Florence Junior Parada

 
                         

Young Kids Take on an Old Rodeo

 

     What better way to top off the Thanksgiving weekend than taking the whole family to a parade and a junior rodeo!  For 77 years the historic town of Florence, Arizona, has been the scene of its annual Junior Parada on Saturday and Sunday on the late November holiday weekend. This event's proceeeds benefits youth programs throughout Pinal County.

      The Saturday morning rodeo parade evokes times past with stagecoaches, mounted posses and young and old on horseback. However, adding to the parade are vintage vehicles, clowns, line dancers, and more so everyone who wishes is included.

     Through the many years of the Parada, celebrities such as Gene Autry, Ken Curtis of TV's Gunsmoke fame, andother notables have led the parde down Florence's historic Main Street as Parade Marshals.

     This Florence Junior Parada is the oldest youth rodeo in the United State. It pits the younest of riders against the oldest of venues to showcase their youthful rodeo skills. The rodeo attracts younsters ages five to 18 from across the Southwest. This year even three year olds can compete in sheep riding. Over the years, some of th these younsters have gone to to compete nationally. The rodeo is held on Saturday afternoon and Sunday. There is a rodeo Queen's Ball, and the American Legion Pancake Breakfast .

     While for rodeo regulars, the Florence Junior Parada is s must-see event, those who haven't spent much time in the Old West will catch the "cowboy spirit' and enjoy their time spent in Florence, the "Cowboy Cradle of the Great Southwest!

For more information about being in the parade or as a vendor contact florencejuniorparada@yahoo.com 

For  more information on the rodeo events and rules call 520-705-3717

 

Gloria England- A Real Arizona Ranch Woman

Returns to the 77th Florence Junior Parada Open Rodeo and Parade

           

            Gloria England had the distinct honor of being the very first female parade marshal for the Florence AZ Junior Parada Rodeo back in 1955. Now, 54 years later, she is being honored as the Parade Marshal for the 77th Junior Parade once again.

 

            Her fascinating life reads like a best selling novel. At age five she moved with her parents from Phoenix to Kearney. She fell in love with the ranching life on visits to a small ranch of her uncle, Ernest Bass. She attended ASU, married James Elkner, the father of her twin boys. He was killed on the island of Luzon during World War II. She became a fashion model in the 40’s in Los Angeles.

           

            She came back to Arizona and met Cecil England at her uncle’s ranch. England at the time owned the A Diamond  and the Battle Axe ranches east of Florence. After marrying Cecil in 1947 they farmed cotton near Coolidge and raised cattle. In 1958 England purchased the Rafter Six Ranch near Kearney and the F Mountain Ranch near Poston Butte in Florence.

           

            The F Mountain Ranch location is a part of early Florence, Arizona  and Pinal County history. It originally belonged to Aaron and Charles Mason. Charles Mason was one of the original founders and owners of the Silver King Mine that was discovered in 1875 and made Florence into a boom town. The Masons sold the ranch to James Treat who was known as the Land Merchant of Florence. He is the one who sold it to Cecil England.  Gloria learned firsthand the work and joy of cattle ranching from some of the Florence cowboys like Eddie Vasquez and Leonard LeBaron.  The Englands sold the F Mountain in 1976 and bought a track of land between Florence and Coolidge and called it Las Campanas. The property was basically just the land surrounded by perimeter fences and a few tanks.

           

            Tragedy struck that same year when Cecil died.  Gloria was left to build the property into a fully operational ranch with house, corrals, wells and cross fencing. An Arizona Republic article of 1983 by A.V. Gullette  quotes Gloria “ I wasn’t ready to join the sewing circle yet” so she hitched up her Levi’s and went to work. By 1978 she was one of 467 women in Arizona who were sole or principal operators of ranches or farms.  

             

            Arizona Days and Ways did a feature article on her in 1962 titled ”The Cowboy is a Lady” The article described Gloria this way ”Her life is not all riding, branding and tending to calving cows and sick steers. She also does the things any wife and mother does. She cooks, keeps house and finds time to entertain friends. She paints, does mosaics, studies French and practices that fast-vanishing art of home canning.  She apparently enjoys it all, whether it is canning or cutting cattle, although the latter might have a slight edge. Cattle, she said, is a personal thing with her. “

           

            Over the years, Gloria was an active member of Arizona Cattlegrowers Association, AgriBusiness Women and secretary of the Southern Arizona Cattlemen’s Protective Association.

           

            Truly this woman was a real trailblazer and inspiration to generations of cowboys and cowgirls. The 77th Florence Junior Parada is honored to have Gloria England return as its parade marshal. The parade will be on Saturday Nov. 28th, 2009 down Main Street in historic Florence AZ and will begin at 10 a.m.