Our first major bit of sight-seeing was a bit of a letdown, so I wasn’t prepared to like the ruins at Casa Grande so much. For one thing, we could practically see the whole thing from the road as we passed the town of Coolidge on the way to Phoenix to pick up our rental car. But we found ourselves with some time on Friday and decided it would be worth a look since the site was a just short drive away.
Good thing we did, too! The ruins were much bigger and more interesting than I expected. In the visitor information centre there is a little video you can watch (we didn’t, since we’d have had to wait awhile) along with some small exhibits showing how the people would have lived, before plunging out into the brilliant sunshine for a look at the huge house.
It’s an adobe style building, built by the Hohokam people and abandoned before 1450 when they were driven from the area – no one is sure why. There is a large roof built in the 1930s to protect it, although it managed to survive the weather before that, and several surrounding structures that made up part of the community.
Historians have guessed that the main house could have been some kind of prehistoric observatory, based on the shapes and position of the windows – for example, the upper left window is circular and aligns exactly with the setting sun on the longest day of the year (summer solstice).
We spent a bit of time wandering and reading, looking at and learning about the large formations, and then went back out past the parking lot to see an unexcavated site as well as an oval that was probably a ball field of sorts.
We also picked up a few souvenirs from the gift shop – books!
After the sun went down, we bundled up Baby J to head into downtown Florence for the annual Christmas parade. We got there pretty early and avoided the lineup for – that’s right – Santa! Baby J sat placidly on his lap and looked around, as if he did this every day.
The rest of the street was transformed by a bouncy castle and booths selling popcorn, hot chocolate, hats, toys and trinkets, and Julian was lucky enough to get a light up wand from his great-uncle Carl. He loves and keeps waving it around like a baby Ron Weasley (before sticking it in his mouth, of course).
When I think about how I would be spending a Friday night in early December – Julian’s first visit with Santa – it never crossed my mind that I’d be miles from home, in a small town surrounded by the desert, judging the floats for a Christmas parade. Yep – Carl had signed us up to score as judges to decide the winners of this year’s float.
The Christmas parade attracts quite a crowd even though it was chilly by Florence standards, and people lined the street to wait for the floats to begin driving down the road. Tyler and I were the only judges and we had to rate each float in categories like community, government, family, and so on. Some were pretty well done and hopefully we did a good job! If not…well, nobody knew us.
More adventures around the corner!