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Arizona Celebrates

Celebrations throughout Arizona

The Copper Chopper is the official vehicle of the Arizona Centennial.

​​As the last state in the continental U.S. to turn 100, Arizona put on an unforgettable show. The Arizona Centennial Commission created dozens of signature events to enjoy as part of the Arizona Centennial Commemoration, and a mascot—the Centennial Copper Chopper—as uncommon as the state.

But beyond the Centennial celebrations, Arizona honors the people, land, and heritage that make it unique with annual events and festivals. Some proclaim our history, some nurture our culture and build tools for the future. They all help our communities thrive. A small sample of Arizona’s trademark festivals are listed below.

Cultural Festivals

Explore events throughout the state with the Celebrations Map.

World Championship Hoop Dance Contest

The Heard Museum in Phoenix hosts this worldwide competition of the American Indian tradition of hoop dancing. Dances feature extremely intricate footwork, colorful hoops and costumes, and of course, the grace and balance required to dance with four to 50 moving hoops. Men and women compete on an equal field in intertribal hoop dance, where individuals bring the nuances of their cultures to the traditionally accepted dance.

Navajo Nation Fair

Held in the capital of the Navajo Nation, this annual event is considered the premier American Indian fair. National and international guests gather to attend the inter-tribal powwow or to explore Navajo culture. In addition to rides, 4-H events, and horticulture competitions, the fair boasts the largest American Indian rodeo, traditional Navajo song and dance, fry bread competitions, an Apache dance festival, gourd dancing, hot air balloons, a wild horse race, and more.

Cowgirl Up

For the past six years in March, the Cowgirl Up month-long exposition of women Western artists brings some of the best Western art in the nation to Wickenburg, AZ.

Annual Junior Parada

Ride into Florence for the oldest sanctioned youth rodeo in the U.S. Ropers and riders ages five to 18 show their skills in one of the oldest rodeo venues. Drill team performances and pee wee games are part of the fun, in addition to the showcase of rodeo events which draw competitors from throughout the Southwest.

Waila Festival

Founded in 1989, the annual waila festival now fills the Bear Down field at the University of Arizona in Tucson. For two days in late May, musicians play late into the evenings while revelers dance, counterclockwise, to waila polkas and cumbias played by Tohono O’odham musicians. The festival encourages the artistic development of waila music and musicians. The main purpose of the event, however, is to share the Tohono O’odham culture with the public. Learn more about waila music.

Dia de los Muertos

Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, celebrations occur in communities throughout Arizona on November 1 & 2. This manifestation of a 3,000 year old Aztec tradition that remembers departed loved ones is popular throughout Latin America and is becoming widely embraced throughout the southwest. The All Souls Procession through downtown Tucson enjoys thousands of participants, and numerous cities in the Valley (including Chandler, Mesa, and Phoenix) stage parades and cultural celebrations on the first two days of November.

Museum of Northern Arizona Heritage Program Festivals

From May to October, the Museum of Northern Arizona hosts festivals dedicated to exploring the colors, tastes, and sounds of native cultures and early settlers of the Colorado Plateau. With help from the Arizona Commission on the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, Flagstaff Cultural Partners, and the City of Flagstaff, these festivals reveal both ancient traditions and contemporary lifestyles of Zuni (in May), Hopi (in July), and Navajo Indians (in August). Gain insight on how these cultures are keeping their heritage alive in a rapidly changing world. An October event explores the tradition of the Dia de los Muertos.

Historic Hurrahs

Mining Competitions

Arizona celebrates its mining roots with several annual contests held in small towns throughout the state. Bisbee’s 4th of July mucking and drilling contest and the Apache Leap Mining Festival near Superior (held in March) pay homage to the pre-machinery days with hand mucking and hand drilling competitions. Wickenberg’s Gold Rush Days mucking contest challenges entrants to use machine-operated muckers.

Hi Jolly Daze Parade

Every January, a quirky marriage of culture and history in Quartzite commemorates one of the nation’s stranger military ventures, the short lived Military Camel Corps. A parade through town remembers Hi Jolly, the Americanized moniker for camel caretaker Hadji Ali, who came out west as the overseer of 77 camels and died in Quartzsite in 1902.

Prescott Frontier Days (aka the World’s Oldest Rodeo)

The world’s oldest rodeo started in Prescott in 1888. Today the tradition continues every June with broncs, bulls, cowboys, and clowns.

Food Fiestas

Salsa Fest

Salsa lovers near and far arrive in Safford to savor the sights, flavors, and smells of one of Arizona favorite festivals! The main course is the Salsa Challenge, where amateur and professional chefs turn up the heat in a fiery competition to create what may just be some of the world’s best salsa. This event showcases the great flavors of the Arizona Salsa Trail, which stretches through several towns throughout Graham County.

Wine Festivals

Wine tastings are a great way to support one of Arizona’s burgeoning industries and to experience a unique taste of Arizona. Festivals with music, food, and, of course, wine, are held in all three of Arizona’s viticultural regions: the Verde Valley, Willcox, and Sonoita.

Yuma Lettuce Days

What better way to celebrate being the nation’s winter vegetable basket than to sample the products? The recipient of a Governor’s Tourism Award as the state’s best special event, Lettuce Days offers a true taste of the season with celebrity chefs, cooking demonstrations, tasting events by local restaurants, and even a farmer’s market. Held on the grounds of the Yuma Quartermaster Depot State Historic Park, this event is a great showcase of Yuma.

Educational Expos

Tucson Festival of Books

The Tucson Festival of Books celebrates the written word with three days of book readings, workshops, author discussions, panels, and more. This free public festival is the 4th largest Book Festival in the Country!

Yuma Air Show

For over 50 years, the Yuma Air Show has dazzled audiences with high-velocity feats of aerospace acrobatics. 20,000 spectators gather at the Marine Corps Air Station Yuma for a full day of high flying performances by squadrons, stunt pilots, and historic aircraft.

Nature Fests

Birding Festivals

Numerous bird migration routes make Arizona a popular destination for birders. Numerous festivals throughout the year provide wildlife education and unique field trips to amazing destinations for birdwatchers. Locations include the Verde, San Pedro, Gila, Salt, and Agua Fria Rivers. See the Birding page for a complete list of bird festivals.

River Rides

All along Arizona’s “West Coast,” the Colorado River sets the stage for races, floats, and pleasure cruises. Learn about just a few of these festival opportunities on the Water Fun page.

Ruben Hernandez explains the traditions and origins of Dia de los Muertos.

Since 1982, worldwide masters of the mariachi community have gathered for the Tucson International Mariachi Conference. The event is now acknowledged as an internationally important proponent of the mariachi tradition.

Barrel racing in Prescott.

A 4th of July hand drilling contest in Bisbee commemorates early miners and their methods.

Visitors throughout the state enjoy the fresh flavors of the Salsa Fest.

Excellent chefs showcase local produce at Yuma Lettuce Days.