Legendary Flagstaff philanthropist Frances McAllister fell in love with Flagstaff in 1935 while traveling by train from Los Angeles to New York. In the 1990s, when she was making a case to local leaders about the need for Heritage Square, a civic centerpiece that defines the downtown and brings people together, her face lit up as she announced, “Flagstaff is a festival.”

Almost every non-profit educational, science and art organization in town has received support in one form or another from this woman who founded The Arboretum at Flagstaff and had a deep respect and appreciation for the environment, knowledge and community. Through her generosity and influence, Frances created opportunities for celebration and discovery.

Thus, her spirit lives on as the season of festivals flows into fall with the crisp mountain air.

Pickin’ in the Pines, Sept. 13-15

The 14th annual Pickin’ in the Pines bluegrass and acoustic music festival features three lively days of traditional and contemporary music, workshops, dances and a band contest in the mountain meadow ambiance of the Pepsi Amphitheater at Fort Tuthill County Park. Scheduled artists include Sam Bush, Del McCoury and David Grisman, Sierra Hull and Blue Highway.

“I feel fortunate that when it’s time to play, no matter how I feel physically or mentally, once the downbeat starts, my mind goes to a place that’s all music. The joy of the music comes to me and overtakes me sometimes – I just become part of the music,” said Bush, whose personal description of the impact of bluegrass could well be used to express the kinetic atmosphere of the festival.

Camping and jamming are also a big part of the Pickin’ in the Pines experience. Tickets for the family-friendly event range from $45 to $75, with three-day passes available for $130. For more information, visit pickininthepines.org.

Big Pine Comedy Festival, Sept. 18-22

This five-day celebration of the arts presented by The Orpheum Theater features more than 50 nationally known comedians including Tony Baker, Jim Breuer, Jackie Fabulous, Jay Jurden and Jamie Kennedy. Shows include stand-up performances, improv, musical comedy and podcasts. Big Pine also offers workshops, seminars, panels and children’s programming.

Tickets are $20, or $70 for a weekend pass. For the full schedule or to purchase tickets online, visit bigpinecomedyfestival.org.


Flagstaff Festival of Science, Sept. 20-29

Before Neil Armstrong took “one small step” on the Moon, he first made many small steps all over Northern Arizona. Recognizing that all the astronauts who walked on the Moon trained here first, the Flagstaff Festival of Science is celebrating Flagstaff’s Lunar Legacy with a year-round lecture series and its annual 10-day event.

Apollo 16 astronaut General Charlie Duke launches the free festival To the Moon and Beyond in the W. L. Gore & Associates Keynote Presentation scheduled for 7 p.m., Friday, Sept. 20, in Northern Arizona University’s Ardrey Auditorium. Tickets are free, but seating is limited. To ensure a seat, pick up or call for tickets ahead of time through the NAU Central Ticket Office (nau.edu/cto; 928-523-5661). The event also will be streamed live via YouTube: YouTube.com/c/flagstafffestivalofscience.

Other highlights include Science in the Park, NAU Science and Engineering Day, the Fantastic Voyage, SCI Talks, star parties, weather balloon launches, hands-on workshops, field trips, guided hikes and open houses at research stations, observatories, museums, national monuments and parks. Some events are limited on space and require reservations.

“The Flagstaff Festival of Science is a gift the community gives itself,” said Flagstaff Mayor Coral Evans. “I am so grateful to live in a place where science discovery and innovation are embraced and put on center stage. Bravo to the Festival volunteers who have steadfastly taken a leadership role in science education and mentored other communities to do the same.”

The festival is celebrating 30 years as the longest-running event of its kind in the Western Hemisphere. For the full program more, visit scifest.org.

Flagstaff Star Party, Sept. 26-28

The Flagstaff Dark Skies Coalition invites residents and visitors to meet the stars under Flagstaff’s famous dark skies at Buffalo Park. Local astronomers say Flagstaff is the world leader of dark skies protection and the promotion of awareness, appreciation and awe of a clear view into the universe.

This free, family-friendly celebration marks the sixth annual Flagstaff Star Party featuring naked eye and telescopic star gazing and planetary exploration, including 30 telescopes hosted by amateur and professional astronomers; sunset and dark sky presentations by local scientists; “Music Under the Stars,” by the Dark Skies String Quartet; coaching on binocular and telescope use; and hands-on workshops about using your own telescope and night sky photography.

“The inspiration of star-filled night skies and the need for protection of dark skies from light pollution is well understood and widely celebrated by the Flagstaff community,” said Star Party Steering Committee Member Chris Luginbuhl, a retired U.S. Naval Observatory astronomer. “There is no other star party with views as clear and accessible as this one. In no other city of this size can you see the Milky Way so clearly.”

The party begins at 6 p.m. each night. Those interested in catching Sunset Talks on Thursday and Friday and the premier performance of the Dark Skies String Quartet on Saturday should plan to arrive by 5:30 p.m. to allow enough time to walk into the park.

Registration and a small fee are required for workshops. For the program calendar and to register for workshops, visit flagstaffstarparty.org.

Flagstaff Oktoberfest, Oct. 5

Dust off that Lederhosen and get ready for food, drink, music and merriment at Wheeler Park. Favorite contests are promised and more than 6,000 attendees are expected to liven up the downtown, along with food vendors and a beer garden. Featured musicians include the Thirsty Five, Polka Katzan, Dreadknot and The Mike Reeves Band.

The Flagstaff Oktoberfest will be benefiting Feeding Northern Arizona’s Future, a local non-profit organization that helps provide meals for local kids when school food programs are not available, such as weekends and summer break.

The event runs from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tickets are $10 online and $15 at the gate. Kids 12 and under are free. For more information, visit flagstaffoktoberfest.com. FBN

By Bonnie Stevens, FBN

Flagstaff arts and science events are supported by generous sponsors along with the City of Flagstaff/BBB Revenues and Flagstaff Arts Council. For a list of events, visit Flagstaff365.com