photo by David Apeji; photographed at Castles-n-Coasters; model Tatum Neppl/Ford Robert Black Agency; It's not spring without merry-go-rounds.  Find them at Castles-n-Coasters in Phoenix. castlesncoasters.com

Spring Festival & Event Guide

Written by Niki D’Andrea, Jess Harter, Leah LeMoine, Craig Outhier Category: Lifestyle Issue: March 2016
Group Free

Don’t you love March, April and May – the first part of May, anyway – in the Valley of the Sun? It’s our high season, our sweet spot, our sun-splattered logjam of festivals, food fairs and cool outdoor nights before the furnace-blast of summer. So dive into our exhaustive spring planner – and don’t miss a single day of fun.

FOOD & DRINK
ARTS CRAFTS LAUGHS
MUSIC FESTIVALS
BE A CULTURE VULTURE
FAMILY A FAIRS
TURN BACK THE CLOCK
OUT OF TOWNERS
2016 CACTUS LEAGUES

 

 Food & Drink

FROM SALSA SYMPOSIUMS TO BEER/BARBECUE HOEDOWNS, THE VALLEY'S FOOD-FEST PANTRY IS PACKED.

February 28-March 6

Devoured Culinary Classic
Phoenix
Local is the name of the game at Downtown Phoenix’s premier food and bev fest, hosted by Local First Arizona, the Phoenix Art Museum and Devour Phoenix. Sadly, general admission and VIP tickets for the festival’s two-day drink-and-nibble “classic” – its signature event – are sold out. But food fans can still experience Devoured via three undercard events: a craft cocktail competition (Feb. 28, $40); a farm-to-table feast called Seven Chefs Singh Along (March 2, $125), matching star Valley chefs with organic farmer Ken Singh; and Palette to Palate (March 3, $40), an inspired showcase wherein chefs and artists interpret each others’ work. 602-257-2124, devouredphoenix.com

March 5-6
My Nana’s Best Tasting Salsa Challenge
Phoenix
Throw your sombrero in the ring to win $1,000 at this spicy fiesta and salsa contest at Steele Indian School Park. Cool your jets with a frosty marg from the Jose Cuervo Margarita Mix-Off, a complementary competition within the event, which is the largest annual fundraiser for the Arizona Hemophilia Association. Tickets cost $15 at the gate and include all-you-can-eat chips and salsa; VIP tickets cost $55 and include food and alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. Admission is free for children younger than 12. salsachallenge.com

March 19
Great American Barbeque and Beer Festival
Chandler
More than 60 barbecue pit masters will be smoking, grilling, slicing and slathering meat for this backyard cookout on steroids. Entertainment and activities abound, including the SanTan Brewing Tailgaters’ Lawn, Ultra Star March Madness lounge and Arizona Inflatable Events Kid Zone and Play Land. Tickets cost $10 at your local Bashas’, $12 online and $15 at the gate the day of the event. Presale VIP tickets are available for $125 each online and include food, six alcoholic beverages, private seating, front-stage access view and gift bag. 602-276-2499, chandlerbbq.com

20,000 Pounds of pulled pork, brisket, chicken and pork ribs served at Chandler’s Great American Barbeque and Beer Festival. That’s 10 tons!

photo by Joanie Simon/courtesy Scottsdale Culinary FestivalMarch-April
Scottsdale Culinary Festival
Scottsdale
“Festival” is a bit of a misnomer – the Scottsdale League for the Arts hosts a veritable season of food fests under the SCF umbrella, from January through April. Here are our spring highlights:
Fate of the Irish (March 17): We’re doing a little jig over SCF’s newest event, to be held at Fate Brewing Company South in Scottsdale. $25 presale.
Burger Battle (March 24): Gourmet burger binge? Yes, please. Attendees taste their way through more than a dozen burgers crafted by local chefs and rub elbows with Valley celebs at the Hotel Valley Ho. $65, general; $85, VIP.
• Friends of James Beard Benefit Dinner (March 24): Truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience, with chefs from around the country collaborating on a superlative supper at the Westin Kierland Resort & Spa. $225, individual; $1,895 for a table until Feb. 1.
Eat, Drink & Be Pretty (April 15): See and be seen – strutting, dancing, drinking and eating – at this celebration of the good life, from food samples to fashion shows. $85 general online; $100 at the door; $125, VIP.
Scottsdale Culinary Festival Weekend (April 16-17): Customize your festival plans – or visit everything – with SCF’s roster of gourmand experiences, from the all-ages Great Arizona Picnic ($8 general) and its famous Skyy Bar to the craft-brew-centric Southwest Festival of Beers ($40). scottsdalefest.org

April 1
Agave on the Rocks at Desert Botanical Garden
Phoenix
Walk into Agave on the Rocks, get an icy margarita in a glowing glass. Could there be a better welcome gift? It’s a cash bar situation the rest of the night, but a Suerte tequila tasting booth and nibbles from the likes of Gertrude’s, Los Sombreros and Paletas Betty are provided gratis, all to the soundtrack of live Latin and world music. Tickets cost $75 for the general public, $70 for members. Must be 21 or older to attend. 480-941-1225, dbg.org

April 2
Great Arizona Beer Festival
Mesa
Whether you like your brews domestic, craft or hyperlocal, this fest has you covered with more than 200 beers from more than 50 breweries around the country, including a significant number of Arizona suds. Free shuttles will be provided from the light rail to the festival at Sloan Park, so getting home safely is a cinch. Tickets cost $12-$86. Must be 21 or older to attend. 480-774-8300, azbeer.com

