Help is needed to save Winslow's holiday traditions

Annual festivals are a significant part of a city's identity. Imagine Winslow without the Standin' on the Corner Festival or Christmas Parade. What would this town be?

In a word: nothing.

While those two traditions show no signs of near extinction, a couple others are about to go the way of stagecoach.

The Fourth of July fireworks are still planned for Monday ‹ still at Emil Nasser Stadium ‹ still at dusk. But in past years, the entire day was filled with patriotic events.

For the first time in 12 years, the Children's Parade looks like it will be canceled, unless someone steps up in the next four days to plan and organize it.

The parade started as a way of honoring Gulf War veterans. In 1993, the war was long over but the children enjoyed the parade so much, they kept it going.

The reason Winslow's children will have to sit out the traditional holiday march this year is because the woman who has been the driving force behind it all these years has health issues that prevent her from baring the load it takes to organize such an event.

Dee Rodriguez has been a big part of such children's programs as Summerstruck, the Winslow Stars dance team, a Halloween haunted house and the parade.

Due to a foot injury, Dee can not maneuver easily enough to build sets or run around town organizing people and supplies for the event.

Without volunteers to shoulder the responsibilities of the Children's Parade, this custom would be over.

Rodriguez was also partly responsible for Winslow's newest tradition ‹ the 9/11 Memorial Service. Fortunately this piece of Winslow seems to be staying in place.

Started on the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., the memorial service has drawn people from the Four Corners states to honor the victims at this truly unique monument each year since.

If we lost this tradition, it would be the biggest blow to our little town because of what it took to bring the two beams from New York to Winslow.

The Remembrance Garden on the corner of E. Third Street and Transcon Lane had been there for years. The site was once a city park. But years of neglect caused the little garden to be overrun with weeds and garbage.

Rodriguez said the Kids Club planned to plant a pair of trees in the garden and shape them into rectangles to represent the twin Trade Center Towers. But while watching the cleanup of Ground Zero on television, Rodriguez noticed that one of the companies hauling the debris was Waste Management ‹ the same company that contracts with the city.

Rodriguez called the company and eventually got through to a representative in New York. The company spokesperson said the city could have a pair of beams if someone could go to New York and pick them up within three days. There was one week until Sept. 11.

Other communities and organizations requested pieces of wreckage as well, but Winslow's are unique.

"I was told that we are the only place that has beams that size," Rodriguez said.

To make cleanup easier, the beams were cut down to two feet long, which is what other communities received. Winslow's beams are 14 and 16-feet in length, or rather height.

Bill Herron, director of the Weed & Seed Program, called Wal-Mart who told him that they had a truck leaving from Bisbee that could go to New York. Two drivers alternated shifts to be able to arrive in Winslow three days later with the beams.

People lined the streets and followed the truck as it drove east to west on Third Street, then turned around at Hipkoe and returned to the garden. It was less of a parade and more like a community-wide escort, Rodriguez said.

Then something unusual happened in Winslow ‹ it rained for three days straight. Day and night the rain came down making improvements to the garden difficult.

But residents of Winslow and Joseph City cleaned the site, added plants and crafted the sign.

After three days and nights rain, something bordering on miraculous happened. On the day the beams were to be installed in the garden, the rain stopped. The sky became bright blue again as the sun shone on Winslow.

Rodriguez said, "we were thinking, 'Holy moley, do you think there's a God? Yeah.'"

The next day, on Sept. 11, 2002, Winslow and members of surrounding communities paid tribute to the victims and the police officers, firefighters and military personnel who worked to restore order.

Every year since, a new flag is raised at the site. The flag is flown over the Pentagon before it is brought in by helicopter for the ceremony.

More than 100 people made the Remembrance Garden happen.

The Standin' on the Corner Festival and Christmas Parade continue each year due to dedicated organizations ‹ The Standin' on the Corner Foundation and Chamber of Commerce, respectively ‹ not an individual.

In order to keep these other Winslow traditions alive each year it will take the entire community to step up and show its spirit.

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