Morenci Independence Day Parade draws huge crowds

Walt Mares Photo/Gila Herald: The American Legion Post 28 Clifton-Morenci color guard leads the Morenci July 4, 2022, parade on Burro Alley. Pictured are, from left, Bill Carlson and Bob Jackson.

“Stars and Stripes Forever” was the patriotic theme 

By Walt Mares

What more could a person want? The sky was overcast for much of the day. It made for a comfortable, enjoyable July 4 parade in Morenci.

It was indeed a very big event, especially in Greenlee County, the least populated among Arizona’s 15 counties. 

Walt Mares Photo/Gila Herald: What would a celebration of American freedom be without a statue of Lady Liberty? She was among the strong patriotic-themed entries in the July 4 “Stars and Stripes Forever” parade on Burro Alley in Morenci. The parade drew large crowds.

The “Stars and Stripes” parade was long and had plenty of patriotic-themed entries. It was sponsored by Freeport McMoran Inc. It is one of the largest mining companies in the world and is traded on the New York Stock Exchange. Morenci is its flagship mine, employing thousands of people. 

Walt Mares Photo/Gila Herald: Spectators at the Morenci July 4 parade well-known folks in the Morenci community. At the far left wearing glasses is Tom Powers, seated wearing white is his wife, Glenda. Seated wearing red is Julie Woodall and at the far right is Dr. David Woodall. Tom retired last year as Greenlee County Superintendent of Schools. Dave, who was the parade’s grand marshal, recently retired as Morenci Schools superintendent. Both were affiliated with Morenci Schools for several years.

Smiles? There were too many to count with hundreds of spectators lining both sides of Burro Alley for about a mile. Some said it was “perfect” weather with clouds blocking what would otherwise quickly become a hot, scorching sun. The parade started at 8 a.m. but considering this is Arizona it would not take long for the outdoor temperature to become uncomfortably hot. The temperature was in the comfortable 80s when the parade began.

Walt Mares Photo/Gila Herald: One of the most fun parts of the July 4 parade in Morenci was cany tossed from vehicles of various participants. And there were plenty of them – vehicles and candy.

The parade was particularly delightful for younger children. Many hands full of candy were tossed from most of the parade entries. Morenci fire trucks rolled near the parade’s front. Children scrambled for the sweets. Safety? Candy was thrown far enough from vehicles so there was no danger to kids.

The parade was led by the symbol of solid American patriotism: the Color Guard from Clifton-Morenci Lloyd C. Hill American Legon Post 28. The flag bearers were Bill Carlson, Bob Jackson, and a youngster from the Sons of the American Legion.

Walt Mares Photo/Gila Herald: Dr. David Woodall serves as the Grand Marshal of Moreni’s July 4 parade. He is retiring as the Morenci School District superintendent and served in that position for many years. Woodall also served as an athletic coach during his career at Morenci. He was known as an avid runner.

Then came the parade’s Grand Marshal Dr. David Woodall. He is the retired Morenci Schools superintendent. He retired at the end of this school year. Woodall was highly respected and popular in the community. He rode in an antique gray Jeep and was smiling and undoubtedly having fun as he tossed candy along the parade route. 

Woodall was a long-time member of the Morenci staff serving as a teacher, athletic coach, and superintendent. His legacy includes Morenci Schools being among the highest achieving schools in Arizona. He was known to never raise his voice in anger but via his professional demeanor set an example for student discipline among principals in the district’s three schools.

The Morenci Volunteer Fire Department had a strong showing with its fire trucks, big and small, sounding their sirens and flashing lights. Firefighters were among what was probably the most popular parade entry as those on board tossed large quantities of candy as they rode along Burro Alley.

Walt Mares Photo/Gila Herald: A Classic car show was part of the July 4 “Stars and Stripes” in Morenci. Not included in this photo was a beautiful shiny1985 Chevrolet pickup truck owned by Joseph Miranda of Morenci.

The many parade entries followed the day’s celebration theme of “Stars and Stripes Forever.”

Many people wore T-shirts with the day’s theme. A majority were children and there were many adult women who also wore the shirts. That was probably because the shirts were too small for men.

Walt Mares Photo/Gila Herald: The Morenci Volunteer Fire Department is well represented at the July 4 parade in Morenci. The trucks provide a special treat for children who not only enjoy seeing the trucks but also loved picking up the large number of candy firefighters tossed from the trucks.

Everyone headed to the Morenci Plaza Loop where the Morenci Fitness Center Starbucks, library, theatre, and Morenci Club are located.

Fun? Absolutely. That included a bucking shark in-lieu of the traditional saddled bronco. A great many youngsters, and a few young adults, tried their best but everybody eventually was thrown onto the air-cushioned floor. Another of the biggest attractions was a tall, inflated slide. Sliders climbed to the top on a staircase in the middle of two slides. Children were lined up anxiously awaiting their turns to climb and slide down.

Walt Mares Photo/Gila Herald: The expression on these young ladies’ faces says it all as they enjoy participating in the Morenci July 4, 2022, “Stars and Stripes Forever” parade on Burro Alley.

It took only a few seconds to slide. Every slider wore a big smile upon accomplishing the goal of reaching the bottom.

Food? There were several vendors. One of the most popular was that of the American Legion Post 28. It sold hamburgers and fries. The burger patties were thick and juicy. Patrons also had the option of having cheese and green chile added to their burgers. A can of soda pop was optional.

Starbucks was very, very busy. Soon after the parade, there was a long line of folks ordering their favorite drinks.

Walt Mares Photo/Gila Herald: A man tosses a frisbee. The expression on his face was that he was having fun at the July 4 parade in Morenci. The parade was a grand time for children and adults.

For those buying burgers there was many a choice. A large canopy under which there were tables was ideal as folks sat under cover to enjoy their meals.

Many folks enjoyed visiting with friends, neighbors, and co-workers at the giant Freeport Morenci copper mine. Some caught up with each other’s doings as they know each other but work in the many different departments. That can make it difficult to visit after a long day of work and the need to rest at home and spend time with their families.

Walt Mares Photo/Gila Herald: Two men visit in front of the Morenci Theatre during the July 4 Morenci “Stars and Stripes Forever” event.

Several folks had babies in strollers and there were toddlers who only recently began to walk. The little ones were no doubt the topic of discussion. Faces often beamed as they spoke of their new or recent arrivals.

Walt Mares Photo/Gila Herald: A large crowd begins gathering along Burro Alley to see the 2022 July 4 parade in Morenci. It was a quite long parade with many vehicles dressed accordingly to celebrate “Stars and Stripes Forever,” the parade’s theme.

The sun came out around noon and then intermittently. Most of the day was enjoyed by a return of the cloud cover.

In the evening a heavy rain hit, causing everyone to take cover, of which there was not much other than two large canopies.

Walt Mares Photo/Gila Herald: This muscular young man rides an unusual bucking shark, but like all who attempted to stay on, the shark shook him off. It was a popular part of the action at the Morenci July 4 event in the Morenci Plaza Loop. Such a ride usually involves riding in a saddle on a simulated bucking bronco.

The Morenci July 4 is always topped off at night with a spectacular fireworks show put on by Morenci firefighters. Would the rain cause that to be canceled?

It was only delayed. The rain stopped and the show started around 9:45 p.m. That allowed folks to gather outdoors and watch the show.

Overall, a good time was had by all.

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