Chandler’s Annual Ostrich Festival
Now, what can I tell you?
And, must it be true?
I saw it, I say
And, really, yes really,
It was on my way.
It seems there is something for everyone here. In the center of my new hometown, Chandler, it was right on my way uptown, downtown, hither and yon. Tourists, snowbirds, visitors, families, veterans, teens and tweens come one, come all. There is an attraction, ride, game or food booth for everyone among the eclectic mix of 40 concessions, 100 vendors, carnival, food alley, animals and bits of history.
The Annual Ostrich Festival is a throwback to old-fashioned community carnivals and promised fun for the entire family with amusement rides, music, and animal rides and exhibits. One would anticipate this set up in a small town, but not really in a city of about 300,000 nestled in a metro region of 4.5 million. But, there it was. Close to home. Smack dab in central Chandler.
Off to the Races
I was eager to see the ostrich races. How often are we able to see such a thing and how much fun it must be. The races did not disappoint. The ostriches racing in each heat had been fitted with little saddles and each had a jockey astride. The beasts were as curious about the spectators as we were about them. After the race, they cruised nearby ready for handouts, or rings or bracelets or whatever. Most amusing. Just curious though, one concession offered ostrich meat in various forms.
A few camels, ponies and other animals were available at the races and a special petting zoo. Camel and pony rides were part of the festivities.
Chandler has grown into a technology corridor in the southern part of the Phoenix metro area. But, it wasn’t always so. I lived in Phoenix metro 25 years ago and Chandler was mostly small ranches, citrus groves, and cotton fields. Dr. Chandler bought this land and was devoted to agriculture and innovative irrigation projects. But, he also had an ostrich ranch as they could tolerate the valley heat and there was, at the time, a market for their beautiful feathers. Frugality following WWI and then the Great Depression ended most of that. Today, popular women’s ensembles are not overly adorned.
This festival usually attracts about 100,000 throughout its weekend run. No longer popular for decoration on ladies hats, the birds still attract abundant attention from young and old alike. They are goofy and silly looking birds, they don’t fly and they can be just a bit aggressive. Their powerful legs can be quite hazardous if they kick. Bright shiny objects say, jewelry dangling from a wrist, will certainly attract attention from the birds.
But, doggone it. Everyone just loves the ostriches.
Now, the festival itself is another thing. The concession stands might seem a bit overpriced but many nonprofit organizations in town supply volunteer in exchange for a share of the profits so participating, as a volunteer or a customer, is good for the community.
Over the years, the organizers have linked to school running teams and other community wellness groups. They bring in top talent as entertainment and stage an annual parade through town that features floats, many dancers, equestrian exhibitors and more old-fashioned troupes. A classic car exhibit has also become linked to the festival.
I enjoyed the Public Safety Fair which included the sponsored Paw Patrol and Sherlock Gnomes and the Trolls. Clever, indeed. Plenty of emergency crews were on hand representing Chandler’s public health and safety community.
New this year: a “Turbo” ride that I did NOT try as it involved a 70-mph heartstopping (at least it would’ve mine) spin at the end of a 120-foot “arm.” Not no, but ______ no, as they say.
We all need a Jolly Roger for something
Admission price includes access to the entertainment but, of course, different entertainers are scheduled all three evenings. As you might imagine with 100,000 people trying to get there, parking can be an issue depending on the weather and when you choose to go. It’s an extra $5 to park in the adjacent field.
Already in March, the weather was dry and the exhibit areas dusty. There was no special provision for the disabled that I could easily find and I saw a few hearty souls attempting to use wheelchairs and scooters over field areas of uneven terrain and dry grass. The paths were easier. There was little enough shade near the entertainment venues and bringing your own lawn chair might be helpful.