When boxes of grapefruit labeled “free” start to appear on sidewalks and the scent of orange blossoms wafts through the air, it can only mean one thing: It’s high season in Phoenix. And with it comes the usual panic over how to jam in the most fun in a short window of weather heaven. Don’t stress. We’re here to help with this deep-dive events guide.
Original photography by Ryleeann Buss & Steve Craft
Food & DrInk
Barbeque & Beer Festival
Hosted by 102.5 KNIX, this fest is like your neighbor’s backyard barbecue party, only much bigger. Nearly two-dozen pit masters work the grills – roasting, searing, sizzling – while brewers tap kegs in the craft-beer gardens and country music stars (Lee Brice is this year’s top-billed act) headline the stage. Tumbleweed Park, 745 E. Germann Rd., Chandler, forty8live.com/chandlerbbq
Rib Fest Throwdown
Bragging rights are at stake at this event that pits two smoked-meat styles against each other: Texas versus Kansas City. As Phoenicians, we don’t have a horse in this race, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy KC’s iconic charred pork ends or the Lone Star State’s classic mesquite- and pecan-wood hints of flavor. Mark Coronado Park at Surprise Stadium, 15850 N. Bullard Ave., Surprise, forty8live.com/bbqthrowdown
We Speak French (Fries)
Whether crunchy or chewy, curled into snackable spirals or flattened into a waffle shape, one thing is clear: French fries are a near-perfect food, delightful on their own and an ideal vessel for all manner of condiments. The FRIED French Fry & Music Festival (April 9) honors the almighty fry by inviting food trucks to serve up sample-size iterations. Here’s a sneak preview:
Traditional poutine fries from The American Poutine Co
Hand-cut fries drenched in savory beef gravy are capped with mounds of cheese curds made by Tempe’s Milk ’n’ More.
Tzikii fries from Tzikii Grill
Slow-roasted, thinly sliced lamb tops fries smothered with jalapeño-spiced nacho cheese, fresh pico de gallo and homemade Tzikii sauce.
Jerk chicken fries from Island Boyz Jerk Spot
Thick chunks of potatoes doused in cheese are base camp for red, green and yellow peppers, crisp cabbage and blackened on the outside, juicy on the inside jerk chicken. Yum!
Pulled pork fries from French Me
An eight-hour smoke and a sweet and spicy dry rub bring big flavor to succulent pork, nicely cooled with tangy coleslaw.
If You Go
When: April 9
How much: $12 admission. Food and drink cost extra.
Where: Hance Park, 1202 N. Third St., Phoenix
Taking on Tiki
At her day job as co-owner and beverage director of Pigtails Cocktail Concepts and Rough Rider, mixologist Kyla Hein goes by her given name. But when she’s shaking up cocktails at Arizona Tiki Oasis (April 28-May 1, Hotel Valley Ho, 6850 E. Main St., Scottsdale, aztikioasis.com), she goes by her tiki alter ego, Desert Dame of Drams.
“The world of tiki is so immersive,” Hein says. “It’s not stuffy or pretentious, and the drinks are fun to make. Tiki is where it all started for me as a bartender.”
According to Hein, the key to a good tiki cocktail is fresh citrus. Anything else and the drink is too acidic. Here’s her must-have list for the at-home tiki enthusiast:
1. Passion fruit, for its sweet tanginess. Buy one at the grocery and turn it into a syrup or a shrub.
2. Honey, because it brightens the flavor of pineapple, a common tiki fruit.
3. Orgeat syrup, an almond-derived sweetener that’s a must for Mai Tais and other tiki drinks.
4. Falernum, a clear, rum-based liqueur that adds delicacy and depth.
5. Smugglers Cove, the guidebook to the cult of tiki, complete with colorful photos, thrilling stories and drink recipes.
