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The Eras of Gilbert Days

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Gilbert Days is a long-standing tradition that celebrates the Town of Gilbert’s rich heritage and community. It is said that Gilbert Days started in 1959 when the community celebrated the paving of major streets with a parade and a barbecue. The community members had so much fun that they decided to do it again the next year, creating the annual celebration that the Town of Gilbert has grown to love.

Starting as a small parade and barbecue to being a multi-day celebration with sporting events and a rodeo, Gilbert Days has significantly changed since its first year in 1959. The evolution of Gilbert Days has taken a lot of time and effort to be what it is today. Let’s explore the different “eras” of Gilbert Days to see how it’s changed over time.

1960s


Gilbert High School Marching Band in 1968 

News Clipping of Gilbert Days in 1965 In 1965, 250 people attended Gilbert Days. The event featured volleyball games on Gilbert Road, a carnival with rides, a parade that included horses, floats and bands, and a barbecue served by the American Legion. The Gilbert Future Farmers of America chapter also held a calf show on Gilbert High School’s football field. In the early afternoon, Gilbert High School’s band performed for the town, and a Junior Miss contest was sponsored by the Gilbert Jaycees.

In 1969, Gilbert Days was also highlighted by a parade. The main attraction of the parade included a performance by Gilbert High School’s marching band down Gilbert Road. This celebration honored the Western-style storefronts found in Downtown Gilbert, and also included a dedication to a new park called Parkecito Verde, meaning “Little Green Park.”

 

1980sGilbert Days Parade in 1982 

In 1982, the Town of Gilbert had a population of just 6,000 people - although the Gilbert Chamber of Commerce estimated a Gilbert Days attendance of 20,000 to 30,000 people despite a prediction of rainy weather. The celebration started at 6:30 AM with a pancake breakfast at the First Interstate Bank in Downtown Gilbert. At 10 AM, the parade started at Gilbert High School and featured nearly 135 entries including floats, antique vehicles, marching bands, and appearances from the Arizona state governor and senator. After the parade, attendees went to Downtown Gilbert for food, arts and crafts, game booths, and a carnival. The people at Gilbert Days also enjoyed a country dance and rodeo put on by the International Rodeo Association.

 

Today

This year, Gilbert Days was held on November 17-18. Highlighted by the Gilbert Days Parade, participants could enjoy live music and shopping at the Gilbert Days Festival, play in the Gilbert Days Adult Softball Tournament and more. The Gilbert Days Parade, which involves local businesses, nonprofit organizations, and special interest groups, featured all 39 Gilbert Public Schools and showcased a float designed by Highland High School to represent the district. The two-day celebration also hosted other events such as the Gilbert Days Rodeo and the Half Marathon and 10K/5K.

Three Gilbert Public Schools marching bands took part this year. Highland High, Campo Verde, and - just like in 1969 - the Gilbert High marching band entertained the thousands of spectators lining Gilbert Road.

Campo Verde High Marching Band

The Coyote Pride Marching Band is made up of 82 musicians and is under the direction of Matt Kozacek (Kozak) and Shad Johnson. The marching band has won AzMBA Championships in 2019, 2021 and 2022. They have performed in prestigious parades around the world, including the London New Year's Day Parade and the Pearl Harbor Parade in Hawaii.

Highland High School Marching BandHighland High Marching Band

The Highland Marching Band is in its 30th season as a competitive marching band and competes all over the southwest United States. Accolades include winning the first-ever ABODA State Marching Band Championship in 2009 and the AzMBA Championships in 2016. The Highland Marching Band has had the privilege to march in the 2001 Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California, the 2004 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City, the 80th Pearl Harbor Memorial Parade in 2021, and here at home in the Gilbert Day’s Parade.

Gilbert High Marching Band

The Gilbert Tiger Pride is one of the most decorated marching bands in the State of Arizona. The band has placed as a finalist every year in the Arizona State Marching Band Championships since it began in 2008. The Tiger Pride has performed in the 1998 Rose Bowl Parade, the 2001 Presidential Inauguration Parade, 2008 St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Dublin, Ireland, the 2012 National Independence Parade in Washington D.C., the 2015 and 2023 London New Year’s Day Parade and the Waikiki Holiday Parade in 2017. 

Gilbert Public Schools is proud to contribute to the rich history of culture and community at Gilbert Days. To learn more about how our schools participate in Gilbert Days or to view videos of past years’ celebrations, visit www.GilbertSchools.net.

 

Additional Photos:

 

Gilbert Jr. High Marching Band in 1969

Gilbert Days Newspaper Clipping from 1965

 

Written by Tristan Chavez, Photo by Jonason Pauley