All That Fall Has to Offer

Festivals come in a variety of guises


October is a sigh of relief after a strenuous summer here in our vicinity. So it’s no wonder citizens of this special piece of Earth are so adept at finding ways to celebrate the beginning of fall. Here are four festivals that will make you love going outside again.

Kicking things off with big fat style is the Original Phoenix Greek Festival (Oct. 7–9), held annually at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Community Center in Phoenix. “Believe me when I say there is no better Greek food in town than at our festival,” says Sandy Meris, a spokeswoman for the festival. “I was born into the Greek Orthodox faith and have been involved in this festival for my whole life,” she says, if you perhaps think she’s just tooting her own horn. And when Meris describes the food at the festival, you’re apt to believe her. From usual suspects, such as gyros, lamb on a spit, and lemon chicken, to classics made new, like baklava sundaes dripping with honey and pistachios, the selection sounds unique.

“Come for the food, stay for the dancers,” Meris says. Traditional dances are performed every hour by nationally award-winning troupes to the sounds of Greek folk music. History is also on display through tours of Holy Trinity Cathedral, with its Byzantine stained glass and Southwestern setting, which perfectly encapsulates this East-meets-West celebration of culture.

If you are looking for more old-fashioned Americana, check out Railfair at McCormick-Stillman Railroad Museum (Oct. 8–9) in Scottsdale. Along with the locomotive rides and model train display the museum is known for, Railfair gives families a rare peak at the park’s seldom seen vintage railroad equipment. And free tours of the Roald Amundsen Pullman Car and Scottsdale Railroad Museum.

Railroads have deep roots in our vicinity, but even deeper run the roots of Hispanic culture. David Tyga co-founded the Arizona Taco Festival at Salt River Fields (Oct. 15–16) in Scottsdale with Rick Phillips seven years ago, and so began the world’s first taco festival, born right here in our vicinity. “The first question friends and family from out of town always asked me was, ‘Where’s the best tacos?’ So we decided to hold a taco contest and find out,” remembers Tyga.

Along with fifty different vendors, ranging from big chains to mom-and-pop food trucks selling tacos for $2, the festival offers much more. “Rick and I come from a marketing background, so we’ve always thought of the festival as selling a lifestyle — the beach to the barrio,” says Tyga. Live music, tequila tastings and a Chihuahua beauty pageant complete the package.

As the month comes to a close and the days grow shorter, the mood is set for Haunted Hotel Ball at the Saguaro Hotel (Oct. 28–29) in Scottsdale. Owner and founder Christian Banach held the original ball in Chicago in 2009 because, he says, “the only thing for adults to do on Halloween was to go to a nightclub that had a few cobwebs strung around and that’s it.” When his parents moved to Phoenix, he remembers visiting them and finding the same lack of any real Halloween experience.

The first Haunted Hotel Ball in Arizona was at Valley Ho in 2010, but when Banach wanted to expand the event from one to two, as well as create more diverse areas to drink and dance, he partnered up with Saguaro.

The idea is, once a year, ghosts from the hotel’s past take over for the weekend. Guests are invited to come party down with the ghouls. The party is held in three rooms, each with its own theme. The lobby, where guests enter, is known as the Great Hall and is manned by a short-tempered bell-hop — in this case, an actual little person. Once inside, the Grand Ballroom is under the supervision of vampires, and party-goers revel to the wee hours. VIP guests have access to the downstairs Boiler Room, with a separate DJ and bar. A preferred rate on a hotel room at the Saguaro is offered the ball’s attendees.

From the ancient Greeks to the ghosts of Scottsdale, October is packed with what makes our vicinity a great place to enjoy the changing season.

The Festival Calendar

The Original Phoenix Greek Festival

Fri., Oct. 7: 5:00p – 10:00p
Sat. Oct. 8: 11:00a – 10:00p
Sun., Oct. 9: 11:00a – 8:00p

Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Community Center
1973 E. Maryland Ave., Phoenix

Railfair Model Train Expo

Sat. & Sun., Oct. 8 & 9: 10:00a – 5:00p

McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park
7301 E. Indian Bend Rd., Scottsdale

Arizona Taco Festival

Sat. & Sun., Oct. 15 & 16: 11:00a – 7:00p

Salt River Fields
7555 N. Pima Rd., Scottsdale

Haunted Hotel Ball at the Saguaro

Fri., Oct. 28: Opening Party, 9:00p – 2:00a
Sat., Oct. 29: Pool Party, Noon – 6:00p
Main Event, 9:00p – 2:00a

The Saguaro Hotel
4000 N. Drinkwater Blvd., Scottsdale

And More … Outside Our Vicinity

MacDonald’s Ranch Pumpkin Festival

Oct. 1 – 30: 9:00a – 5:00p
On Halloween: 9:00a – 1:00p
Closed Tuesdays

Go for the Arizona-grown pumpkins, stay for the old-school Western games like Duck Races and Conk the Crow, along with a shooting gallery and pedal cars. Kids can experience ranch life in the petting zoo and an authentic hayride (pulled by horses and mules) while parents get to feast on barbeque and even learn to pan for gold at the gem mine.

MacDonald’s Ranch
26540 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale

Día de los Muertos Celebration

Sat., Oct. 29 – Mon., Oct. 31
10:00a – 5:00p

Two-day, family-oriented festival uses music, dance and storytelling to explore the beauty and meaning of this special holiday. Enjoy entertainment and browsing the Mercado filled with art, jewelry and other wares; for the children, crafts and face-painting.

Desert Botanical Garden
1201 N. Galvin Pkwy., Phoenix

Scottsdale Fall Festival

Sat., Oct. 29: 5:00p – 8:00p

A spooky evening for the whole family. Festivities include pumpkin carving, fireworks, more than 25 game booths and 10 bounce houses. Three different costume contests are also being held: kids, families and dogs will be judged on cuteness, scariness and creativity. Fireworks and a haunted pumpkin patch complete the evening, making the festival a great way to celebrate the season and enjoy the cool weather.

Eldorado Park
2301 N. Miller Rd., Scottsdale


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