Each year, the Arizona International Film Festival collects features and shorts from all over the world, repping nations including Canada, Mexico, the Netherlands, Taiwan, and the United States. During the course of 17 days, the festival screens more than 100 films in categories such as Feature Narrative, Comedy Short, Feature Documentary, and Experimental Short. The festival also hosts special programs such as Cine Sin Fronteras, which examines border issues, and IndieYouth, a collection of films made by filmmakers young enough to not remember when documentaries were primarily just overhead projections of the week’s rainfall statistics.
For the 12th year, the nonprofit Desert Bluegrass Association gathers the finest pickers and song spinners of the Great Southwest for the Desert Bluegrass Festival, an annual celebration under the wide-open skies of AVA Amphitheater. The Thomas Porter & Copper River Band kick off the Saturday-evening schedule at 7 p.m. with old-fashioned tunes suitable for boxcar hopping and pie cooling, followed by The Kickin Grass Band's powerful harmonies, hard-driving instruments, and lyrics that stir tears from tumbleweeds. Grammy-nominated bluegrass powerhouse Blue Highway polishes off the night at 8:30 p.m., treating music fans and the rising moon to award-winning Dobros, mandolins, and lush vocal tapestries.
Armed with only their courage, adventurers work their way through darkened alleys of corn, the path lit by nothing more than a curtain of stars above. But they're not alone. Through this maze lurk crazed doctors, hungry zombies, and grisly artifacts of murder and mayhem––an army of bloodthirsty terrors standing between groups of unwilling victims and the exit.
Not all the stalks at Buckelew Farms are haunted, however. Those who escape the Terror in the Corn unscathed can relax their nerves and test their navigational skills in the flashlight maze, where groups survey the darkness to find 12 different checkpoints that offer up clues to the maze. The casual-paced attraction offers up a challenge similar to a classic scavenger hunt, but without the creepy neighbors. Both mazes make a great ending to a day at the farm's 24th Annual Pumpkin Festival, where guests enjoy a lively collection of fall pastimes. Tractors tow carts of hay and families to pumpkin fields to pick out an ideal jack-o'-lantern candidate, and a smattering of colorful tents house arts and crafts activities, children’s games, and a petting zoo full of friendly beasts waiting to be pet, fed, and stealthily adopted. The farm will also be hosting a Great Pumpkin 5K race on October 14, during which participants chart a course through the farm and parts of the corn maze in order to win prizes and raise funds for the University of Arizona Medical Center Departments of Surgery and Neurology.
Situated in a pristine 745-acre country club complete with an intimate outdoor-concert venue, The Good Life Festival concert series showcases legendary performers alongside boutique shopping, wine tastings, fine dining, and more. Best known for the hits "American Woman" and "These Eyes," Canadian classic-rockers The Guess Who will energize eardrums at 4 p.m. Three Dog Night will grace the stage at 6 p.m., breezing through the band's 12 gold records and 21 consecutive top-40 hits—seven of which have become European national anthems—including "Joy to the World" and "Mama Told Me Not to Come." When the festival opens at noon, shopping sages can peruse booths displaying clothing, custom furniture, fine cigars, and more, and culinary connoisseurs can sample tempting gourmet tidbits while partaking in more than a dozen varieties of wine.
Specially extended into November for Groupon customers, Schnepf Farms' popularPumpkin and Chili Party elicits smiles from children and adults with fall-themed activities including a hayride, 4- and 10-acre corn mazes, and bonfires for roasting marshmallows. Energetic animals greet guests in the petting zoo, and prized swine vie for the praises of spectators during pig races, and a roller coaster and flying-farmer ride sling adventure-seekers and hapless scarecrows into the air. After exploring an expanse of gourds in the pumpkin patch and U-pick garden, twosomes and foursomes can dive into chicken and chili dinners (not included with today's Groupon) or rearrange faces into jack-o-lantern–shaped poses.
It begins with a flurry of activity. Balloon operators prepare for lift-off, checking equipment and tossing ropes as spectators wander the grounds, observing the action. And then it reaches a new level: dozens of balloons take flight at once, filling the crisp December dawn sky with brilliant blues, purples, oranges, and reds that rival the colors around them. The Arizona Balloon Classic's orbs then set off on an aerial hare-and-hound race, drawing cheers from below as onlookers snap pictures.
For one weekend each year, visitors gather on the grounds to snap pictures and watch the balloons inflate and lift-off outside the Gilbert Civic Center for the Classic––a three-day festival celebrating hot-air balloon flight and culture. But the fun doesn't end with the descent to earth. After sunset the tethered balloons begin to glow, lighting up for the DESERT GLOWS portion of the festivities. Attendees browse exhibits and feast on treats from a variety of vendors, and children play in the Family Fun Zone. Last, on Saturday evening, sparks give balloons a run for their money, springing through the sky in a stunning fireworks display.