Four hundred thousand people from all over the Valley are expected to line Central Avenue this morning for the 33rd annual Fiesta Bowl Parade.
"It's so popular because it's a great way for everyone to celebrate the Fiesta Bowl," said Fiesta Bowl chairman Leon Levitt. "Not everyone has the opportunity or can afford to buy a ticket to the game, but the parade is (family-oriented) and a pageantry of college football."
The event has become the largest spectator event in the state, with about 100 entries and more than 3,000 volunteers.
Professional golfer Tom Lehman will serve as the grand marshal of the parade, along with his wife, Melissa, and their children, Rachel, 13; Holly, 11; Thomas, 8; and Sean, 9 months.
"It was a total surprise to be chosen as grand marshal, and a great honor," Lehman said. "The kids are very excited about being in the parade, and all of this is new for everyone."
Previous grand marshals have been baseball player Cal Ripken Jr., Olympic figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi, basketball star Charles Barkley and Arizona Diamondbacks player Luis Gonzalez.
Levitt said this year’s theme is Arizona Treasures. The parade is being sponsored by the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation for the fifth year.
"We are delighted to have Fort McDowell be the title sponsor," Levitt said. "We think it is important to celebrate the Native American culture in the parade."
East Valley participants in the parade include Dobson High School marching band from Mesa, Marcos de Niza High School marching band from Tempe, Tempe Mayor Neil Giuliano, Chandler Little League, Rawhide Wild West Town and the Mesa Fire Department.