April 7
AZ Wine and Dine
Scottsdale
The legendary Forks and Corks has morphed into Wine and Dine and, while the rhyme has changed, the commitment to showcasing Arizona’s resorts, food, wine and craft beer has only intensified. Bonus: A portion of the proceeds benefits the Arizona Lodging & Tourism Association. This year’s lineup wasn’t confirmed at press time, but Tanzy, T. Cook’s and Talavera were among last year’s restaurant features at the Scottsdale Quarter event, with wine labels such as Coppola and Hess pouring. Tickets cost $65 online from March 1-31; $75 from April 1-7. Must be 21 or older to attend. 602-604-0729, azwineanddine.com

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BEST OF THE WEST
Don’t sleep on the West Valley. These emerging fests are catching up to their more well-established brethren.
Litchfield Art & Culinary Festival
March 5-6
After 18 years, this intimate community festival is poised for Valleywide attention. This year’s featured winery is Arizona Stronghold; the featured artist is Gilbert-based painter Janet Blumenthal. Free. 623-734-6526, vermillionproductions.com/festivals

Taste of Surprise
March 9
This fledgling fest is back for its third year, with proceeds benefiting a slew of Valley charities. Tickets cost $10. 602-370-4784, tasteofsurprise.org

Flavors of the West
April 2
Live music, cooking demos, a kids’ zone and the West Valley’s best local restaurants make this a destination event. Tickets cost $45; $100, VIP. 480-250-8378, flavorsaz.com

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It's not spring without hot dogs. Find the Short Leash food truck at shortleashhotdogs.com.April 23
The Great Southwest Cajun Fest
Chandler
There’s a popular French saying in Louisiana: “Laissez les bons temps rouler” – let the good times roll. Experience that joie de vivre and a bit of the bayou at this fest, which features Loozyanna icons both culinary and musical, from crawfish and boudin balls to jazz and Big Band music. This year, the event will be held at Dr. A.J. Chandler Park. Tickets cost $10 for general admission; $65 for VIP. Admission is free for children 12 and younger. 602-276-2499, southwestcajunfest.com

May 14
6th Annual Ameri-CAN Canned Craft Beer Festival
Scottsdale  
Launched by SanTan Brewing in Chandler, this singular showcase of canned brew – which, as any beer purist will tell you, is the preferred medium for freshness – features more than 250 local and out-of-state brands. And what a deal: 20 tastings will run you only $35 if you get a presale ticket online. Not coincidentally, attendees can also score $10 off a cab ride with a special promo code. cannedcraftbeerfest.com

May 14-22
Peach Festival at Schnepf Farms
Queen Creek
Schnepf Farms didn’t let a 2015 farmhouse fire incinerate its spirit. Arizona’s top peach supplier for 50 years, the Schnepfs rose from literal ashes to continue their U-Pick and festival traditions, including the carousel, Peachy Pancake Breakfast, Peachy Pavilion and peach-infused treats from cinnamon rolls to salsas. Admission is free. Also check their website for spring orchard dinners. 480-987-3100, schnepffarms.com

FEST•I•MONIAL
Jennifer Russo    
Owner, The MARKET by Jennifer's
Catering legend and upstart restaurateur Russo went to Devoured for the first time last year and was summarily blown away. “I thought it was a wonderful way to have the top chefs and restaurants in the Valley show their stuff. And this year, The MARKET Restaurant + Bar was blessed to be invited to participate. So I will have to say Devoured is [my favorite].”

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PHM0316FE04a

FREE EXPRESSION REIGNS AT THESE SPRINGTIME ART WALKS, COMEDY FESTS AND OTHER CREATIVE SHOWCASE EVENTS.

photo by Joanie Simon/courtesy Scottsdale Culinary Festival; “1960s Ride” by Signe & Genna Grushovenko, exhibiting in 2016 at the Scottsdale Arts FestivalMarch 11-13
Scottsdale Arts Festival
Scottsdale
Pleasant weather typically attends this fest at Scottsdale Civic Center Park, along with thousands of Phoenicians. More than 175 artists – painters, sculptors, jewelers, photographers, textile artists, ceramicists, woodworkers and more – will share their wares, while 20-plus Arizona bands entertain on two stages. Food trucks including The Maine Lobster Lady and Luncha Libre will chill curbside, and kids can get creative in the Imagine Nation area. Single-day passes are $10; two-day passes, $15. 480-499-8587, scottsdaleartsfestival.org

41 ... is the age this year of the oldest monthly art walk in the Valley, the Scottsdale ArtWalk in Old Town, held every Thursday October-July.

March 11-13
Fountain Hills Fine Art & Wine Affaire
Fountain Hills
Views of the Superstition Mountains, McDowell Mountains and Four Peaks frame the 28-acre lake and park at the heart of this fest. The featured artist this year is German painter Manfred Rapp, who blends Impressionism with the glazing methods of the Old Masters to produce vibrant street scenes and representational rural landscapes. He’s joined by numerous artists and vintners from Arizona and beyond. General admission, $3; wine tasting ticket with souvenir glass, $10. 480-837-5637, thunderbirdartists.com

March 18-20
Easy Street Arts Festival
Cave Creek
More than 150 artists from around the nation converge at cactus-dappled Carefree Desert Gardens for this annual art fête in the foothills of Black Mountain. Guests get eyefuls of photography, painting, pottery and other crafts – plus a plethora of local artists aggregated in the Emerging Artists Tent – and earfuls of exotic music entertainment, which has ranged from flamenco harpists to Hawaiian “slack key” guitarists. Featured winery: Arizona Stronghold. Free admission. 623-734-6526, vermillionpromotions.com

