While northern Arizona is home to many festivals throughout the year, the month of February tends to be a little slower, with much of the region’s tourism dollars coming from out-of-towners looking to ski and play in the snow.
There are a few exceptions to this rule, however.
Arizona Beer Week, for example, kicks off statewide on Thursday, offering a great reason to explore all the potent potables on tap in northern Arizona. In addition to the plethora of Flagstaff craft beer producers featured (Beaver Street Brewery, Mother Road Brewing Co., Lumberyard Brewing Co., Wanderlust Brewing Co., Grand Canyon Brewing + Distillery, Dark Sky Brewing Co., and Flagstaff Brewing Company), there’s also Relic Road in Winslow, Camp Verde Brewing in Camp Verde, plus Sedona Beer Company and Oak Creek Brewery in Sedona.
Speaking of Sedona, its 29th annual International Film Festival will begin on Saturday. In addition to screenings of films at multiple venues, the festival features free workshops on documentary filmmaking, screenwriting, sound in film and directing.
February also brings us the fourth annual I Heart Pluto Festival, offering three days of celebration for the dwarf planet, first discovered in Flagstaff 93 years ago. Put on by Lowell Observatory, the festival is truly a community collaboration, with restaurants, bars, artists, and more participating.
Flagstaff is often called the “Home of Pluto” because nearly every major research effort surrounding Pluto has ties to northern Arizona. Percival Lowell spent years searching for a ninth planet (which he called Planet X). Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto at Lowell Observatory on February 18, 1930, and another Lowell astronomer, Jim Christy, detected Pluto’s largest moon, Charon, in 1978.
Highlights of the festival include a “Night of Discovery” at The Orpheum Theater starting at 6 pm on Saturday, Feb. 18. The program will feature a keynote address by NASA astronaut, aquanaut, space artist and author Nicole Stott, who will share her stories of exploring space. Stott served as the flight engineer on the International Space Station, and as a mission specialist on the Space Shuttle.
Earlier in the day at 12:30 pm, there will be a special dedication of the Tombaugh Telescope, the 9-inch instrument that Tombaugh hand-assembled in 1928 from scraps around his families farm in Burdette, Kansas. The drawings that Tombaugh made with this telescope led to his being hired at Lowell Observatory; within a year, and using a much larger instrument, Tombaugh would discover Pluto.
On Sunday and Monday, there will be family-friendly activities all day long at Lowell Observatory, including science demonstrations and talks, tours, live music, a scavenger hunt, and livestreamed presentations on the latest news from the dwarf planet.
For those of you who like to combine festivals (and would like a side order of beer with your astronomy), there will be a pre-festival Pluto Pub Crawl starting at 6 pm on February 17 in Historic Downtown Flagstaff, which coincides nicely with Arizona Beer Week. In fact, Mother Road Brewing Company will unveil a limited edition beer brewed specifically for the festival that night.
Details on all these event and more can be found on the festival website.
In addition to shining a spotlight on our robust astronomy and research sectors, the I Heart Pluto celebration makes it clear that although Pluto is billions of miles away, it’s home on Earth is right here in northern Arizona.
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