Sat, March 28

Verde River Days returns with family fun
No fees to have a good time

One of the most cherished assets of the Verde Valley is the Verde River. The annual Verde River Days at Dead Horse Ranch State Park focuses on promoting preservation and environmental efforts to see that the riparian habitat remains for future generations.

The 18th annual Verde River Days is Saturday, Sept. 30. This popular event is expected to attract approximately 4,000 locals and visitors. Features of the event include environmental exhibits, live animals, canoe and kayak rides geology tours, sandcastle building and more.

Dead Horse Ranch State Park Manager Les Bovee said the biggest change to the event's lineup is a Civil War re-enactment by the Arizona Civil War Council.

"We're really excited about them being here," Bovee said.

The Civil War will be re-enacted at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. around the west lagoon area. There will be another re-enactment on Sunday.

Also new to this year's Verde River Days is a performance by a Verde Valley supergroup, made up of some of the most popular local musicians.

"We have a great lineup this year," Rotary Club vice president Richard Dehnert said.

Along with the Verde Valley All Stars will be familiar names such as Sagebrush Wind, the Cottonwood Community Band, Verde Valley Voices and Cottonwood Roadrunners.

As part of Verde River Days, the local Rotary Club will be hosting its annual Duck Race at Riverfront Park. Members expect to raise $30,000 -- more money than ever before for local scholarships and a number of other Rotary Club projects.

Also, according to a flyer, "on the cool grass of Riverfront Park" that day will be the Verde River Show 'n Glow car show presented by the Veteran Motor Car Club of America Central Arizona Chapter.

Verde River Days began back in 1988 when a handful of Verde Valley residents came up with the idea to increase awareness of how fragile and how important the Verde River is to the valley. Eighty-five percent of all wildlife in the area depends on the river and its riparian habitat.

All fees to Dead Horse Ranch State Park will be waived all day. The event starts at 9 a.m. with an opening ceremony scheduled for 10 a.m. State Representative Tom O'Halleran from the Village of Oak Creek will be the keynote speaker at the opening ceremony.

"We're glad to have him as the keynote speaker because he has brought to the forefront the importance of the Verde River," Bovee said.

The event will run until 3 p.m., but Bovee said the park will remain open for the rest of the day for people who want to remain in the park and enjoy the hiking trails, bird watching and other features the park has to offer. The park closes at sundown.

Nature hikes and geology walks are scheduled for 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. All-day events include a presentation of rebuilt teardrop travel trailers and various other trailers by a local organization called Arizona Roundup, gold panning, a Jaws of Life presentation by the fire department and animal exhibits.

Out of Africa Wildlife Park and Arizona Game and Fish representatives will be on-hand with a wide variety of animals.

But, perhaps a couple of the most popular events include kayaking and canoeing in the east lagoon and Game and Fish's fishing clinic.

The park supplies the kayaks and canoes. Bovee said they are very stable, "so if it's your first time in a kayak or canoe you can feel safe."

However, paddlers will be available to assist if the rider chooses.

Those wishing to participate in the fishing clinic do not need a fishing license for the day. Game and Fish will supply the rods, bait and tackle and will be around to teach, said Bovee.

More than 300 pounds of catfish will be brought in. There is also bass and bluegill in the lagoon.

Roughly 40 exhibitors will be at the event with displays and information. Some of these exhibitors include Yavapai College, Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, Arizona Astronomers, Center for Biological Diversity, Coconino National Forest and more. There will be plenty food vendors as well.

"And we always try to get as many activities as possible for the kids," Bovee added.

These include a rock-climbing wall, sandcastle building and other youth activities.

Event organizers will be selling T-shirts with all proceeds to be used to put together next year's event.

Bovee stressed that, other than food costs and other vendor's available products, this is a completely free event. There is no entry fee and no parking fees.

"It's just a good community event," Bovee said. "They don't have to spend a dime to have a good time."

For more information about Verde River Days, call 634-5283 or visit

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