It seems an odd thing for a city to base a yearly festival around an awkward-looking flightless bird taller than most men. And if Dr. A.J. Chandler had decided to import, say, tortoises instead of ostriches back in 1914 … well, the races would be a lot slower, that’s for sure.
But Chandler decided on ostriches, driving them across the Valley of the Sun to a 200-bird pen west of the San Marcos Golf Course, where they provided feathers for fashionable hats, leather for boots and meat and eggs for culinary pursuits.
Nearly a century later, visitors to this weekend’s Chandler Ostrich Festival at Tumbleweed Park have the opportunity to peruse the same feathers, leather, meat and eggs — in component pieces, or on the living thing.
Here, a few facts to help you bone up on the bird. The 19th annual Chandler Ostrich Festival will run 4 p.m. to midnight today, 10 a.m. to midnight Saturday, noon to 11 p.m. Sunday at Tumbleweed Park, McQueen and Germann roads. Admission: $7 adults, $6 seniors, $5 kids ages 6-12. All-day carnival ride passes are $25 at the gate. Some highlights:
• “Balloon glows” featuring grounded, lighted hot-air balloons will be 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. Friday and Saturday in the bowl area near the main stage.
• Watch balloonists take off for a race across the East Valley 7 a.m. Sunday at Tumbleweed Park. (They’ll land miles away and drive back, so don’t wait around for the return.)
Ostrich races will be 5 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the ostrich track. Download a map of the grounds at www.getoutaz.com/ostrich.
The parade through downtown Chandler will begin 10 a.m. Saturday at Arizona Avenue and Ray Road, and will continue south to Chicago Street.
Music and shows
Festival admission gets you into concerts by an “American Idol” alumnus, an ’80s superstar and a Houston-based norteño group (and their proteges). The main stage will host large-name acts: Josh Gracin at 8:30 p.m. Friday; Rick Springfield at 8:30 p.m. Saturday; Los Palominos at 4:30 p.m. Sunday; La Mafia at 6:30 p.m. Sunday.The community stage will feature everything from steel drum bands to local dance and cheer squads. A complete schedule of acts is at www.getoutaz.com/ostrich.
Dog agility challenge
These aren’t your ordinary pooches: Dogs will compete in agility, flying disc and hurdle races during qualifying events and competition each day in the Western Regional competition of the 10th annual Purina Incredible Dog Challenge. Bring your pet to the open qualifiers Friday afternoon to compete for a spot in Saturday’s events.