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Gilbert Days embraces its Hispanic beginnings
Special for The Republic
Nov. 20, 2003 12:00 AM

Kirsten Sorenson

This year's Gilbert Days parade harkens back to the event's earliest celebrations, which were held in May in part to give Gilbert's Hispanic citizens an opportunity to celebrate Cinco de Mayo.

Over the years, turnout and hot summer weather prompted organizers to rethink the May date and change the event to November. But for the first time, the Gilbert Days parade will feature announcements in English and Spanish.

"We've been wanting to do it for quite a number of years," festival chairwoman Linda Stanfield said. "We really felt the need to do this for our Spanish-speaking citizens."

The parade has for years had English-speaking commentators at announcing stations along the 2-mile route. This year, bilingual announcers will provide details on the floats, equestrian entrants, marching bands and antique vehicles at a platform near Gilbert and Warner roads.

The parade begins at 9 a.m. Saturday and travels south along Gilbert Road to Civic Center Drive and stops at the marquee of Gilbert Town Square. At the end of the route at about 11:30 a.m., the parade de-stages, and the Gilbert Days Festival begins.

The festival also has two new events this year: carnival rides and a beer garden. The festival is 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The Arizona Gunfighters will headline events Saturday, and the Mariachi Bronce band will play on stage and stroll throughout the crowd Sunday. The festival will be at Gilbert Town Square, Gilbert Road south of Warner Road.

Another Gilbert Days event that seems to draw more participants and spectators each year is the Lil' Dude Rodeo.

Kevin Whitlock, Lil' Dude Rodeo chairman, said 160 kids participated in 2002, but more have signed up for this year already.

He added that the most popular event at the kids' rodeo is mutton busting, where riders 4 to 7 ride a sheep bareback.

"It's just hilarious to watch. The kids get a major kick out of it," he said.

The Lil' Dude Rodeo begins two hours before the professional rodeo: 4 p.m. Friday, noon Saturday and noon Sunday. The young cowboys and cowgirls can enter every day unless they win. Winners return Sunday for finals. Entry fee is $20 per day.

The kids are just a preview for the weekend's main event, the Gilbert Days Rodeo, also held at the Gilbert Rodeo Park, southeastern corner of Val Vista Drive and Ray Road. The Gilbert Rodeo is the largest International Pro Rodeo Association Rodeo in the Southwest.

Complementing the rodeo is a carnival, Friday through Sunday at the Rodeo Park, and a Rodeo Dance, 8 p.m. Saturday.

The Gilbert Days 5k and 10-mile fun run will commence at 3:30 p.m. Friday from Freestone Park, 1015 E. Juniper Avenue. The one-mile fun run begins at 4:45 p.m., and the 5K race begins at 4:55 p.m.

Information: www.gilbertdays.com.