be given to parade participants in a variety of categories, including such honors as "Best Float," "Best Group Costume," and "Best Bike." Local artist Jason Alan Davis will create prizes that will be handed out.
But even if people don't have the ability to create a float or memorable costume for the parade, Mitchell encourages them to come out and participate.
"We know that with the economy being how it is, you sometimes can't do as much as you'd like," she says. "But even if you can build something that's big spectacular and epic thing you were originally hoping to make, just showing up for the parade with or without a costume is still cool."
The Phoenix Annual Parade of the Arts takes place at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, November 10, at Roosevelt A.R.T.S. Market. Admission is free. Visit the event's website for more info regarding participation.
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