Fort Verde Days celebrated its 60th year as downtown Camp Verde’s feature event last weekend, Friday through Sunday, Oct. 13 through 15.
A celebration of the town’s culture and history that focuses on the military influence of Fort Verde, the event featured daily programming including a carnival, beer garden, Camp Verde High School’s art fair, a Pinewood Derby race, the craft fair and free entry to the Fort Verde State Historic Park.
Throughout the weekend, the park featured its own programming, including a flag-raising and lowering ceremony, living history presentations with the Buffalo Soldiers and Indian Wars period re-enactors, special presentations, a fashion show, cavalry drills and a vintage base ball game.
Friday featured live entertainment from Sweet Baby Ray’s Blue Smoke and Emanant Day, as well as the first round of the cash-prize corn hole competition.
Camp Verde Community Library hosted a showing of “Kingdom of the Spiders.” Traditionally the most heavily trafficked day of the event, Saturday started off with a pancake breakfast hosted by the Camp Verde Kiwanis Club followed by the Camp Verde Lions Club’s car show.
During the Jail-a-Thon, community members “arrested” friends and got to see them locked into three mock jails on the parade ground. By 10 a.m., the crowds gathered to watch the Fort Verde Days Parade, led by parade master Fort Verde State Historic Park Manager Sheila Stubler.
Sunday, typically the lowest day, was christened “Hispanic Amigo Sunday” and featured a homemade salsa contest, piñata games, a stick horse race and presentations by the recently founded Camp Verde Boy Scout Troop 7193.
Pack Leader Joann Miller surveyed the Pinewood Derby exhibition and touted her group of 12 boys, who are learning the ropes — or maybe the rails is more appropriate — of the Boy Scouts.
“We’ve just started our program here, so now’s the time to join,” Miller said, adding that interested families can stop by the weekly meetings at the Community Center and Gymnasium on Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m. The Boy Scouts of America welcomes boys in the first through fifth grades.
In the gymnasium, the craft fair attracted event goers the entire weekend, keeping up a brisk trade on Saturday and Sunday. Debbie Boring, one of the weekend’s most popular crafters, sat behind her table of crocheted items. In her third year at Fort Verde Days, she has already garnered local media exposure from her googly-eyed stuffed corn figures.
This time around, the dinosaurs are proving popular. “It’s been fantastic,” Boring said. “I like the fact that it brings people out, and not just people from Camp Verde.” One such person from outside the area, food vendor Edward Maldonado of Santana’s Black Label Gourmet Foods, came up from the Phoenix area.
It’s his and co-owner Louis Santana’s second year at the event. “We’ve appreciated the reception,” Maldonado said, handing out samples of atypically seasoned beef jerky and craft juices.“People are open to our product. We’ve done really good business this weekend.”
Not everyone was so happy, however — including the event’s organizer, Nikki Miller of Camp Verde Promotions. At the helm of the event for nine years, she said she has never experienced the intersection of two major events that so impacted attendance.
“The school system didn’t help us out at all because they planned homecoming on Friday night,” Miller said, adding that business on Friday was slower than usual as a result. “That wasn’t cool and it wasn’t cool with the vendors [but] we had a great turnout on Saturday.”
CVHS did not put on its traditional homecoming parade due to the presence of vendors coming into town Friday