Sedona: Festive Us

Bottoms up! Red Rocks Oktoberfest happens Oct. 3.

Sure, the weather is ideal in Sedona in October. And this month does feel like the calm before the holiday (read obligation) storm. But those aren’t the real reasons we celebrate October. We celebrate because it’s festival season! Let the party begin.



Big Pine Comedy Festival

Need a laugh? Don’t we all! The inaugural Big Pine Comedy Festival couldn’t come at a better time. The festival takes place Oct. 7-10 at venues in downtown Flagstaff. Ryan Stalder, a Northern Arizona University alumnus (he studied political science) who is currently performing stand-up comedy in Phoenix, is organizing the festival. Ryan says there will be 24 Arizona comics, 24 featured comics and eight sketch and improv groups performing at the festival. Festivalgoers will enjoy traditional comedy as well as themed shows. Ryan put out a call for submissions in June, and by July, he had received 300 applications from as far away as Hawaii, New York and Canada.

“There are no comedy festivals in Arizona,” says Ryan in one of his rare serious moments. “Flagstaff is a great place for a festival. You can spend the entire weekend downtown and never have to drive anywhere. The comics are all staying downtown, too.”

Since this is the first annual event, Ryan says he’s all about putting bodies in seats, which translates to low ticket prices. A four-day festival pass is $25 and includes discounts at local bars and restaurants. Tickets to individual shows are $5. Each show will last 90 minutes and feature eight to nine acts. Some of the shows will be 21 and over, but all will include adult content. “This is not a family festival,” says Ryan.

Performance venues include Weatherford Hotel, Firecreek Coffee Company, The Green Room and WHyld Ass restaurant and coffee shop. Ryan counts himself as one of the festival performers. He says he hopes Big Pine will grow to become one of the premier comedy festivals in the country. “It won’t be long before we have big names knocking on our door,” he says.

Big Pine Comedy Festival
Oct. 7-10 with shows starting at 7 p.m.
$25 all-access passes or $5 for individual shows
Shows at venues in downtown Flagstaff

Dia de los Muertos

“Sedona has really embraced this event,” says Wendy Lippman, managing partner and executive director of Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village. She’s talking about Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, a traditional Mexican holiday that honors family and friends (two legged and four legged) who have passed away. “We started in 2010 in just one courtyard, and the feedback was amazing. Tlaquepaque is so visual, and it lends itself to this visual smorgasbord of an event that honors the dead and celebrates the living.”

Dia de los Muertos takes place Oct. 24 from 2 to 8 p.m., but the festival really gets started on Oct. 20 with the return of the Marigold Mural Project. For the third year there will be a public mural in Tlaquepaque’s Calle Independencia where anyone – artistic or not – can honor a deceased loved one by adding to the painting. The previous years’ murals will also be on display. Local artist Lovejoy, whose art adorns the murals, will be on hand to provide paints and brushes and help get visitors started.

For the main event, Wendy says the hours have been expanded to include daytime performances and children’s activities. In the Mercado, visiting artists will be exhibiting and selling their work (think Day of the Dead-themed paintings). Look for sugar skull and juggling workshops, face painting for kids and adults, ballet folklorico dancers, mariachis and a silk aerial acrobat. At night, enjoy Carnaval de la Musica featuring DiVoM and the Extraordinaires, a jazz ensemble led by pianist and composer David Vincent Mills. The performances include music and The Circus Farm fire dancers, folkloric fusion dancers, jugglers, stilt walkers and aerial artists. “The show has a beginning, a middle and an end,” says Wendy. “It’s a completely original piece from the music to the choreography. David puts it all together. There are many man hours that go into that performance.”

There will also be live music by Eric Miller, Gabriel Romo and Gaetano. For the first time, Dia de los Muertos will  include a face-painting contest for individuals and couples who don Day of the Dead face paint. And of course, there are the ofrendas, colorful altars memorializing those who have passed. This year there will be additional altars dedicated to veterans and cancer victims. The altars, along with all of the decorations for the event, are courtesy of wedding-and-party-planners Events by Showstoppers.

Dia de los Muertos
Oct. 24, 2-8 p.m. (the Marigold Mural Project begins Oct. 20)
Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village, 336 SR 179

Fall Festival of Choirs

Love choral music? Northern Arizona University’s School of Music will once again host its annual Fall Festival of Choirs on Oct. 25 at 3 p.m. at Ardrey Memorial Auditorium. The concert features performances by the Shrine of the Ages Choir, Men’s Chorale, Women’s Chorale, University Singers and the Harold M. Harter Memorial Handbell Choir. There will also be a special performance by the NAU Alumni Choir. The concert marks the opening performance of the season, says Susan Warner, administrative associate for the School of Music.
“We call it an afternoon of entertaining choral repertoire,” says Susan. “We average about 250 performers. NAU has had choirs going all the way back to the 1950s, and we also have festivals in the winter and spring.”

Fall Festival of Choirs
Oct. 25, 3 p.m.
$13 for adults, $10 for seniors, free for NAU students (with ID) and children
Ardrey Memorial Auditorium, 1115 S. Knoles Drive at the NAU campus in Flagstaff

Red Rocks Oktoberfest

In just two short years of existence, Red Rocks Oktoberfest, organized by the Rotary Club of Sedona Red Rocks, has become the place to see and be seen. The festival has outgrown its original Creekside Park location, and for its third annual event it has moved to Posse Grounds Park. The hours have expanded, too. This year’s Oktoberfest happens Oct. 3 from noon to 9 p.m. A $25 ticket will get you a ½-liter beer stein filled with your choice of brew. Additional beer tokens will be available for purchase.

Rick Wesselhoff, one of the event’s organizers, says there will be about 10 different breweries and one wine vendor on-site. Festivalgoers can also expect games, food trucks and live music courtesy of Big Willie and The Polka Meisters. Everyone is encouraged to dress in Oktoberfest attire.

“Everyone loves this event,” says Rick. “First, it’s beer. Second, it’s beer. And third, it’s an event for younger people. We have so many fantastic cultural events in Sedona, but they don’t necessarily appeal to a younger demographic. There are people who travel around for Oktoberfest celebrations – those are the ones with the costumes.”

Oktoberfest is actually a fundraiser for Rotary Club of Sedona Red Rocks. Proceeds benefit area youth programs and scholarship funds. Last year, more than 1,000 people attended Oktoberfest, and Rick says that number should increase this year due to extended hours and a larger location. Park at Posse Grounds Park, West Sedona School or even at St. John Vianney Catholic Community where you can hop on board the free shuttle.

Red Rocks Oktoberfest
Oct. 3, noon to 9 p.m.
Admission is $25; 21 and over only
Posse Grounds Park, 525 Posse Ground Road in West Sedona

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