YUMA, ARIZONA - It's that time of year again! As the chill sets in to the north, folks in Yuma are enjoying cool evenings and fresh mornings in the world's sunniest destination. So what are you waiting for? Make your travel plans now around one of our favorite annual events:
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.
El Toro Bowl, Dec. 1 (Veterans Memorial Stadium, AWC) - Leading junior college football teams clash in this post-season game sponsored by Alexander Automotive Group, while fans enjoy a weekend of festivities in the Yuma sunshine. 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," the parade features marching bands, equestrian units 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 and the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area, more info, www.visityuma.com, 800-293-0071 or928-783-0071.
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.
Silver Spur Rodeo, Feb. 8-10 (Yuma County Fairgrounds) - The Yuma Jaycees have proudly presented this unique American sport for the last 66 years. This PRCA-sanctioned rodeo draws top riders from around the Turquoise Circuit and beyond. In addition to the rodeo, there's a parade Saturday morning and dances Friday and Saturday nights. More info,www.yumajaycees.org, 928-344-5451.
Yuma Square Dance Festival, Feb. 8-10 (Yuma Civic Center) - A long-time Yuma tradition, this event brings dancers from throughout the Western states for down-home dancin' with callers and cuers from around the region. More info,www.ysrda.weebly.com, 928-782-0844.
Yuma Crossing Day / Redondo Days, Feb. 9 (Historic North End) - It was the Colorado River and the natural crossing here in Yuma that brought this area to life and shaped its history. This Celebrate Yuma's rich heritage with historic re-enactments, a fiesta and the reunion of one of Arizona's leading pioneer families. More info, 928-782-1841.
Yuma River Daze, Feb. 15-17 (Historic North End) - This family-friendly arts and crafts festival is a great opportunity to discover downtown diversity. More info, 928-373-5028.
Midnight at the Oasis, March 1-3 (Ray Kroc Baseball Complex) - The Southwest's premier classic car and nostalgia festival! Featuring 1,000 classic cars, this festival also offers a smorgasbord of regional food from local nonprofits, vendors from all around the West, rides for the kids, oldies rock-and-roll concerts Friday and Saturday night - and to kick things off, a classic car cruise. More info, www.midnightattheoasis.net, 928-343-1715.
Yuma Lettuce Days, March 9-10 (Yuma Quartermaster Depot State Historic Park) - Arizona has long been known for citrus and cotton - but the fertile lands here at the Colorado River's delta are lush and green all winter, serving as the nation's salad bowl. This event celebrates Yuma's booming agriculture industry with a culinary flair, with celebrity chefs, cooking demonstrations and more. More info,www.yumalettucedays.com, 800-293-0071.
Marine Corps Air Station Yuma 50th Annual Air Show, March 9 (MCAS Yuma) - MCAS Yuma, the busiest air station in the Corps, traces its roots to the earliest days of aviation in Arizona. This is one of the largest air shows in the Southwest, drawing more than 40,000 people annually to view military and civilian aircraft on the ground and aloft. More info, www.yumaairshow.com, 928-269-3327.
Yuma County Fair, April 2-7 (Yuma County Fairgrounds) - With its agricultural traditions and small-town feel, Yuma is the perfect place to take in an old-fashioned county fair with fair food, rides, entertainment, animals and exhibits. More info, www.yumafair.com or 928-726-4420.
Yuma Birding & Nature Festival, April 18-20 (various locations) -- Because of its location along the Colorado River flyway, and its unique mix of desert, mountain and riparian habitat, the Yuma area is home - or vacation spot - to more than 400 species of birds. This festival sponsored by Yuma Visitors Bureau is a great introduction to the diverse outdoor adventures available throughout the area. More info, www.yumabirding.com, 928-376-0100.
ARTbeat 6, April 20 (Yuma Art Center, Historic Downtown) - This will be the sixth year for this free, juried show that's been recognized as one of Arizona's outstanding arts events. Enjoy an eclectic mix of recognized and emerging local, regional and international artists working in a wide variety of media. More info,www.yumaaz.gov/4745.htm, 373-5202.
Yuma Film Festival, April 20 (Yuma Art Center, Historic Downtown - Just in its second year, the Yuma Film Festival is a juried exhibition of student and independent filmmaker's work that showcases a wide range of film projects. More info, www.yumafilmfestival.com
Sound like a full calendar? These events are just a taste of all that's fun in the sun in Yuma this year. Get updated info any time at www.yumacalendar.orgor sign up to receive a free weekly events e-newsletter at our website,www.visityuma.com.