March 18-19
spark! Mesa’s Festival of Creativity
Mesa
spark! is hands-on and all-out. Interactive art pieces are the impetus for fun at this family-friendly festival – giant sandboxes, paintbrush-reactive LED light displays, sit-and-spin kid-size crockery, a dome-topped umbrella simulating rain indoors, and mouth sculptures that sing when pressed, to name a few previous pieces. Add in exhibits of untouchable (but purchasable) art from Valley vendors, food, and live country, rock, blues and jazz music, and you’ve got one fabulous fest. Free. 480-644-6500, mesaartscenter.com

March 19-20
Art Detour
Downtown Phoenix
PHOENIX magazine deemed Art Detour the “Best Arts Festival” in our 2015 Best of the Valley issue, and for good reasons. Free trolley service shuttles guests to oodles of Downtown art spots (complimentary maps will lead the way), and satellite soirées (some with additional costs) include the Art D’Core Gala (with special address from Mayor Greg Stanton, music, dance, food and drink, and a tour of art spaces). Free. 602-256-7539, artlinkphoenix.com/art-detour

April 8-10
Bird City Comedy Festival
Downtown Phoenix
Packing a bigger wallop than a barrel full of knock-knock jokes, the first annual Bird City Comedy Festival is bound to be a real hoot, with stand-up comics, sketch comedy, improv, musical humor, and troupe performances from around Arizona and the U.S. cracking up six-plus Downtown venues, including the Renaissance Downtown Phoenix, Lawn Gnome Publishing, Phoenix Center for the Arts, and Space 55 theater. Visit birdcitycomedyfestival.com for performers, show times, and ticket information.

photo courtesy Downtown Tempe; Tempe Spring Festival of the ArtsApril 8-10
Tempe Spring Festival of the Arts
Tempe
More is better at this biannual fest, where nearly 400 artists converge to showcase glassworks and woodworks, paintings, jewelry and more. Highlights include the cottage edibles area, the Arizona Wine Festival (with purveyors including Pillsbury Wine Company and Page Springs Cellars), the Art of Beer (with pours of local and national brews), live entertainment ranging from Japanese taiko drummers to live reggae, and the Kids Innovation Section for your little da Vincis. Free. 602-997-2581, tempefestivalofthearts.com

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3 MORE ARTS FESTS
Magic of Mexican Artistry
March 11-13
The Superstition Mountain Museum in Apache Junction hosts this three-day festival, which features daily demonstrations of pit-firing Mata Ortiz pottery, Oaxacan woodcarving of animal figures, and Zapotec weaving, plus Taxco silver jewelry, trunk shows and sales. Free. 480-983-4888, superstitionmountainmuseum.org

Sonoran Arts League
Pop-Up Wednesdays

Through April 20
Original artworks by Sonoran Arts League members are on display from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. in The Gallery at el Pedregal in Scottsdale through April 24, and every Wednesday, there are receptions with featured artists. Workshops and student art exhibits add to the aesthetic buffet. Free. 480-575-6658, theleaguegallery.com

Video Artwalk
april 7
This new event replaces Scottsdale’s Spring Into the Arts ArtWalk, and features projections of videos and images inside galleries and onto exterior buildings, along with street musicians and entertainers throughout Old Town Scottsdale. Free. 480-421-1818, scottsdalegalleries.com

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April 14-16
Phoenix Improv Festival
Downtown Phoenix
More than 25 unscripted theatre pieces take center stage at this festival, now in its 15th year at Herberger Theater Center. Troupes for this year’s event hadn’t been announced at press time, but previous performers have included Tucson Improv Movement, Galapagos, Mail Order Bride, Comedy Project, White Out, Pick and Roll, and Irony City. Performances are generally suitable for all ages; some content may be PG-13. $10-$20, with dinner packages available for an additional cost. 602-252-8497, facebook.com/phoeniximprovfestival

FEST•I•MONIAL
Travis Fields   
Founder, Arizona Art Collective
“I like Tempe Festival of the arts... lots of fun and it’s free! Park your car at McClintock light rail station for free and ride right into the heart of the event.”

IT'S NOT SPRING WITHOUT...
Art-House Flicks
Phoenix Film Festival
April 7-14
Scottsdale
Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon is easy to play for devotees of the Phoenix Film Festival – the Footloose star collected an achievement award from the festival in 2005 and is one of dozens of celebrities who have mingled with PFF fans since its debut in 2000. Check the festival website for this year’s lineup of iconoclastic indie fare at the Harkins Scottsdale 101. phoenixfilmfestival.com

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Music Festivals

THE VALLEY'S SPRING LINEUP OF ROCK, JAZZ, CLASSICAL AND COUNTRY WILL HAVE YOU SINGING ITS PRAISES.

March
Arizona Musicfest
Scottsdale  
musicfest.org
Though it started in late January, this six-week, multi-venue celebration of jazz, soul, classical and other august music styles stretches briefly into March with three shows:
• Duke of Dixieland on Thursday,
March 3. America’s oldest continuing Dixieland band channels the spirit of the Big Easy.
• The Broadway Tenors on Sunday, March 6. Your mother will love this one. Three of Broadway’s top leading men – including Lewis Cleale of The Book of Mormon – perform a smattering of stage hits.
• The Australian Bee Gees Show on Friday, March 11. You haven’t seen a Bee Gees tribute until you’ve seen it performed in the trio’s native Australian. The festival’s final event.

photo courtesy McDowell Mountain Music Festival; McDowell Mountain Music FestivalMarch 11-13
McDowell Mountain Music Festival
Downtown Phoenix
It started in 2004 as a nonprofit jam-band festival. Today, MMMF – held at Margaret T. Hance Park – is Arizona’s most illustrious annual rock music event, with lineups that sometimes rival big-ticket juggernauts like Coachella and Sasquatch. (No joke. The Friday lineup of Beck, Animal Collective and Bloc Party is more appealing than any single day of programming at Coachella in 2016.) Pro tip: Unlike most so-called “VIP” passes, this one ($180) is actually worth the upcharge: It comes with five drink tickets, food and primo side-stage views. mmmf.com

10 - Peak U.S. Billboard chart position of MMMF headliner Beck’s breakout 1994 single “Loser.” It remains the indie-folk rocker’s highest-charting song.

