FORT WORTH -- Joy West and other Glory Riders have worked for weeks preparing for their 20th appearance in the annual Stock Show parade.
"It's very exciting," says West. "This is one of the biggest, nicest parades in our nation."
As a member of a riding group from the Denison area that's been in parades from Salinas, Calif., to Washington, D.C., West is qualified to judge. She says the annual All-Western Parade that kicks off the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo is the group's favorite by far.
The Stock Show actually begins its 117th run in Cowtown today, but the parade that starts about 11 a.m. Saturday in downtown is recognized as its grand-opening event.
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The Glory Riders have become parade watchers' favorites -- earning multiple first-place awards and always placing in the top three -- because a handful of them cover most of the three-mile route standing in their saddles.
"We'll have 15 white quarter horses with 15 riders," West said. "We'll have five younger members standing in front."
Dramatic riding styles are only part of what makes Fort Worth's parade stand out, says Philip Schutts, parade committee chairman.
"Our parade is the largest all-Western parade," he says. "We have no motorized vehicles. There are riding groups and wagons pulled by horses, mules and donkeys, mostly. You won't see llamas, camels or elephants, but you might see a longhorn being ridden or yoked to a wagon."
The only other way to participate is to walk. And in the hour or so it takes to pass, spectators will see a diversity of horses, riders and wagons, Schutts says.
"It's an opportunity for kids to really experience the Western heritage of Fort Worth," he says.
Wounded warriors on hand
Expect to see buggies, surreys, stagecoaches and chuck wagons, as well as marching bands and splendidly decked-out riding clubs from all over Texas and the states that border it, says Becky Gibbs, the Stock Show's special events coordinator.
There were 193 entries in last year's parade, and more than 180 had been confirmed by last week, Gibbs says.
There also will be a pair of wagons carrying soldiers who were injured in combat, Schutts says.
"One thing we're really proud of this year is a couple of wagons provided for wounded warriors," he says. "We're honored to have them in there."
Also among the riders will be authentic Mexican horsemen, Schutts said.
"Some Mexican riding clubs from Fort Worth go to great lengths to preserve their heritage, and some are coming from Mexico," he says. "The governor of the state of Zacatecas will be in the parade on horseback. They'll bring the Zacatecas state band, a group of vaqueros and a group of ladies riding sidesaddle."
Such showmanship is typical in a parade that attracts so many spectators that downtown's sidewalks fill early along the route.
Reserved seats available
New this year are reserved, bleacher-style seats. About 950 reserved seats will be available for $15, says Stock Show spokeswoman Shanna Weaver.
"Of course, it's always free to go to the parade," she says. "But this year we're making reserved, bleacher-style seating available."
The bleachers will be in three locations. Two are on Commerce -- one between First and Second streets and the other next to the reviewing stand between Second and Third streets. The third is on Ninth Street in front of the Fort Worth Convention Center, Weaver said.
As the parade ends, Fort Worth will get serious about proving it deserves the slogan "Where the West Begins."
Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association-sanctioned performances of the World's Original Indoor Rodeo begin Thursday, Gibbs says. Until then, special shows in Will Rogers Coliseum include the Best of the West Invitational Ranch Rodeo on Friday and Saturday, the Best of Mexico Celebracion on Sunday, the Cowboys of Color Rodeo on Monday, and Bulls' Night Out: PRCA's Extreme Bull Riding on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Admission to the rodeos varies, from $19 to $25, depending on performance times. Complete rodeo and Stock Show schedules, prices and special offers are at fwssr.com.
Last year, almost 1.2 million set the Stock Show's record attendance, Gibbs says, without betting on whether this year's numbers will be greater.
"Attendance is weather-driven and we had such beautiful weather last year," she says. "We'll just see. We have a lot of new events, lots to do on the grounds. It's a great time to be at the Stock Show."
This report contains material from the Star-Telegram archives.
Terry Evans, 817-390-7620