September 7, 2012

By Ann Walker

It’s that time of year again!  As the chill and gray skies set in to the north, folks in Yuma are enjoying cool evenings and fresh mornings in the world’s sunniest destination.

Lots of varied events and annual festivals are just part of what make Yuma a snowbird favorite – along with more than 23,000 RV camping spots in organized parks and hundreds more in dry-camping venues on public lands.

Surrounded by wide-open desert vistas, rugged mountains and three national wildlife refuges, Yuma also offers great boating and fishing on the Colorado River.  Add rich heritage, delicious border cuisine, 16 golf courses and one of the most innovative agritourism programs in the nation, and you’ve got the recipe for Arizona’s most affordable and authentic destination.

So what are you waiting for?  Plan your visit now around one of our favorite annual events:

NOVEMBER

22nd Annual Colorado River Crossing Balloon Festival, Nov. 16-18 (various locations around Yuma) – Three Yuma businesses organized the first Colorado River Crossing Balloon Festival in 1991.  Now sponsored by the Caballeros de Yuma, this invitational festival draws balloonists from as far as England.  The festival usually features flights on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and a “balloon glow” Saturday night. More info, www.caballeros.org, 928-343-1715.

First annual Yuma Medjool Date Festival, Nov. 17 (Historic Downtown Yuma) – Yuma is the world’s leading producer of gourmet Medjool dates -- Yuma Medjools are shipped around the world, even to the Middle East!  Enjoy food, fun, entertainment and a look at modern and antique machinery developed specifically for date cultivation and harvest. More info, 928-373-5028.

DECEMBER

El Toro Bowl, Dec. 1 (Veterans Memorial Stadium, AWC) – The nation’s top junior college football teams clash in this post-season game sponsored by Alexander Automotive Group.  More info, www.eltorobowl.com, 928-343-1715.

Dorothy Young Memorial Electric Light Parade, Dec. 8 (Historic North End) – With the theme of “Welcome to a Yuma Christmas,” this fun family event features marching bands and lots of decorated and illuminated floats. More info, www.visityuma.com, 1-800-293-0071, 928-783-0071. 

Christmas Village, Dec. 15-22 (Yuma Quartermaster Depot State Historic Park) – Our magical Christmas Village includes a sledding hill with real snow and a Heritage Express train ride to explore holiday traditions from the past.  Marvel at thousands of lights and walk-in-sized playhouses with fun activities, along with entertainment, visits with Santa and more.  Presented by Yuma Visitors Bureau, more info, www.visityuma.com, 800-293-0071 or 928-783-0071.

JANUARY

Spirit of Yuma Military Festival, Jan. 11-13 (Historic Downtown Yuma) – With a history dating back to the days of Fort Yuma and the Yuma Quartermaster Depot, Yuma has always been a “military-friendly” town.  This City of Yuma event honors veterans and active-duty service members and celebrates Yuma’s relationship with its modern-day bases, Marine Corps Air Station Yuma and the U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground.  More info, 928-373-5028.

Gathering of the Gunfighters, Jan. 12-13 (Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park) –

Old West re-enactment groups from around the Southwest ride into town for this annual showdown.  But instead of hot lead, what’s flying is fightin’ words – and acting!  Groups are judged on skits and whether their get-ups, gear and firearms are authentic to the 1876-1909 era.  And though they didn’t really have shootouts in the prison, the historic setting adds flavor to the fun.  More info, www.historicyumaprison.com, 928-783-4771.

Yuma Territorial Marathon and Half-Marathon, Jan. 26 (Cocopah Casino & Resort) – This certified, chip-timed race is a good bet for record times because it’s a flat, low-altitude, out-and-back course – and January weather in Yuma is usually sunny but cool.  Avoid the crowds, run in Yuma – and qualify for Boston!  More info, www.yumamarathon.com, 928-343-1715.

Civil War Days, Jan. 26-27 (Yuma Quartermaster Depot State Historic Park) – True, there were no Civil War battles waged here – but the Quartermaster Depot was an active (Union) Army post and a strategic point of defense because of the river crossing and trails to California.  Authentic re-enactment groups converge for an old-school encampment and mock battles on the grassy grounds of the park.  More info, www.yumaheritage.com, 928-373-5198.

Ann Walker is a writer for the Yuma Visitors Bureau.  You can reach her at ann@visityuma.com or 928-376-0100.

September 7, 2012

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