March 12
Viva Phx!
Downtown Phoenix
Some fun behind-the-scenes drama here: Last fall, promoter Charlie Levy told us he planned to mothball his 3-year-old urban music festival in 2016 due to the overlap with MMMF. (Viva features many bands transiting through Arizona on their way to South by Southwest in Texas, which is why moving it to a different weekend wasn’t an option.) It made us sad, but then Levy announced in late January that his 60-band, multi-stage festival was a go, with synth-rock giant Crystal Castles and psych-poppers The Growlers headlining. On the same day as MMMF. Viva competition! Tickets, $19. crescentphx.com

Photo by Craig Outhier; Pot of GoldMarch 17 & 19
Pot of Gold
Chandler
Reggae-tinged 1990s dude-rock and Millennial hip-hop don’t strike us as natural bedfellows, but hey, it’s a new day. Now in its second year, this Lucky Man-produced affair spans two days and includes such disparate talents as 311, Ty Dolla $ign, Slightly Stoopid, Dirty Heads and Future. After debuting at Tempe Town Lake in 2015, the festival decamps for Rawhide in Chandler. ‘Cause where better than a cowboy-themed event space to get your fix of reggae and hip-hop? $40 per day.
potofgoldaz.com

March 19
U-Fest
West Phoenix
Sponsored by Valley rock station KUPD, this day-long affair promises one thing: all the bone-jarring hard rock you can stand. Chicago metal outfit Disturbed headlines a roster of angry-misfit-type supporting acts, which may or may not be your cup of tea, but one thing is certain: Ak-Chin Pavilion is a glorious outdoor venue in mid-March, so fans will be raging against authority in comfort. Tickets $30-$70. 98kupd.com

April 2
Downtown Music Stroll
Downtown Phoenix
Here’s a pleasant way to spend three hours on a Saturday: Walk to a few restaurants, enjoy a drink or two, listen to live classical music. Sponsored by the Phoenix Symphony, the annual walk/eat event – now in its sixth year – provides food-and-drink vouchers for six Downtown restaurants, where select members of the symphony will strum their stringed things and blow into their wind objects for your listening pleasure. Trust us: Nothing goes with “Bolero” like blue cheese dressing. Tickets, $30. phoenixsymphony.org        

April 7-10
Country Thunder
Florence
Possible sign of the Apocalypse: Country Thunder fans can now twerk ‘til dawn in a late-night DJ dance tent called “Electric Thunder.” Old-timers might disapprove, but festival organizers know their market: The four-day festival drew 94,000 fans to Canyon Moon Ranch last year, making it far and away the most-attended music festival in Arizona. 2016 headliners include Florida Georgia Line, Jake Owen and Eric Church, and CT’s ever-evolving entertainment menu includes mechanical bull rides, hot air balloons and carnival attractions. Oh, yes – and that disco dance tent. Yee-haw. Single-day, $50-$75; four-day pass, $160. countrythunder.com

Feb.-June
DBG Spring Concert Series
Phoenix
dgb.org/events/musicgarden
Some highlights of the series, staged every Friday evening from February 5 to June 24 at Desert Botanical Garden:
• The Sugar Thieves on March 4. Valley blues outfit was PHOENIX magazine’s Best Band of 2014.
• Cinco de Moio on March 25. ASU music professor Dom Moio leads this Latin jazz ensemble.
• Big Nick and the Gila Monsters on April 22. This perennial “garden favorite” was the first band inducted into the Arizona Blues Hall of Fame.

3 OUT-OF-TOWN MUSIC FESTS
4th Annual Marana
Bluegrass Festival on April 8-10. Nu Blue headlines this Southern Arizona celebration of banjo-pickin’ brilliance. $15 per day. maranafestival.com  

Charles Mingus Hometown Musical Festival on April 23.
Jazz up your weekend at this border town salute to double-bass legend – and Nogales native – Charles Mingus. Includes a beer garden and educational events. mingusproject.com

Hi-Country Bluegrass
Festival (May, TBD). Even if you don’t totally love bluegrass, you gotta love the venue: Arcosanti, the experimental urban habitat designed by late architect Paolo Soleri. arcosanti.org

FEST•I•MONIAL
Rick Burch
Bassist, Jimmy Eat World
Burch – who moonlights as a professional distiller (Caskworks) when he’s not slapping the axe – says the McDowell Mountain Music Festival is his favorite springtime music event in the Valley – particularly since it relocated Downtown. “It’s super scenic and the variety is great. And it’s more accessible for people... being in the middle of it all.”

