December 1, 2012 – Casa Grande, AZ
For Marco Rivas Sotelo, diagnosed with autism at age four, it was love at first sight when he was just nine years old. He saw a music video of the hard rock music group KISS, a love-them-or-hate-them kind of musical act with blisteringly-loud music, fire-breathing and thunderous onstage pyrotechnics combined with stark black and white costumes and makeup.
Twelve years later, that devotion became a tribute and personal accomplishment when the KISS-themed float he organized and built won third place for the Most Original category in the 2012 Electric Light Parade in Casa Grande, AZ. After watching KISS in concert a few years ago, the idea of a tribute float was born.
Rivas Sotelo overcame his disabilities and his inability to drive by coordinating the entire project, from the acquisition of a trailer and materials to recruiting volunteers to building it. Yvonne Johnson, a vocational rehabilitation volunteer who works with Rivas Sotelo, provided transportation throughout the project and helped with getting the float details worked out, but watched him and a friend do most of the work.
Using Facebook and strategically-placed posters around the town of approximately 50,000 people to solicit help, Rivas Sotelo met up with other KISS fans, including the owners of a KISS-themed car and a KISS-themed truck. Both vehicles accompanied the float in the parade, which featured 77 entries in various categories.
He and three friends dressed up in the distinctive KISS costumes, with Marco taking on the persona of Ace Frehley’s Spaceman. Parade-watchers, totaling over 50,000 people, cheered his float and almost 20 people rode on or followed the float by the end of the event. “I felt like a different person when I had the costume on. It was great,” said Rivas Sotelo.
Aware of the large KISS fan base in the area, Marco has big plans for next year’s 19th Annual Electric Light Parade - a larger float that he will take to more community parades. With his town located halfway between Phoenix (50 miles) and Tucson (70 miles), there is a huge potential for his idea of creating an official KISS fan club.