Sports & Fitness
During Phoenix Raceway’s NASCAR Weekend, three series take the starting line: the Cup, Xfinity and ARCA Menards. Sure, you can feel the rush from the stands, but the Infield Experience not only gives you a peek inside racecar garages and an invite to driver Q&As, but also a chance to watch the action from the pit. Hot tip: Bring earplugs. 7602 Jimmie Johnson Dr., Avondale, phoenixraceway.com/march
Arizona Dragon Boat Festival
Paddle crews from all over the world celebrate the ancient Chinese sport of dragon boat racing at Tempe Town Lake. See the elegant boats – outfitted with a dragon’s head in front and a tail at the back – glide through the water to the “heartbeat” cadence of each boat’s drummer, a sort-of captain who directs the paddlers with a rhythmic drumbeat. 550 E. Tempe Town Lake, azdba.org/festival-2022
Arizona Cardinals safety Pat Tillman was as beloved for his athletic feats as he was for his off-the-field legacy. Most notably, leaving the NFL to enlist in the U.S. Army after September 11. Tragically, Tillman was killed in action. To honor him, his family established the Pat Tillman Foundation and its signature fundraiser, Pat’s Run, a 4.2-mile run/walk that concludes on the 42-yard line of Sun Devil Stadium to honor No. 42, Tillman’s Sun Devils jersey number. 500 E. Veterans Way, Tempe,
Rodeo Roundup & Fashion Guide
Arizona’s cowboy culture keeps rodeo season going strong year-round, from the summer ropin’ at the World’s Oldest Continuous Rodeo in Payson or the World’s Oldest Rodeo in Prescott to the White Mountain Apache Tribal Fair & Rodeo in the fall.
In Phoenix, spring brings us several ways to get a little dust on our boots:
Cave Creek Rodeo Days
Cave Creek Rodeo Days (March 19-27, Cave Creek Memorial Arena, 37201 N. 28th St., Cave Creek, cavecreekrodeo.com) kicks off with a parade and a dance party at Buffalo Chip Saloon & Steakhouse followed by a week of Pro Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) events like steer wrestling and barrel racing.
Another PRCA-sanctioned event, Rodeo Scottsdale (March 10-13, WestWorld, 16500-16526 N. 94th St., Scottsdale, rodeoscottsdale.com) offers traditional rodeo performances – team roping, bull riding – plus entertainment by the official PRCA rodeo clown.
Queen Creek Roots ’n’ Boots
Queen Creek’s Roots ’n’ Boots (March 17-20, Horseshoe Park & Equestrian Centre, 20464 E. Riggs Rd., rootsnboots.org) takes the rodeo up a notch by offering carnival rides, an antique tractor show and, our favorite, the equine meet-and-greet.
But what to wear?
You can’t just show up to the rodeo sporting lululemon yoga pants or other resort-casual Phoenix fashion standbys. That’s why we spoke with Alyssa Michne of Roots ’n’ Boots to get her sartorial suggestions on rodeo style.
Dress ’em up with a flowy skirt or keep it relaxed with boot-cut jeans.
Cowboy hat & button-up shirt for gentlemen
Don’t be afraid of a pattern or some embellishments on that shirt, boys.
Charlie 1 horse hat & cowhide purse for the ladies
Or find a faux version of the purse in a daring cross-body style.
Your best pair of starched jeans
“Fashionably distressed” designer jeans have no place here. The stiffer and bluer, the better.
Anything with fringe
Whether they line a jacket or hang from the waist like a hula skirt, tassels rock.
Arts & Music
Arizona Fine Art Expo
Through March 27
Admiring a finished work of art is one thing. Witnessing the evolution from blank canvas to completed masterpiece? Priceless. At this expo, wander 124 mini studios where esteemed artists mold, paint, sculpt, carve, chisel and draw artworks – all for sale – in a variety of media. 26540 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale, arizonafineartexpo.com
From the folks who bring us Phoenix First Fridays comes this month-long arts extravaganza. Around the state, venues host live shows, galleries fling open their doors to the public and streets morph into arts and culture hubs. The best part? No art form is off limits, from dance to food to fashion. Statewide, artdetour.com
Melrose Street Fair
Maybe you’ve hit up the Melrose District to impulse-buy a midcentury lamp at Modern on Melrose or for trivia night at Thunderbird Lounge. Both worthy reasons to visit this patch of Seventh Avenue between Indian School and Camelback roads. But if you need another, then it’s this bustling event featuring food trucks, live music, a farmers market and the handiwork of more than 200 local artisans. melrosemerchantsassociation.com
Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair & Market
As one of the largest American Indian art markets in the world, this event, now in its 64th year, showcases the works of 600 Native artists from 116 tribes in North America. Plus: artist meet-and-greets, cultural performances and Native dances. 2301 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, heard.org
Tempe Festival of the Arts
This event rounds up 350 jury-selected artists from more than 500 entrants and plunks them down on a Tempe street to display original works. Stroll slowly to take it all in, then head to Chalk-A-Lot, a newish addition to the fest that features 12 colorful, ephemeral chalk murals on the Fourth Street pavement. Mill Ave. between Third St. and University, and Fifth St. between Myrtle and Ash, tempefestivalofthearts.com
Perhaps the draw to this country-music festival is Blake Shelton headlining the star-studded lineup. Or maybe it’s the overnight glamping tents boasting queen beds, fancy showers and AC. But in all likelihood, it’s the chance to party in the middle of absolutely nowhere for three straight days. Western boots (probably not) optional. 20585 E. Water Way,
Anatomy of a Movie Poster
Every year, the Phoenix Film Festival (March 31-April 10, Harkins Scottsdale 101, 7000 E. Mayo Blvd., phoenixfilmfestival.com) taps local artists to design its swag. Inspired by classic movie posters, the art shows up on everything from lanyards and programs to T-shirts, hats and banners. We talked to this year’s designers to find out how to create a memorable movie poster.