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 Be A Culture Vulture

SEASON YOUR SPRING WITH SOME INTERNATIONAL FLAVOR AT THESE HERITAGE FAIRS AND ETHNIC CELEBRATIONS.

photo by Taylor Peterson/Heard Museum; Zuni women display their head-borne artistry at Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair & Market.March 5-6
Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair & Market
Central Phoenix
More than 600 acclaimed American Indian artists from around the nation attend this 58-year-old affair featuring Native art works, demonstrations, dance performances and live music. This year’s theme is “Celebrating the Art of Pottery.” General admission, $20. 602-252-8840, heard.org

March 6
La Gran Fiesta: A Celebration of Latino and Hispanic
Cultures
Grammy Award-nominated Pedrito Martinez Group headlines this cultural celebration at Scottsdale Civic Center Park, performing Afro-Cuban folkloric music rich with complex rhythms. Arts and crafts, food, and family-friendly activities are also on the schedule. Free. 480-499-8587, scottsdaleperformingarts.org

March 12
St. Patrick’s Day Parade & Faire
Downtown Phoenix
“An Irish Centennial” parade starts at 10 a.m. at Third and Sheridan Streets with a flurry of floats, Irish step dancers, bagpipers and marching bands. The Faire – featuring food, three entertainment stages, and the art exhibition “Anam Cara” – takes place at Hance Park. $12. 602-280-9221, stpatricksdayphoenix.org.

March 12-13
Arizona Aloha Festival
Tempe
Hula dancers, Hawaiian music, Hawaiian-influenced martial arts, Polynesian dances, a marketplace and island food bring waves of fun to Tempe Beach Park for this family-friendly festival, now in its 22nd year. Free. 602-697-1824, azalohafest.org

March 19-20
Italian Festival of Arizona
Scottsdale
The smells of marinara and meatballs fill Scottsdale Waterfront at this fest, which draws around 10,000 attendees who come for entertainment (including Italian folk dances and music), arts and crafts, Italian sports cars and, of course, food. $10. 480-745-7020, italianfestivalaz.com

March 19-20
Arizona Scottish Gathering & Highland Games
Central Phoenix
The Caledonian Society of Arizona presents this event, which includes the gathering (with entertainment from Celtic drum music to bagpipe-infused rock bands) and the games, with events like hammer throw and pole tossing. $20 per day, $30 for two days. 480-788-6694, arizonascots.com

April 2-3
Phoenix Pride Festival
Central Phoenix
The 35th annual Pride fest celebrates the LGBT community with a parade, five stages of pop music and dance divas, an Arts Expo, and an Erotic World at Steele Indian School Park. $20 per day, $35 per weekend. 602-277-7433, phoenixpride.org

April 9
Gilbert Global Village Festival
Gilbert
The world fits on the lawn of Gilbert Civic Center during this all-ages multicultural celebration. Traditional and contemporary crafts, dance, music and food from around the globe are highlighted. There’s also a parade of nations. Free. 480-503-6871, gilbertaz.gov

April 9-10
Annual Polish Festival
West Phoenix
Pierogi, potato pancakes, stuffed cabbage rolls, hunter’s stew and, of course, Polish sausages join a selection of Polish beers. Held at a West Valley church, the festival also features folk music and dance, a boutique and a raffle. Free. 480-442-9765, polishfestivalaz.org

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Family A Fairs

HAVE A BROOD AWAKENING AT THESE ALL-AGES SPRING EVENTS.

March 5
M7 Street Fair
Central Phoenix
After years of hard work rehabilitating the once-dilapidated, now-bustling Melrose District on Seventh Avenue, the Seventh Avenue Merchants’ Association reaps their rewards with this award-winning annual street fair, one of the biggest in the Valley. Look for more than 150 vendor booths, local food trucks, craft beer, a margarita garden, live entertainment and a kids’ zone, as well as Chester’s Classic Car Show, with more than 200 classic, antique and vintage cars and trucks. Admission is free. m7streetfair.com   

March 11
Ostrich Festival
Chandler
Not every city can boast they have an internationally renowned festival dedicated to one of nature’s most bizarre birds. Chandler has held that honor since 1989, when it started the event as a nod to the city’s early history of ostrich ranching. Now it’s a destination fest with big-name music headliners, a parade, ostrich and emu exhibits, family activities, ostrich and human races, and Ostrich Alley, where you can buy everything from ostrich jerky to ostrich feather dusters. Tickets cost $10 for adults and $7 for children 12 and younger. 480-963-4571, ostrichfestival.com

March 12-13
Anthem Days
Anthem
Residents and visitors alike are welcome at this annual community showcase, which includes a business expo highlighting Anthem entrepreneurs and products, craft vendors, live music, Frazier Shows Carnival, Eggstravaganza Egg Hunt (Sunday only), a food court and beer garden, a kids’ zone and a salsa contest. Admission is free. 623-742-6050, onlineatanthem.com

April 9
KidFest! A Celebration of the Young Child
Avondale
Celebrate the national Week of the Young Child with bounce houses, live entertainment, arts and crafts, food and activities for the whole family. The event also serves as a one-stop services and education stop for parents with young children, with informational booths on literacy, healthy lifestyles, water safety, and summer camp and summer youth program information. Admission is free. 623-333-2400, avondale.org/events

April 30
Avondale Viva Fiesta
Avondale
The West Valley city celebrates its Latino population with this annual celebración in its historical downtown area. Highlights include a mariachi band, Ballet Folklórico Esperanza, arts and crafts, cultural activities and more. A salsa challenge heats up the day with a little friendly competition, with free tastes for attendees. A variety of Mexican foods will also be available for purchase. Admission is free. 623-333-2400, avondale.org/events  

April 13-17
Maricopa County Fair
Phoenix
The Maricopa County Fair shows no signs of slowing down in its 41st year, expanding programming to include four nights of motor sports in the Sanderson Ford Arena (complete with delightfully apropos lawnmower races), a live shark encounter, magicians and a Cirque Adventure with trampoline, acrobatics, stilts, aerial acts, contortion and more. Of course, you can always kick it old-school with a corn dog and a stroll through Freckle Farm Petting Zoo. Tickets cost $9 for anyone age 8 or older; children age 7 and younger get in for free. maricopacountyfair.org

24 - The number of competitions available for Maricopa County Fair fame-seekers to enter, including “Youth Pygmy Goat” and “Floriculture & Horticulture.”

