|Written by Mark Lineberger|
|Friday, 14 October 2011 00:00|
The weather was picture perfect over the weekend as hundreds of people helped bring Camp Verde’s usually sleepy downtown to life celebrating the biggest town festival of the year, the 55th annual Camp Verde Days.
The downtown area was transformed into a carnival as crews worked Friday to erect the spinning, twirling and dizzying rides that by evening lit up the night and temporarily gave Camp Verde a new skyline.
By Saturday morning, hundreds lined the town’s Main Street to watch the annual Fort Verde Days parade, and soon things were in full swing.
This year’s theme was Honoring our Military, and the parade’s participants were certainly up to the task. The street was filled with American flags and paying tribute to the men and women who have worn our nation’s uniform throughout many different eras of United States history.
The American Legion David C. Johnson Post No. 93 color guard took the Best in Show award. Who better to honor our military then those who have actually served and know firsthand the sacrifices that such service can require?
The judges selected the winners based on how well they expressed this year’s theme, Councilwoman Robin Whatley said.
Dale E. Clark took first place in the antique automobile category with an old truck spruced up to honor those soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who have earned the Purple Heart, the award given for more than two centuries to those who have been injured in the line of duty.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars Auxiliary took second place. Fort Verde State Historic Park had an old-fashioned stagecoach in the parade, complete with a 19th century military escort, but apparently that vehicle was just too antique to qualify.
The American Legion Riders, a group made up of men and women from the Camp Verde and Cottonwood posts, took first place in the motorcycle category. They couldn’t be missed as the thunder of their engines could be heard from one end of the parade route to the other. The group is well-known for escorting returning servicemen and women through the streets of their hometowns, among other activities. The second-place award went to the American Motorcycle Club.
Appropriately, two schools won the awards for having the most educational parade entries. Camp Verde Middle School took first place, followed by Rimrock Public High School.
In the walking/dancing category, the local Cub Scout Pack No. 7193 took the honors with the march of their half-pint uniformed unit shouting proudly about their contributions to scouting. The Greyhounds of the Verde Valley, a rescue organization for these dogs often used in racing, placed second for their display of these sleek and beautiful animals.
The Fort Verde Volunteers who have been instrumental in keeping the town’s big historical attraction up and running took first place in the commercial category, followed by the employees for the local Bashas’ grocery store.
It wouldn’t be a Camp Verde parade without horses, and the prize for the best mounted group went to the Rio Verde Roverettes. Caylee Townsend won for the best junior mounted display.
Once again this year, Barbie Townsend won the Road Apple Crew award for consistently being on the spot to clean up the equine “contributions” to the parade route.
This year’s parade Grand Marshal was the Camp Verde Cavalry, who led the parade escorting this year’s Colonel’s Daughter, Michelle Moscardini.
America’s pastime also got back to its roots Saturday afternoon, as the local Camp Verde Excelsiors took on the Arizona Stars and Stripes in a baseball game played in accordance with the 1860s rule book. Strikers, more commonly known as batters today, had to raise their hand and give an oath that the “aces” they scored by running across home plate were honestly earned, along with ringing a bell to make the score official. They had to be careful, though, because spitting or swearing would earn them a 25-cent fine for ungentlemanly conduct.
Park Manager Sheila Stubler said that a constant stream of visitors had been pouring into the fort to take advantage of the free admission weekend.
“I haven’t had a chance to sit down yet,” Stubler said Saturday afternoon.
There was a little bit of disappointment when a scheduled landing of a military UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter was cancelled at the last minute.
The American Legion had arranged for the aircraft to show up, but the military grounded the helicopter to deal with a potential safety issue. There wasn’t enough time to get the word out to everybody.
“There’s nothing we could do about it,” Stubler said. “But I did feel bad because there were people who showed up in the morning just to see it.”
Still, even if that was the worst thing to happen [or not happen] over the weekend, the events seemed to be a success.
People were packed into the town complex to see the results of the work of local artists and students in the Fort Verde Days Art Show, one of the longest running annual art shows in the region. The show was organized by the Camp Verde Arts Council; the student section was funded through a donation from the Camp Verde Lions Club.
In the student category, the Colonel’s Daughter herself, Michelle Moscardini, took best in show with her recreation of a Norman Rockwell piece.
Sculptor Levi Fitch won best in show overall with his piece, “Dimensional Eyes.”
Fitch has enjoyed a passion for art since his youth, and studied under well-known sculptor John Soderberg.
“Every artist who entered did an excellent job, and I encourage them all to keep creating,” said Linda Goldenstein, one of this year’s judges. “I wish I could have awarded many more honorable mention ribbons. I also appreciated the hard work of Ray Harvey and the Camp Verde Arts Council.”
At a preshow reception last week, Ray and Joyce Harvey and Idell LeGendre were recognized for their long service to the arts council and the artist community at large.
While most of the action was downtown, plenty of people turned out Friday and Saturday nights for the Fort Verde Days Bull Bash, held in recent years at the Stargazer Pavilion at Cliff Castle Casino.
Many of the cowboys seemed to have some trouble holding on to the bulls for very long, but there were a few near-flawless rides from professional bull riding competitors vying for a piece of the prize purse.
The bull riders came from around the West, from as close as Prescott and Show Low to Texas, New Mexico and even Colorado and Montana, leading the announcer to joke that Camp Verde was the “bull riding capital of America.”
That was plenty exciting for most people, but there was also the chance to see Camp Verde High School Principal Bob Weir show off another side as a rodeo clown, something he’s been doing for decades when teaching isn’t taking up his time.
“It’s been a fun day,” said Riley Kalibach, a visitor at the festival eying a high-flying jumping attraction put up by the National Guard. “It’s been great for the kids, and it was something to do in Camp Verde for a weekend.”
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