Look for Spirit of the West Riders at Palisades Fourth of July

By Sarah Stockman 
Staff Writer

Each year, performers from all over the United States don their costumes and ready their acts for the Pacific Palisades Fourth of July Parade. As far as animal performers go, the parade has a pretty diverse crowd. There are Patriotic Pups, high-stepping horses, miniature donkeys and sometimes even camels.

This year the high-stepping horses and their riders will represent the Wild West, a time of cowboys and lassos and spurred boots. They embody a California so wild only the bravest dared to enter.

These are the Spirit of the West Riders.

Spirit of the West Riders use authentic period clothing, saddles and guns when they perform.
Spirit of the West Riders use authentic period clothing, saddles and guns when they perform.

The group, which consists of 12-16 people and their horses, was founded in 1991 in order to participate in the 1992 Rose Parade.

Phil Spangenberger, who has had a vibrant career as the Black Powder Editor for Guns & Ammo magazine and is a consultant in all things Wild West, is leader and co-founder of the group.

“We’re not a really formal group,” Spangenberger said. “It was a group put together with another fellow some years ago for the Rose Parade.”

The Spirit of the West Riders aim to be as authentic as possible by wearing period clothing and using saddles that would have been used by cowboys in the 1800s.

“We present the Old West in a more authentic manner,” Spangenberger said. “Every saddle is of the period the person would represent.”

This will be the group’s third time marching in the Palisades parade. “We were invited when they [the Palisades Americanism Parade Association] were looking for more colorful equestrian groups,” Spangenberger said.

The group riding in the parade consists of eight riders and their respective horses.

“Our riders come from all over Southern California,” Spangenberger said. “In addition, we have two people coming in from Arizona. They’re very good people. They take rescue horses and offer rides to wounded veterans and things like that.”

Although the riders participate because they enjoy doing so, they also ride to raise awareness for the John Wayne Cancer Foundation. The Foundation was started by John Wayne’s family to honor the actor’s memory. Wayne died of stomach cancer in 1979.

“We’ve been riding for the last 19 or 20 years on behalf of the Foundation,” Spangenberger said. “Nobody represents the West [better than] John Wayne . . . and everybody has been touched by cancer.

“We don’t raise money, but through our appearances in such events as the Rose Parade, which is seen by millions of people worldwide, we raise awareness of the work they [the Foundation] do.”

According to Spangenberger, the group loves riding in the Palisades parade.

“One of the things we like about Pacific Palisades [is that the] people are so enthusiastic,” he said. “They seem to have an understanding of our history and what the Fourth of July is about. It’s just a nice com- munity. We really like it.”

The group doesn’t perform often, since the members are so spread out, but they hope to ride in the 2018 Rose Parade. If accepted, it will be their 26th year participating in Pasadena.

In the meantime, you can see Spangenberger July 7 to August 31 at the Pageant of the Masters in Laguna Beach, where he will be performing as Buffalo Bill Cody.

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