IT'S NOT SPRING WITHOUT...
Motorcycles ‘n Mamas
Arizona Bike Week
April 6-10
Multiple locations
Family-friendly? Judging from the Google image search we ran, probably not. But if you love the throaty rumble of a V-Twin – along with stunt shows, “trail rides” and rowdy bar mobs – the 20th Annual Arizona Bike Week is probably your bag. And check out the stacked music calendar: Joan Jett  & the Blackhearts, Social Distortion and Reverend Horton Heat, among others. You don’t need to ride a hog to enjoy that lineup. azbikeweek.com

FEST•I•MONIAL
Rachel Ober
Owner, Rachel’s Young at Art Studio
“I love the Melrose on Seventh Avenue Street Fair because it’s all about community! It’s only one day long, so the excitement never stops. There’s something for every personality at the fair, so you don’t want to miss it!”

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Turn Back The Clock

CELEBRATE SPRING THE OLD-FASHIONED WAY WITH THESE YESTERYEAR EVENTS AND FESTIVALS.

photo by Michael Woodall; Left to right, Native Trails performers Derrick Suwaima Davis, Lane Jensen and Charlie Chimerica

Feb.-March
Native Trails
Scottsdale
Indigenous artisans showcase and sell goods while dancers from Southwestern tribes such as the Hopi, Navajo, Akimel Au-Authm and San Carlos Apache perform dances to traditional instruments. In other words, you’ll party like it’s 1799 at Scottsdale Civic Center Park. Free. Noon on Thursdays and Saturdays. 480-421-1004, scottsdalenativetrails.com

Feb. 25-28
Parada del Sol Rodeo
Scottsdale
Were calf-roping and bronc-busting ever really “things” in Scottsdale? Or just things people painted and sold in Old Town’s famed cowboy art galleries? Whichever the case, the “West’s Most Western Town” celebrates its rugged frontier heritage with a week-long series of competitive rodeo performances at WestWorld of Scottsdale. The rodeos are follow-up events to Scottsdale’s famed Parada del Sol Parade on Feb. 13, and a fine opportunity to glimpse some of the coordinated skills required of ranch hands on Arizona’s bygone cattle lots. paradadelsol.net

Feb. 6-March 27
Renaissance Festival
Gold Canyon
We fully embrace the fantasy that the Renaissance Festival is an accurate portrayal of medieval life – a hardscrabble existence of axe-throwing contests, profligate turkey consumption, foul-mouthed puppets and falconry shows. And not a case of syphilis to be seen! Truly, it was a wonderful time to be alive. And since serious food aficionados never take a break – even when they’re laughing at dirty-minded puppets – the Ren Fest folks have added a new attraction in 2016: a twice-daily, five-course “pleasure feast” with live entertainment. Huzzah! royalfaires.com/arizona

April 1-3
Cave Creek Fiesta Days Rodeo & Parade
Cave Creek
If the mere thought of a three-day bucking-bronco showcase makes your coccyx ache, know that single-performance passes are available for this throwback rodeo concept and cowboy festival, which kicks off with a Friday parade through the streets of Cave Creek and includes a Saturday night concert by country star Daryle Singletary right there in the rodeo arena. Tickets cost $12-$28. cavecreekprorodeo.com

IT'S NOT SPRING WITHOUT...
Mud in Your Eyes
Survivor Mud Run
March 12
Mesa
Co-sponsored by Sports Authority and Mudshark Brewery – how’s that for an artful contradiction? – this 3.17-mile obstacle course through ET Motorpark in Mesa invites participants to be as dirty as they want. The $69 race fee includes one of those Mudsharks. survivormudrun.com

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Out Of Towners

COME MAY, THE FESTIVAL SCENE COOLS OFF A BIT IN THE VALLEY - BUT HEATS UP BIG TIME IN THE HIGH-COUNTRY.

May 6-8
Willcox West fest and Chuck Wagon Cook-off
Willcox
We love the Southern Arizona farm town of Willcox, and we love that this cowboy-chow-a-thon reads like a redneck version of comedian Bill Hader’s “club reporter” schtick on Saturday Night Live: “It’s got everything: chuck wagon meals, ranch rodeos, blacksmith demonstrations, Buffalo Soldiers, ropings, quilt displays and cowboy church.” But no “human pylons.” Free admission. willcoxchamber.com

May 14
Kingman Wine and Food Festival
Kingman
Not traditionally known as a foodie hot spot, the Route 66 town of Kingman has labored to improve its culinary standing with this annual showcase of Arizona wines and local bites. Past pourers include Sonoita Vineyards and Page Springs Cellars. So stop by on your way to Vegas. $20. kingmanwinefestival.com

May 14
Payson Wildlife Fair
Payson
Rattlesnakes, Gila monsters and alligators, oh my! Introduce your young’uns to the wonders of Arizona wildlife – and other, out-of-state beasties – at this cooperative event between the Arizona Game and Fish Department and a variety of conservation groups. Parents and kids can fish, play games and score close-up encounters with the fauna. Free. paysonparks.com

