Scottsdale’s tourism season is in full swing, and for the next few weeks it’s all about the horses. The Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show starts Friday, and on Saturday nearly 1,000 horses will march up Scottsdale Road for the Parada del Sol — the world’s largest horse-drawn parade.
They’re both long-standing events that are synonymous with Scottsdale, and both of them speak strongly to our Western heritage,” said Kathy Carlisle O’Connor, tourism development manager for Scottsdale. “Particularly, the Arabians bring tourists and participants to town, which generates additional income.”
In 2004, the horse show generated $47.9 million in spending and more than $770,000 in city taxes, according to a study commissioned by the city.
But for the 200,000-plus horse show attendees, it’s about much more than money.
“People come from all over the world, even people who don’t have horses, to see these beautiful creatures,” said Taryl Pearson, executive director of the Arabian Horse Association of Arizona.
The first weekend is a good time to bring the family, because it is when the kids compete, she said.
Families can also walk around to view the 2,200 horses, or they can take part in shopping, face-painting and eating “everything from hot dogs to fine Italian cuisine,” Pearson said.
Spectators won’t want to miss the Gambler’s Choice jumping competition, she said.
“You can see the horses just flying around trying to rack up as many points as they can, and after the time is expired we have this jump called Gambler’s Choice, it’s usually a really scary jump,” Pearson said.
Another relatively new event, the reining division competition, involves riders wearing Western garb who ride their horses in a designated pattern.
“It’s one of the divisions they are looking at adding to the Olympics, so it’s really popular right now,” Pearson said.
In its 53rd year, the Parada del Sol has changed its date and venue this year, which could attract more spectators, organizers said.
Traditionally held in late January or early February, the parade this year was moved to Feb. 18 to avoid competition with other big tourism events such as the FBR Open.
The group also pushed the rodeo back several weeks to March 3-5. The rodeo traditionally was held the week after the parade.
The change to the rodeo was prompted by the closing of north Scottsdale’s Rawhide Western Town and Steakhouse, where the rodeo was held nearly every year since 1984, said Scottsdale Jaycees president Lynn Solace.