Pioneer Days celebration this weekend

Contributed Photo: Some will push and some will pull to get to the annual Gila Valley Pioneer Days festival this weekend.

GRAHAM COUNTY – Locals, visitors, family members, neighbors and more will come together this weekend for the annual Gila Valley Pioneer Days festival.

The theme of this year’s celebration is, “Your Heritage: Past, Present and Future.”

Pioneer Day is an official holiday in Utah. The event commemorates the arrival of Brigham Young and the first group of Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints pioneers into the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847.

While the holiday is linked to the LDS Church, everyone regardless of religious belief or lack thereof is welcomed to join in on the festivities.

The celebration kicks off Friday at 7 p.m. with a rodeo at the Vard Lines Memorial Arena in Pima. Events include a stick horse race, cow hide race, greased pig, rescue race and team ribbon roping and fun roping. There is a $10 entry fee per team in the roping events.

After the dust of the rodeo has settled, participants are encouraged to kick up their heels at the Pioneer Day celebration dance at the tennis courts at Eastern Arizona College. The dance runs from 8 to 11 p.m. and attendees are encouraged to bring their own chair and water.

Saturday morning starts off with a co-ed volleyball tournament from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. held at the Pima and Thatcher high school gymnasiums and EAC’s gym.

A 3-on-3 basketball tournament will follow at the same locations from 1 to 5 p.m.

The annual parade will start at Thatcher High School at 6 p.m. and head west on Church Street before turning south on Stadium Avenue, ending at the Thatcher Splash Pad.

Food, including the famous $5 shredded pork dinner, will be offered at John T. Mickelson Field at EAC accompanied by live music from the DeRusha Family Band, Tribute and PB&H, who will also perform during the festival’s fireworks finale after dark.