May 28-30
Wyatt Earp Days
Tombstone
The historic outlaw town of Tombstone is undeterred by the accidental live-round shootings of an actor and bystander during an OK Corral gunfight reenactment late last year – as they say in the Old West tourism business, “the mock-shootouts must go on.” So after a brief moratorium on gunfight skits and the meting out of criminal charges, the shows are back. And so is this annual street-fair featuring bad guy/good guy skits, a chili cook-off and everybody’s favorite family pastime, “hangings.” tombstonechamber.com

photos by Johnny Jaffe; Tilted Earth Wine and Music Festival in CottonwoodJune 16-18
Tilted Earth Wine and Music Festival
Cottonwood
Founder Eric Glomski – he of Page Springs Cellars and Arizona Stronghold – kicked it up a notch in 2015 by booking folk-jam heavy-hitters Rusted Root to headline his Verde Valley wine-and-music soirée. The 2016 headliner was still under wraps as this issue went to press, but Glomski and his team promise an even bigger draw. And the wine, of course, is always a blockbuster, with winemaker dinners leading up to the show and a who’s-who of Arizona labels at the event itself. Cost TBD. tiltedearthfestival.com

700 bottles of wine were poured at the 2015 Tilted Earth Festival.

June 18
Flagstaff Blues and Brews Festival
Flagstaff
Valley juke-joint regulars Bob Corritore, Sugar Thieves and Hoodoo Casters have all played this funky high-country event during its short, four-year existence, and the formula is exquisite: delicious craft beer accompanied by quality blues-rock. Local favorites Bad Water, Borderlands and Desert Eagle will all be pouring.
Cost TBD. flagstaffblues.com

FEST•I•MONIAL
Marshall Trimble
AZ Historian
Arizona’s official historian pegs the Annual Gary Hardt Memorial Rodeo in Payson (May 18-20, paysonprorodeo.com) as his favorite. “I never met a rodeo I didn’t like, and you can’t beat a rodeo in the beautiful Rim Country.”

photo by Madison Kirkman; OutWest Balloon Festival and Fun RunIT'S NOT SPRING WITHOUT...
Hot-Air Balloons
Out West Balloon Fest and Fun Run on March 4-6
Fifty spectacular hot-air balloons will fill the sky above University of Phoenix Stadium during the day; at night, the same balloons will illuminate food vendors, live music and craft beverage tastings on the stadium’s great lawn. Think of them as enormous wish lanterns. Tickets cost $4-$15.  PHOENIX magazine is an official sponsor. outwestballoonfest.com

Fiesta Bowl Rugby & Balloon Classic on April 23
The Fiesta Bowl will be four months in the books by the time late April rolls around, but the promotional fun continues at Scottsdale Stadium with a rugby match between ASU and the Mexican national team, and after-match “balloon glow” event featuring a flotilla of colorful hot-air balloons – including a pair shaped like Darth Vader and Yoda. Adults, $12; children 12 and younger free. therugbybowl.com

Cave Creek Balloon Festival on May 28
Up, up and away in a beauti... actually, no. But just because the hot-air balloons remain responsibly tethered to the Earth at this nighttime event doesn’t mean they won’t take your breath away. Standing sentinel over a play area of live music and food trucks, the fired-up balloons turn Rancho Manana Golf Club into a “magical field of glowing splendor,” according to organizers. Adults, $10; kids, $5. cavecreekfestivals.com

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2016 Cactus League

Arizona Diamondbacks
The D-backs stunned the sports world by giving free agent Zack Greinke (MLB-best 1.66 ERA) the biggest contract in baseball (six years, $206.5 million), then traded for Atlanta’s Shelby Miller for a 1-2 punch atop the rotation. With Paul Goldschmidt in his prime, the D-backs have gone all-in for 2016.
Salt River Fields
7555 N. Pima Rd., Scottsdale
480-270-5000, saltriverfields.com

Chicago Cubs
The emergence of Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta (MLB-best 22 wins, second-best 1.77 ERA) and Rookie of the Year Kris Bryant propelled the Cubs into the NLCS for the first time in 12 years. Expectations are even higher this season, especially after signing free-agent outfielder Jason Heyward away from rival St. Louis.
Sloan Park
2330 W. Rio Salado Pkwy.
480-668-0500, sloanpark.com

Chicago White Sox
Last season’s major acquisitions – Melky Cabrera, Adam LaRoche and Jeff Samardzija – all flopped en route to a third straight losing season, but the Sox likely found their cleanup hitter by trading for Reds third baseman Todd Frazier. They’ll cross their fingers Cabrera and LaRoche rebound.
Camelback Ranch
10710 W. Camelback Rd., Glendale,
623-302-5000, camelbackranchbaseball.com

Cincinnati Reds
A five-alarm fire sale started with midseason trades of pitchers Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake, and continued with winter deals involving All Star Home Run Derby winner Todd Frazier and 103-mph reliever Aroldis Chapman. The Reds now are stocked with prospects, portending a long season in the loaded NL Central.
Goodyear Ballpark
1933 S. Ballpark Way, Goodyear
623-882-3120, goodyearbp.com

Cleveland Indians
Despite a sluggish start last season, the Tribe surprised many by contending for a wild-card spot, buoyed by a trio of the AL’s best young pitchers in Corey Kluber, Danny Salazar and Chris Carrasco. Unfortunately there are few reinforcements coming in 2016 from one of the lowest payrolls in baseball.
Goodyear Ballpark
1933 S. Ballpark Way, Goodyear
623-882-3120, goodyearbp.com