Illustrator and graphic designer
“The biggest design challenge was getting the camera head to look right. Not the human figure, not creating the background, but making that thing look like it was positioned right, proportioned right and true to their mascot. I had very limited angles of what it looked like, and I was determined to hand-draw it, so I was cruising on imagination and a prayer.”
“The poster for Scott Pilgrim vs. The World looks like a classic, even though it’s a modern film. I chose a bright red gradient for the background that closely matches the original, then for contrast, I used white for the text and hand-lettered the Phoenix Film Festival title in the same style as the original.”
Lisa Marie Lar
Illustrator and graphic designer
“I wanted people to look at this and immediately pick up that Wes Anderson was the inspiration, even though it’s completely made up and not based off any one poster design. Picking the font was important considering how iconic Anderson’s type is – very modern and clean. I played with several and it took a while before I found some that matched stylistically. In the end, I went with Iconic Futura and a font reminiscent of Moonrise Kingdom.”
Alex Patrick Merrill
“The original poster for John Carpenter’s Escape From New York is chaotic, but only if you really look deep into the details of the bottom half. I wanted to turn up the volume: fire, contrast, more color. Any time I do these posters (I’ve done seven), I try to add my own sense of drama, which can sometimes be hard because many of these images are already so iconic and perfectly designed by artists I admire.”
M3F: The Valley’s Homegrown Festival
A lot changes in 17 years. That’s how long it’s been since M3F, formerly McDowell Mountain Music Festival, first welcomed concert-goers. Then: jam bands, a makeshift stage in a parking lot in North Scottsdale and a sightline to the McDowells. Now: indie and EDM musicians, three stages and skyscrapers replacing mountain views.
M3F Fast Facts
• Takes place March 4-5 at Hance Park in Downtown Phoenix.
• 30 bands will perform on two stages.
• Single-day GA tickets are currently $85.
• The excellent VIP+ ticket ($275) includes a massage and $100 in food/beverage credits.
• Fully nonprofit. The 2020 show raised $600,000 for Valley charities.
If You Go
When: March 4-5
Where: Hance Park, 1200 N. Third St., Phoenix, m3ffest.com
Headliner Trio: Know Them
San Francisco-based deep house sensation. Dubbed the “next Daft Punk.”
British funk-pop party band. Like ABBA and George Clinton had a baby.
Saturday: Leon Bridges
Grammy-nominated R&B singer. Achieved Spotify stardom in 2015 with “Coming Home.”
Q&A: John Largay Founder
Through the years, the festival’s nonprofit focus has never wavered. All proceeds, every single dollar, go to charity. According to M3F founder John Largay, who’s also CEO of Wespac Construction, it was born from a passion to give back and to rock out. We talked to Largay about the hyper-local aspect of M3F, the secret to running a festival and this year’s don’t-miss acts.
Describe the homegrown nature of M3F.
We’re an independent, local festival and I’m lucky to have 100 employees at Wespac who all help make this event happen. When we first started, we adopted three Cs: community, culture, charity. M3F lets us give back, build culture and create community. That’s the reality of what we do, and that matters to us.
How do you run a festival while conducting everyday business?
A festival is similar to a job site. The circus goes in, the circus goes out. As general contractors, we know how to handle the operational side really well. It’s a logistical match to how our brains work.
How do you select bands for M3F?
My son RJ picks the talent. He’s part of the music industry, and he has an ear to the ground on what’s new. The industry changes so quickly, so to think that I, at 62 years old, am qualified to do that… no. RJ starts the process, then gets input from a close group of 10-20 people.
What bands are you looking forward to this year?
Two Feet is a young, talented artist. Jungle is amazing. When Leon Bridges goes on stage, you’ll see me set [sit] up in my chair, totally focused.
