The town of Marana has worked hard to create and improve its signature events. The newest of these events is the Cotton Festival, which joins the Fourth of July Star Spangled Spectacular and the Holiday Festival in providing free, family entertainment to the residents of Marana.
This year’s festival is Oct. 10, and the town is already trying to top last year’s event.
“This is going to be a great family event, and we would encourage everyone to come out,” said Marana Town Manager Gilbert Davidson.
The Cotton Festival is held at Marana Heritage Park and is intended to celebrate a number of aspects of the town and the surrounding area. First and foremost, it shines a light and highlights Marana’s agricultural past and present.
“The cotton festival is just a celebration of fall and Marana,” said Marana Special Events Coordinator Monique Meza. “It is a chance for the community come out and celebrate the culture and heritage and it also celebrates the season.”
The festival will have something for everyone. Those who like to eat will have a number of options. Those who love to cook, can choose to shop at Farmer’s Market, which is being hosted by the Marana Farm Co-op. Vendors from all over the area will be on hand selling fresh, locally grown produce and other goods. Those wanting to eat at the festival will have wide variety of food trucks to choose from. There was so much interest from area food trucks that the town had to cap the number that will be on hand.
Adults who want to wet their whistle will be able to partake in the beer garden, which will be located near the silo, though beverages cannot leave the designated area.
Adjacent to the beer garden will be a stage for various entertainment and announcements. At 6:30 p.m., local band 2nd Wind will play. The band describes itself as country/outlaw country and mix a lot of traditional country songs in the vein of “All My Exes” and “Amarillo” with country-tinged pop and rock songs like Jimmy Buffet’s “Margaretville.” The band had a popular set at the Star Spangled Spectacular and is back for the second signature event.
Adjacent to the food truck area will be arts and craft vendors, allowing festival goers a chance to sample the wares of local and area artisans. In this area will also be local nonprofits, which will be showcasing their organizations.
“Marana lays the foundation for community partners to come forward and showcase what they have done,” explained Marana Assistant to the Town Manager Vicki Hathaway. “They can do fundraising for the respective groups and altogether expose what great community partners we have.”
There will plenty to do for the kids. There will not only be a chance to interact with farm animals, but those who are more daring can participate in Marana Youth Rodeo’s mutton busting event at the rodeo arena. Mutton busting is when younger children get their first taste of rodeo by riding sheep. Sign up in advance, as the spaces are limited, but it is a great chance to experience rodeo for youngsters. There will be other rodeo demonstrations as well.
“When you think about living in an urban environment, not a lot of kids are exposed to farm animals,” said Davidson.
Learning more about the agrarian roots of Marana is the intent of the festival. In addition to hands on demonstrations and interactions with livestock and crops, the Marana Heritage Conservancy will be on hand to shine a light on the rich history of Marana’s farm community. That community continues to thrive today.
“It’s about people learning about farming,” said Davidson. “We will certainly showcase cotton and how the machinery is used to collect it. Not a lot of people probably know where all of our clothes are made from. How they come from the raw material.”
The other intent of the event is to introduce people to Heritage Park. Each signature event has a different locale it highlights. The Fourth of July is in the Cortaro/Silverbell area, focusing on both the Crossroads Park and the local merchants. The Christmas Tree lighting brings people to the municipal complex and the Cotton Festival allows people to experience Heritage Park and see the progress that is made each year of the continually evolving project.
“The Cotton Festival picks up on Marana’s agricultural roots and it also helps showcase what I think is really going to become an incredible park,” said Davidson. “One of our public features, Heritage Park, is a work in progress and hopefully it is something we are always adding to. It is not a traditional park in the sense of grass and trees and ball fields. You need those in the community but what’s neat about this park is it is kind of a living breathing thing.”
There will be plenty of parking, both on the park itself, as well as in the lot where MUSD is building the new elementary school across the street.
The festival has a number of purposes, but the real key is to carve out a special day during the fall where families can gather, learn and, most importantly, have fun.
“Anytime we do an event, the whole purpose is to provide the community with a fun free activity they can do that makes them feel connected to the town,” said Meza.
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