Member Spotlight: Scottsdale Charros
Integral to The Scout Guide Phoenix & Scottsdale’s mission is telling the stories behind the small businesses Scouted in each Volume. The story begins in print and continues online, after all. As you peruse Volume 2, we are thrilled to continue our story-telling mission with Member Spotlights. Here, Editorial Contributor Marci Symington chats with Active Member of The Scottsdale Charros.
Photographed by Brian Goddard.
After celebrating 60 years of charitable giving to the Valley and ahead of their signature annual fundraising initiative, it’s high time for a deep dive on The Scottsdale Charros. A beloved Scottsdale philanthropic institution, The Scottsdale Charros supports education through scholarships and educational programming, and promotes youth activities, sports, and cultural enrichment in our community. Each year, The Charros welcome baseball fans to the 2023 Spring Training season and, year after year, The Charro Lodge remains the best ticket in Spring Training.
Serendipitously, one recent sunny winter day found me sitting along the green banks of Scottsdale Stadium talking to Stuart Crawford, CEO of Bison Ventures and Active Member of The Scottsdale Charros. We chatted history, giving, and — of course — what it means to be a “gentleman rider.”
TSG Phoenix & Scottsdale: Hi Stuart! Can you start off by telling us a little bit about the Scottsdale Charros and how they were founded?
Stuart Crawford: In a nutshell, the Scottsdale Charros are a volunteer philanthropic organization of community leaders and business owners who raise money for youth-related activities, mainly sports-related, but a lot of our monies go into supporting the Scottsdale Unified School District (SUSD). The short version of how the Charros were started is that back in 1961, a group of local business leaders wanted to promote Scottsdale and to attract tourism and business to the city and all it had to offer. Their idea was to help the community by promoting sports and sporting events that would draw tourists and entertain residents. And even though they were a small organization, there were some influential political figures who were Charros, like Herb Drinkwater, former mayor of Scottsdale after whom Drinkwater Boulevard is named.
TSG Phoenix & Scottsdale: As a parent myself, I can see how education and youth are causes near and dear to many in the community. Tell me a little about your fundraising and who it benefits?
Stuart Crawford:We have three different arms of the organization. First there is the baseball arm and our association with spring training, which is our money driver. It is how we create and generate the dollars to be able to fund the charitable arm which is centered around education. To that end, we hold an annual education benefit, inviting the Teachers of the Year from every school in the SUSD, and we pass out awards, grants, and scholarships for Student of the Year. The third arm is our annual Charro trail ride.
TSG Phoenix & Scottsdale: I realize we just have enough time to skim the surface here, but can you explain the Charros association with spring training?
Stuart Crawford: Every spring, for four weeks, the City of Scottsdale—who owns Scottsdale Stadium—hosts the San Francisco Giants for baseball’s spring training season, which amounts to 16 games. This year, spring training starts on February 25th. We sell ad space in the stadium in the form of banners, stadium signage, PA announcements, and scoreboard video ads that are seen by over 200,000 fans and on ESPN.
We are really excited because this is going to be our first normal baseball year in three years. And when I say normal, I mean, the season’s going to start when it is supposed to start (in other words no lockout battles) and people are excited to get out and gather again after COVID canceled the 2020 season. For more information on the games, check out our website at charros.com and springtraining.com.
Photographed by Brian Goddard.
TSG Phoenix & Scottsdale: Enjoying our beautiful spring weather while watching a major league baseball game sounds like so much fun! Tell me about the Charro trail ride, which sounds pretty amazing too!
Stuart Crawford: It is amazing. The ride is part of the Charros’ tradition to keep the western heritage of Scottsdale alive. The purpose is to thank our sponsors who make our charitable giving happen and our significant others for all the time spent working on our mission. The first ride was in November 1962 and was a four-day trail ride into the McDowell Mountains. Now, around 200 men participate in the ride, half of whom are members (active and past actives, or ‘lifers’), and half are guests. The guests are bused to our camp on a Wednesday, and we trail ride Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Every year we ride in different areas of the state and our camp is based on a private ranch. We sleep under the stars, like old cowboy-style in sleeping bags, no tents allowed. It is very down to earth and authentic. You are out there with some incredible individuals but at the end of the day we are all just guys sleeping on cots. It’s epic, no matter how you explain it to people, until they go on the ride, they just can’t understand it.
TSG Phoenix & Scottsdale: It sounds epic. Do the significant others meet you at the end of the ride?
Stuart Crawford: Yes! So, on that Friday, the girls/significant others come to the closest town to our camp, and they do a cowgirl night: they all stay at the hotel and have a big dinner and go to the bar and have fun. And then Saturday, which might be one of my favorite days of the whole year, is when all the significant others get bused from the hotels to the campsite where we are all lined up to eagerly greet them. We have a big party at the ranch for that day. And they get to watch us ride in a rodeo competition called gymkhana, where we do things like barrel racing and team penning. The whole point of it is for the guest experience to just be off the charts. You want the guys and their significant others to come off this trip and say, ‘Oh my god, we’ve got to do that again.
Photographed by Brian Goddard.
TSG Phoenix & Scottsdale: And your participation in the Parada del Sol is part of keeping the western tradition of Scottsdale alive too?
Stuart Crawford: Yes, the Charros host the Parada del Sol, or Parade of the Sun, every February in Old Town Scottsdale. It is a western-style celebration where the city of Scottsdale literally blocks off the streets in the middle of Old Town. And then we’ve got everything from the Sheriff’s Posse to kids on horses to cheerleading groups to high school football teams. This year is February 4th, so mark your calendar. It’s really cool.
TSG Phoenix & Scottsdale: Thank you for your time today! Tell us, how can our Scout Guide community help the Charros?
Stuart Crawford: For a $100 donation, you can become a Friend of the Charros, or you can sign up for larger sponsorship opportunities to get you and your company more exposure. Other than a financial gift, exposure is key. One of the things that always surprises me is that not many people are aware of us. When I first joined, I thought it was cool, but at the same time, it was not great for growing an organization. We finally have a social media presence and Instagram. It is just the more that people know about us, the better.
I almost forgot…if you are not into baseball, we do other events. This May will be our third annual charity golf tournament at Greyhawk Golf Club. It stands out because our golf tournament celebrates the American West..can you believe we were able to convince Greyhawk to let us ride horses onto the golf course?
Yes, I can. It seems that is why most people move out West…to dare to do what has not been done before. Salut to the Charros!
Learn more about The Charros, their work, and how to support them here.