In less than a month we celebrate our agrarian heritage with the Laveen Community Parade on Feb. 6 and the Annual Laveen Pit Barbecue on Feb. 21.
Hundreds of community volunteers, local business and local leaders pitch in thousands of hours to make these events enjoyable successful.
“Laveen is a unique, close-knit community,” says Jeff Sprout, parade chairman for the Laveen Lions Club, which sponsors the event that unfolds along Dobbins Road. “One of the ways to maintain that closeness is having the parade and the barbecue.”
This year marks the 16th for the parade and the theme is “Growing Together.” Sprout, who also serves as executive director of human resources for the Laveen Elementary School District, said it is free for businesses and organizations to take part in the parade. Last year, there were 62 entries, featuring local boy and girl scouts, charter schools, marching bands from Cesar Chavez and Betty Fairfax high schools, prancing horses, floats, massive farm equipment and floats from dozens of local businesses and youth sports groups, marching along from 43rd Avenue to 51st Avenue.
“What other community has this?” Sprout asks. “Where every year, everyone in the community comes together for these two events? It really makes Laveen a special place.”
The barbecue, marking its 64th year, has been in Laveen longer most of its 50,000 residents. The first event was an informal affair in 1952 when a group of rancher’s wives hosted a fundraiser at the old Laveen Elementary School at the southwest corner of Dobbins Road and 51st avenue to fight against polio. The food-fest continued to take place at the same site until about five years ago when it moved for two years to Betty Fairfax High School before settling two years ago at the Corona Ranch & Rodeo Grounds, bringing back the rural vibe.
In comparison, at last year’s event, more than 3,400 pounds of pork and beef was cooked up and served by volunteers to about 2,000 people. Another 4,000 came to stroll through the vendor booths and exhibits, according to Stephanie Hurd, chairwoman of this year’s event. Hurd was a co-chair for 2015 and volunteered in 2014 as well.
“That’s what it’s about. We want everyone to get tougher and talk and get to know each other,” Hurd said. “We’re going to send out a newsletter to all residents to let them know about and encourage them to get involved.”
The barbecue is sponsored by the Laveen Community Council, a nonprofit volunteer organization that boasts more than 300 volunteers and more than 25 community organizations that are members. “Any money we take goes back to the community,” Hurd explained.
Youth groups, animal supporters, school organizations – all can apply to the council to request financial support. Throughout the spring, the council will be accepting applications from local high school students for the three $1,000 grants that are awarded each May to graduating seniors.
Hurd said that sometimes the barbecue – depending on the donations and sponsorships – is a big fundraiser for the council while other times, the group is happy to break even.
“Some years we don’t make hardly any money. With sponsors, we make money. It totally depends,” she said. For the second year, Dignity Health – Arizona General Hospital has agreed to be a major sponsor for the barbecue.
Hurd said her team is still lining up additional sponsors and donors for food items. Visit www.laveen.org to volunteer, donate or sign up as a vendor or sponsor.
“There are only a handful of people who plan it, and then there are about 200 volunteers the day of. It’s a massive undertaking,” Hurd says.
A related event, the Best of Laveen Photo Contest, returns for its third time during the month of February. Laveen residents are invited to submit their favorite Laveen photo via Facebook for a chance to win gift cards to the Laveen business of their choice. First place is a $100 gift card, second is $50 and third is $25. Previous winners spent their prize money at Red Dragon Express, Fry’s, Home Depot and a Child’s Image.
The contest is sponsored by AZ Media Maven, my Laveen-based marketing company. In its first year, about 40 people voted on handful of photos. In last year’s contest, more than 500 votes were cast to determine the winning photo of the flyover that opens the parade. For more information, visit AZ Media Maven on Facebook, or email email@example.com to request contest rules.
The 16th Annual Laveen Community Parade, sponsored by the Laveen Lions Club, is set for 11 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 6. The parade route runs along Dobbins Road from 43rd Avenue to its end at 51st For more information or to participate, email firstname.lastname@example.org
The 64th Annual Laveen Pit Barbecue takes place 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 21, 2016 at the Corona Ranch & Rodeo Grounds, 7611 S. 29th, Laveen. Visit www.laveen.org for more information or if you are interested in being a vendor, email email@example.com
Laveen Community Council – Meetings are 6:30 p.m. on the first Tuesday of each month (September through May) in Historic Building ‘A’ on SMCC Laveen Campus at 51st Avenue & Dobbins Road.
Laveen Lions Club – Meets 7 p.m. on the first and third Thursdays at Laveen Education Center, 5001 W. Dobbins Road, Laveen.
Rose Tring is a long-time journalist and owner of AZ Media Maven, a Laveen-based marketing and public relations company. She is also the founder ofFinditinLaveen.com, a local business directory and free community calendar. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org