Camp Verde’s annual Pecan and Wine Festival returns to celebrate its 21st birthday, as well as a plethora of local pecan growers and wineries.
The Verde Valley Wine Consortium and the town of Camp Verde will co-host the free event from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, March 19, and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, March 20, in Downtown Camp Verde.
The two-day festival will feature 13 Arizona wineries along with a variety of pecans for pairing, a competitive pecan pie contest, Budweiser beer garden, food trucks and more than 70 local artisans.
The Pecan and Wine Festival, sponsored by Yavapai College and Larry Green Chevrolet, honors the area’s two “prime tourism draws,” explains Michael Marshall, Camp Verde parks and recreation manager.
“What makes it worthwhile for myself, and for the rest of us, is lots of people come and have a good time — that’s what we want. That’s a vague description and not something we can quantify,” Marshall says. “The numbers are great and it’s nice to be bigger, better and faster, but a lot of people are having a good time and that’s what we want to see.”
Local wineries will showcase their newest releases by the glass, bottle and case, Marshalls says. Guests can sample the wines, meet the winemakers and purchase bottles to take home.
Participating wineries include 1764 Vineyards, Alcantara Vineyards, Arizona Stronghold Vineyards, Bodega Pierce, Clear Creek Vineyards, Cove Mesa Vineyard, Da Vines Vineyard, High Lonesome Vineyard, Heart Wood Cellars, Page Springs Cellars, Salt Mine Wine, Southwest Wine Center and Winery 101.
“Our mission is to provide diverse recreation opportunities, and events are part of that diversity,” Marshall says. “Not everyone wants to play a sport and not everyone is a youth, so other events are part of the options we offer for the public. We think it’s important that we keep it free so that people can attend — the mere price of walking through the gate isn’t difficult for people.”
A mixed bag of performers will hit the stage during the festival, such as the Salt Miners, Scott Marshall and the Free Radicals, Chicago Bob and the Blues Squad with Garry Segal, Steve Willis with Roger Smith and Dr. Robert Sellani, the Swamp Poets and Friends, Peaceful Outlaws, Big Daddy D and the Dynamites, and Charles “Cros” Mac.
New to this year’s festival is a free children’s activity area featuring a Children’s Art Exhibit and Puppet Theatre sponsored by Glorybound Publishing. The Verde Valley Blues and Roots Review, a collaboration with the Northern Arizona Blues Alliance, will also take the main stage.
“We want to provide opportunities for local community groups to have a place where they can get the word out and fundraise to make money or for whatever product they sell,” he says. “We want to have a large number of vendors and a very diverse group of vendors. We want to have something for everyone.”
But those aren’t the only festival changes attendees can expect, he continues.
Additional COVID-19 safety precautions, such as socially distanced vendors and enhanced cleaning and sanitizing of all public areas, will be implemented to ensure a safe and fun experience for all, Marshall says.
Face masks will also be encouraged.
“We’ve instituted some improvements from the past and made some changes with COVID,” Marshall explains. “Some of the changes we’ve made with COVID and with the vendors — we like it better than before. One of the things we did is we have additional hand-washing stations on the event field and not just in the bathrooms. It’s silly we weren’t doing something like that before.”
Restrooms, staff areas, wine tasting tables, work tables and all public seating will be sanitized.
Stricter social distancing guidelines also allow for more breathing room for the vendors and attendees, Marshall says.
“We spaced out our vendors quite a bit more, and we’ve come up with a couple of different arrangements based on wanting to increase social distancing outside,” he says. “It increases the sales space available for each vendor and makes it easier for the public to see where things are and move around. That’s something that isn’t going away.”
The festival is part of the parks and recreation division’s larger effort to offer diverse, affordable and safe ways for the community to connect and celebrate the area.
“The reason we do these events is to provide an opportunity for residents and visitors to come to events,” Marshall explains. “We’re not making money. The proposition for us is it’s part of our recreation opportunities for people. So, that does make a difference to some of the decisions we make. One of the big decisions is they’re all free events.
“In general, our big thing is that people are happy and are enjoying whatever we’re providing for them.”
Annual Camp Verde Pecan & Wine Festival
WHEN: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, March 19, and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, March 20
WHERE: Downtown Camp Verde, 75 E. Hollamon Street
COST: Free. Wine tasting tickets, which include a commemorative wine glass and six wine tasting tickets, are $20 online. They’re $25 at the door.
INFO: cvaz.org, verdevalleywine.org