Arizona’s Summer Celebrations

By: Elena Acoba

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May 1, 2014

Food, culture and the outdoors take center stage during themed festivals and events.

About the author

Elena Acoba

Elena Acoba

Since moving to Tucson in 1988, freelance writer Elena Acoba has enjoyed traveling to the four corners of Arizona. Her favorites spots in her adopted state: the natural wonders and the rich historical sights.

Find out what makes Arizona special. Join in the fun of these seasonal festivals as Arizonans celebrate their rich history, natural beauty and cultural diversity.

Old West 

Prescott and Payson put up good arguments for making their claims about the longevity of their cowboy festivals. But, really, Frontier Days & World’s Oldest Rodeo in Prescott (June 28–30) and Payson’s World’s Oldest Continuous Rodeo (August 18–19) equally provide loads of Wild West fun. Have a raucous time with professional rodeo contests, parades and Western dances. 

Sedona marks National Day of the Cowboy Celebration (July 26) with Wild West gunfight re-enactments and period music, cowboy storytelling, period costumed characters and Western art.

American Indian Culture 

The Museum of Northern Arizona’s Heritage Programs present the ancient and modern music, dress, dance and art of the Zuni (May 24–25), Hopi (July 5–6) and Navajo (August 2–3). They all inhabit the Colorado Plateau, and the museum in Flagstaff dedicates itself to preserving and interpreting the cultures there.

Suvoyuki Day (August 2) in Winslow also celebrates preservation. Hopi dancers, artists and cooks share their culture while tours show off Homolovi State Park, a protected ancient Hopi pueblo near Winslow.

More than 50 Southwest artists and artisans meet with visitors perusing their handmade jewelry, weavings, paintings and prints at the juried Native American Art Festival (June 21–22) in the towns of Pinetop-Lakeside. It’s an artful blend of American Indian history and modern art.

The usual carnival rides and games, concerts and food make up the White Mountain Apache Tribal Fair & Rodeo (August 27–September 1) in Whiteriver and the Navajo Nation Fair (September 1–7) in Window Rock. What makes these events distinctive are the all-Indian rodeos and parades that show off each nation’s traditions and modern life.


While most visitors look down into the Grand Canyon, participants at the Grand Canyon Star Party (June 21–28) cast their eyes skyward for the spectacular celestial show revealed through scopes and explained by astronomers.

Arizona is famous for its variety of native and migratory bird species. Birders can check off many sightings on their list during birding trips organized by the Southwest Wings Festival (July 30–August 2) in Sierra Vista and the Sedona Hummingbird Festival (August 1–3).

Organizers moved the Woodland Wildlife Festival at the White Mountain Nature Center in Pinetop-Lakeside from October to August 30, but the aim is the same: Expose visitors to native raptors, fish, wolves and other animals in live-animal presentations. Many organizations will talk about how to get close to local nature.


The Flagstaff Wine & Food Festival (June 7) is celebrating its fifth anniversary in a big way. Organizers expect to showcase samples from as many as 20 local restaurants, plus local micro-breweries and brew pubs. Local vintners will be among the 30 wineries providing tastings. Also expect cooking and cocktail-mixing demonstrations.

Beer, wine, bands and lots of barbecue bring the community of Williams together for the fun Northern Arizona BBQ Festival (June 13–14). Most of the barbecue teams in the sanctioned contest hail from throughout Arizona, so you can savor some of the flavor of all parts of the Grand Canyon State. Kids’ activities make the event a family affair.

Feel the community pride and spirit of tiny Snowflake – founded in 1878 by Mormon settlers – during Pioneer Days (July 25–26). The activity-packed weekend includes a rodeo, an arts and crafts fair, food, fireworks, a car show, a parade, dances and stage shows.

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