10/15/2012 9:05:00 AM Round up the gang for Verde Valley Fall Festival
The Verde Valley Fall Festival brought 8,000 to the jackpot Ranch last year. Organizers hope to double, triple even quadruple that number to the tree-day event this year.
Jackpot Ranch: Itís all about giving back
By Steve Ayers
Jackpot Ranch owner Gary Shuster grew up in Canada in what can only be described as abject poverty.
A new pair of shoes happened only once in his lifetime. Potato soup was the daily meal except for the occasional chicken dinner.
Then one day, when he was 8 years old, an anonymous person paid Shuster's way to a weeklong summer camp.
There he was exposed to a world he never dreamed of. The gray veil of poverty was lifted and in its place was sunshine and laughter, fishing trips and canoe rides.
For the first time in his life he had his own bed, not one to be shared by his seven brothers and sister.
The experience changed his life in ways only someone who has endured such disadvantages could appreciate. He decided then and there to do what ever it took to pass on the simple joy he had experienced to others, like himself, who would not otherwise have the same opportunity.
At 73 years old, Shuster remains a kid at heart, preferring the company of children to any other. But that first love never stopped him from making his way in an adult world.
Over the years he made good living from an electronics company he founded and the associated patents he helped develop.
Ten years ago, he began his quest in earnest to fulfill his child hood promise to return the favor that changed his life.
He eventually hit the jackpot when he purchased the 72-acre Medicine Man Ranch off Middle Verde Road, on the border of the Yavapai-Apache Reservation in Camp Verde.
Since then he has opened its gates to thousands of disadvantaged children, providing a place where they can come and leave their troubled world behind.
Shuster, his wife Sharon and his staff at Jackpot Ranch are currently partnered with over 20 non-profits, most of which provide services to at-risk children, to allow those organizations to provide their kids a week or two of camp.
The Verde Valley Fall Festival remains an event in the making, one that organizer Deb Allenbaugh hopes will one day take its place among the great festivals that bring to all the Verde Valley has to offer.
Last year, its first year, it drew 8,000 participants. The hope this year is to double, triple or even quadruple that.
The festival will take place on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 19-21 at the Jackpot Ranch off Middle Verde Road.
The idea of having a fall festival sprang from Jackpot Ranch owner Gary Shuster's desire to call attention to the beauty of the facility, specifically, while calling attention to the beauty of the Verde Valley in general.
"We liked what was happening at Young's Farm in Dewey, where kids and adults could go to have a good time. The idea started with pumpkins and hayrides and it has evolve from there," says Allenbaugh
Now in its second year, Allenbaugh says she wants it to "go big or go home."
"We want, like Young's Farm once was, to become a household name throughout the state. And we think this is the kind of event that will do that," she says.
This year's Verde Valley Fall Festival has something for everyone. There will, of course, be hayrides and pumpkins. But there will also be wine tasting, music, dancing, a beer garden attended by the Coors Girls, a carnival with a midway full of games and over 100 vendors.
The Sedona Humane Society will have a pet parade on Saturday and, along with several animal rescue groups, offer pet adoptions.
There will be a live auction and a silent auction. Among the items on the block is a backstage meet-and-greet with rocker/actor/director Bret Michaels.
Food will be provided by Reds Restaurant in Sedona, Johnny Rockets at Cliff Castle and Babe's Roundup in Camp Verde.
"We want to promote the Verde Valley as much as draw attention to Jackpot Ranch and what we do here. So we have local wines, local musicians, even local pumpkins," says Allenbaugh.
Admission is free. Tickets for the carnival and midway are $20 in advance (see Website) and $30 at the festival.
Proceeds from the auctions will go to the ranch's youth at risk programs.
Jackpot Ranch is located at 2025 Reservation Lop road. Parking is limited, but a free shuttle is being offered courtesy of Cliff Castle Casino, from the parking lot below the casino.
A complete list of activities and tickets for the carnival are available at www.verdevalleyfallfestival.com.
If You Go...
What: Verde Valley Fall Festival
Where: Jackpot Ranch, 2025 Reservation Loop Rd.
When: Oct 19-21
How Much: Free admission. Carnival and midway $20 advance (see website). $30 at the festival
Directions: Turn west off I-17 at exit 289, follow Middle Verde Rd. 1.5 miles, then turn left on Reservation Loop Road