Arguably Camp Verde's hippest event, the 13th annual Pecan & Wine Festival takes over downtown during Presidents Day Weekend, Feb. 15-17. This year, more than ever before, the event will be joined at the hip to Fort Verde State Historic Park.
The celebration of Verde Valley agriculture draws thousands to sample Arizona wines, try local pecans, enjoy great music, and pick up some new art or antiques.
"The key this year is that the $15 ticket includes admittance to Fort Verde," says organizer Steve Goetting of Verde Entertainments. "We are really encouraging everyone to go to the Fort. There will be wrist bands for the wine fest and a for the fort, so people can come to our event and go to the Fort to watch the vintage baseball came, come back and drink some wine, and go back and see the Buffalo Soldiers, and then come back and do some shopping."
While the Pecan & Wine Festival is Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the events at Fort Verde are only on Saturday and Sunday.
For a few years now, Fort Verde has hosted the Buffalo Soldiers' living history presentations as well as a pecan pie contest in conjunction with the Pecan & Wine Festival. This is the first time the neighboring events have become, in effect, one campus.
"It's a win-win for us," said Park Manager Sheila Stubler. She said the fort started hosting the Buffalo Soldiers (specifically 10th Cavalry, Troop 1) to honor their legacy and the service they provided to the U.S. military. What started as coincidental timing with the Pecan & Wine Festival has now become a tradition.
The pecan pie contest is a more recent addition. Pie entries must be received by Feb. 15. Judging will be Saturday at 1 p.m. after the Dutch oven cooking demo and during the 1880s-style baseball games.
Over at the Community Center, Goetting said there will be 13 wineries and a couple of subsidiaries offering their vintages. That includes Alcantara Vineyard & Winery, Caduceus Cellars, Arizona Stronghold Vineyards, Burning Tree Cellars, Painted Lady, Carlson Creek Vineyard, Kokopelli Winery, Granite Creek Vineyards, Page Springs Cellars, Gallifant Cellars, Oak Creek Vineyards & Winery, Fire Mountain Wines, Javelina Leap Winery and Bitter Creek Winery.
As for the nuts, pecans will be judged Saturday, as well. Area pecan growers need to bring in 40 pecans by Feb. 14 to qualify for the judging. Pecan should be taken to the Camp Verde Parks & Recreation office, 395 S. Main St.
During the festival, there will be pecan cracking and cleaning demonstrations. Pecans in and out of shells and variously flavored pecans will be for sale.
Several bands and performers will provide entertainment for the weekend. That includes Sugar Thieves, Robin Dean Salmon, Mike McReynolds Band, T-Bone and Jeff, Castle Rock, the Crown Dancers, the Chromatics, John Whipple and Vyktoria Pratt Keating.
White Hills Gallery is putting on an art show with the theme "Agriculture," and there will be art for sale in the community gym. There will be dozens of vendors of every kind, from antiques and crafts to baked goods and more throughout the festival.
Over time, the Pecan & Wine Festival has evolved in its scope and appeal. Goetting said a large portion of the attendees are in the demographic that is "younger and a little more urban" than would come to a typical Camp Verde event. Yuppies in Scottsdale usually are not after Depression glass, and a consequence of that is the lowering of the profile of the antiques and collectibles while wine, ag and music get a boost.
Pecan & Wine Festival events will be in and around the community center at Main & Hollamon and in the wine tent. Besides entry to Fort Verde, the $15 ticket will get you five wine-tasting coupons and a commemorative wine glass.
For more information about the festival or to get early tickets, visit the website www.PecanAndWineFestival.com or call Verde Entertainments at (800) 827-1160.
On the other side of Main Street, there will also be a Bazaar Creations Vendor Fair on Saturday at Sweet Grace Emporium, 74 Hollamon St. Call (928) 300-0179.