Colorado Rockies
Despite one of baseball’s best young power hitters in Nolan Arenado (MLB-best 130 RBI, third-best 42 HRs), the Rockies finished in last place for the third time in four years. The rebuilding started last July with the trade of franchise icon Troy Tulowitzki, making way for rookie phenom Brendan Rodgers at shortstop.
Camelback Ranch
10710 W. Camelback Rd., Glendale
623-302-5000, camelbackranchbaseball.com

Kansas City Royals
The World Series champs smashed the piggy bank to re-sign face-of-the-franchise outfielder Alex Gordon to a 4-year, $72 million deal, the largest in team history. Then they ponied up a surprising $70 million for up-and-down Ian Kennedy, hoping he can fill the shoes of departed ace Johnny Cueto.
Surprise Stadium
15930 N. Bullard Ave., Surprise
623-222-2000, surpriseaz.gov

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Despite remaining in contention until the final game of the season, the Angels have a number of lineup questions for 2016, including catcher, second and third base, and left field. Mike Trout (41 HRs) and Albert Pujols (40) provide plenty of offensive punch, but it drops off quickly after those two.
Tempe Diablo Stadium
2200 W. Alameda Dr., Tempe
480-350-5265, camelbackranchbaseball.com

Los Angeles Dodgers
The expensive and declining – Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier, Chase Utley, Yasiel Puig – greatly outnumber the up and coming – Corey Seager, Joc Pedersen – on baseball’s most expensive roster. New manager Dave Roberts will hope incoming arms Scott Kazmir and Kenta Maeda can replace Zack Greinke.
Camelback Ranch
10710 W. Camelback Rd., Glendale
623-302-5000, camelbackranchbaseball.com

Milwaukee Brewers
Like the Reds, the Brewers began their rebuilding effort midseason by trading Aramis Ramirez, Gerardo Parra, Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers. Slugger Ryan Braun, catcher Jonathan Lucroy and closer Francisco Rodriguez likely are next. Shortstop Orlando Arcia, pitcher Jorge Lopez and other prospects should see plenty of big-league action.
Maryvale Baseball Park
3600 N. 51st Ave., Phoenix
602-534-6449, phoenix.gov

Oakland Athletics
A slew of questionable trades prior to last spring resulted in a last-place finish, leading many to wonder if GM Billy Beane has lost his Midas touch. Sonny Gray (third in AL Cy Young voting) was the only A’s pitcher to win more than seven games. Josh Reddick led an anemic offense with 20 HRs and 77 RBI.
HoHoKam Stadium
1235 N. Center St., Mesa
480-644-4451, hohokamstadium.com

San Diego Padres
Pricey additions James Shields, Matt Kemp, Justin Upton and Craig Kimbrel were supposed to lead the Padres to the playoffs. Instead, they finished fourth in the NL West. So Upton is gone and the others are being shopped, making it look like a long season for ex-D-backs coach Andy Green in his first managerial job.
Peoria Sports Complex
16101 N. 83rd Ave., Peoria
623-773-8700, peoriasportscomplex.com

San Francisco Giants
After winning the last three even-year World Series, the Giants made three big free-agent acquisitions to challenge for another in 2016. Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija will bolster the rotation behind Madison Bumgarner, and .300-hitting Denard Span will bat leadoff and fill a gaping hole in center field.
Scottsdale Stadium
7408 E. Osborn Rd., Scottsdale,
480-312-2586, scottsdaleaz.gov

Seattle Mariners
New GM Jerry Dipoto and rookie manager Scott Servais have plenty of challenges after a disappointing 2015. The heart of the lineup – Kyle Seager, Nelson Cruz (44 HRs, 2nd-most in majors) and Robinson Cano – returns, as does ace Felix Hernandez (18 wins). But almost every other roster spot is up for grabs.
Peoria Sports Complex
16101 N. 83rd Ave., Peoria
623-773-8700, peoriasportscomplex.com

Texas Rangers
Given up for dead when they lost ace Yu Darvish to Tommy John surgery in spring training, the Rangers were surprise winners of the AL West behind midseason acquisition Cole Hamels (7-1 in 12 starts) and Comeback Player of the Year Prince Fielder. This spring’s focus is finding more starting pitching.
Surprise Stadium
15930 N. Bullard Ave., Surprise
623-222-2000, surpriseaz.gov

TOP 5 CACTUS LEAGUE DRAMAS FOR 2016
The Royals
vs.
the Giants
Who deserves to wear the mantle of this year’s World Series favorite? The Royals are the defending champions after being runners-up in 2014, but the Giants have won the last three Series in even years and appear primed again this year.

Zack Greinke
vs.
the Dodgers
After the pitcher turned down a $155 million offer and instead signed with the rival D-backs, are the Dodgers looking for revenge? Or would they rather not face Greinke, who is 2-0 with a 2.52 ERA in four career starts against L.A.?

Jeff Samardzija
vs.
Lorenzo Cain
Last season with the White Sox, Samardzija got into an Opening Day shouting match with Cain after beaning the Royals outfielder. In a rematch three weeks later, both were ejected after targeting each other during a bench-clearing brawl.

GM Jerry Dipoto
vs.
the Angels
The Angels GM’s 18-month feud with manager Mike Scioscia, reportedly over the latter’s refusal to use sabermetrics, led to Dipoto’s midseason resignation July 1. Two months later he was hired as the new GM of the AL West rival Mariners.

The Cubs
vs.
the Billy Goat
Jon Lester won only 11 games and no regular hit above .278, but the Cubs still reached last season’s NLCS. Is this the year they finally get to the World Series and end the Curse of the Capra supposedly placed on them 70 years ago?

2016 Cactus League Schedule

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