Let the Pioneer Days celebration begin!

Jon Johnson File Photo/Gila Valley Central: It's time to celebrate Pioneer Days.

By Jon Johnson


GRAHAM COUNTY – The weekend celebration of Pioneer Days kicks off today with a variety show and rodeo.

Pioneer Days in an annual celebration to commemorate the entry of Brigham Young and the first group of Mormon pioneers into the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847. In the Gila Valley, which also had some Mormon settlers, it celebrates the pioneer heritage of the three communities of Safford, Thatcher, and Pima. 

The variety show will take place at the David M. Player Center for the Arts and will have two performances at 4 and 7 p.m.

The show will feature music, comedy, dancing and more entertainment all for the low price of just $2.50 a ticket. Tickets are available online at gilavalleypioneerdays.com or if any seats are left, at the door.


If you’re more of the cowpoke type and love a good rodeo full of fun for the whole family, then the Pioneer Days Rodeo at the Vard Lines Memorial Arena in Pima at the intersection of 1200 South/Cottonwood Wash Road and 800 West just southwest of the Pima Cemetery is the place to be Friday night.

The evening will feature plenty of events for the children, including a stick horse race, cow hide race and catching wild chickens and/or blizzard steers, as well as some for the adults, including ribbon and team roping and cowboy musical chairs.

The fun starts with a flag presentation and prayer at 7 p.m., so don’t be late. For more information contact Troy Judd at 520-507-7000.


Once the variety show and rodeo conclude, kick your heels up at the annual Pioneer Days Dance.

The event will be “off the hook” and will take place at the tennis courts at Eastern Arizona College from 9 to 11 p.m.

The dance could be a chance to meet that special someone, rekindle with a blast from the past or just bogey down with family and friends. Be sure to bring your own chair and plenty of water.

Saturday Sports Events

Pioneer Days 5K & Fun Run

The 5K & Fun Run starts at 6 a.m. at the Thatcher High School Parking lot. The 5K will be a chip-timed race with awards and prizes.

Co-Ed Volleyball Tournament

The co-ed volleyball tournament feature 6-on-6 teams but each team must have at least two members who are male and two members who are female on the court at all times. Games will take place from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. at gymnasiums in Pima and Thatcher high schools and EAC.

3-on-3 Basketball Tournament

The 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament can have up to five players per team and takes place between 1-5 p.m. at gymnasiums in Pima and Thatcher high schools and EAC.


The Pioneer Days Parade will start at Thatcher High School at 6 p.m. and wind itself west on Church Street until it hits Stadium Avenue. From there it will proceed south and will end next to the EAC baseball field.

Barbecue Dinner and Entertainment

Jon Johnson File Photo/Gila Valley Central: People came from near and far to join in on the family fun and frivolity in 2016. Pictured, Larson Bennett, of Florence, enjoys a barbecue dinner.

My favorite part of Pioneer Days is the dinner where family and friends join together to eat some great barbecue and relax with local music jamming on the stage.

Jon Johnson File Photo/Gila Valley Central: Matthew Player, left, and Jace Hughes play a set at the Pioneer Days festival in July 2016.

This year will feature Battle of the Bands winner “Rezin” as the headliner as folks indulge with some dinner and dancing.

Once it gets dark the night’s sky will come alive with a firework’s show that is sure to please, culminating the annual celebration.