True or false: You have a jam-band addiction.
True! That’s where M3F got its start. I’m a fan of the Grateful Dead, and Red Rocks is my favorite jam-band venue. But I keep an open mind. I’ve learned to love different styles of music.
What’s the first thing you do after M3F closes for the weekend?
I drive to Rocky Point, sit on the beach for two days and don’t talk to anybody.
Culture & Community
Phoenix Scottish Games
Calling all clans: This gathering of the Scots is part sporting event, a little pipe and drum concert, a lot of whiskey tasting and a guaranteed tartan fashion show. Should you choose to don a kilt, do your research first; the plaid pattern can represent everything from heraldry to military service. Gilbert Regional Park, 3005 E. Queen Creek Rd., Gilbert, phoenixscottishgames.com
Arizona Aloha Festival
Welcome to a crash course in all things Hawaiian and Polynesian. You could spend two days noshing at the food court, but why miss the chance to hear a Samoan storyteller, learn to play a ukulele, explore kahiko hula or join an outrigger canoe club? Style guide: Pick up your “island wear” at the marketplace. Tempe Beach Park, 80 W. Rio Salado Pkwy., Tempe, azalohafest.org
Chicago Fest West
Quick! Name Windy City stuff! If you said blues music, cold beer and hot dogs with a pickle wedge and sport peppers, then you’re ready for this two-day event toasting our Midwestern sister city. What to wear: a Cubs hat or Blackhawks jersey. Mesa Convention Center, 263 N. Center St., Mesa, chicagofestwest.com
April 30-May 1
Little known fact: The Transgender Pride flag was born right here in Phoenix, designed by activist and U.S. Navy veteran Monica Helms. It flew for the first time in 2000 at the Phoenix Pride Parade. Phoenix Pride also helms the Rainbows Festival, which hosts exhibitors and entertainment honoring our city’s LGBTQ+ community. The fashion vibe is come as you are, so you do you. Heritage Square, 113 N. Sixth St., Phoenix, phoenixpride.org/events/rainbows-festival
Cinco de Mayo Phoenix Festival
Hear the sounds of mariachi and cheers from lucha libre, and breathe in the heady aroma of elote and gorditas. The commemoration of Mexico’s 1862 victory over the French – commonly known as Cinco de Mayo – tops off the sensory experience with amusement rides and folklórico dances. Wear something ruffled and off-the-shoulder. 200 W. Washington St., Phoenix, cincophx.com
We Axed, They Answered
All sorts of medieval skills are on display at the Arizona Renaissance Festival (through April 3, 12601 E. US-60, Gold Canyon, arizona.renfestinfo.com). Not all meet the needs of today’s urban dweller, though. (Looking at you, falconry.) But others, like axe-throwing, have withstood the centuries to become fun pub games. Stephen Brice, an axe-throwing coach at the LumberJaxes (locations in Tempe and Glendale, axethrowingphx.com) offers his expertise for the axe newbie.
Step 1: Grip the handle of the axe with your dominant hand, pinky finger aligned with the bottom and thumb wrapped around the handle. For a two-handed toss, place pinky fingers on the bottom, thumbs crossed at the top.
Step 2: Hold the axe in front of you with the blade straight. Raise the axe to eyebrow level and keep your elbow(s) pointing forward.
Step 3: Take a big lunge forward with the opposite leg from your axe-throwing hand, then release the axe quickly. Make sure your arm(s) are fully extended and your wrist stays straight. Remember: “Power is the enemy,” Brice says. “It’s all about finesse.”
Let Your Geek Flag Fly
The next best thing to San Diego’s Comic-Con? Phoenix Fan Fusion. In fact, it might even be better given that the festival (May 27-29, Phoenix Convention Center, 100 N. Third St., Phoenix, phoenixfanfusion.com) draws the same caliber of actors, authors and comic book characters as Comic-Con, but with better parking and less crowds. Ready to go? Want to fit in? Here’s your unofficial, completely subjective, geek cheat sheet.
The Book of Boba Fett
Lord of the Rings
Comics to know:
New Mutants (Marvel Comics)
Batman/Superman (DC Comics)
The Other History of the DC Universe (DC Comics)
Costumes to wear:
Beginner: Clark Kent. Suit, tie and a white tee underneath with an iron-on Superman emblem. Don’t forget the smart eyewear.
Intermediate: A character from Game of Thrones, Jack Sparrow or an Avenger.
Advanced: Storm Trooper (exact replica of original costume preferred) or a giant Transformer.