Rocky Point Sees Its First Cruise Ship Set Sail

After much anticipation and planning, the first cruise liner departed Thursday, Jan. 9, from Puerto Peñasco, Mexico, commonly known in the United States as Rocky Point. The Astoria Cruise Liner, owned and operated by Cruise and Maritime Voyages, is currently sailing around the Sea of Cortez and returning back to Rocky Point Jan. 20.

“This is a major step in Rocky Point’s development and growth,” stated Keith Allen, director of sales of a new and contemporary condo development Encantame Towers and founding member of Peñasco Business Coalition. “With the launch of this cruise, we are hoping that Rocky Point, with its unique location on the Sea of Cortez, will be seen as a premier, local cruise ship port. It’s just another wonderful amenity added to this safe, beautiful beach town.”

The Astoria set sail on the cruise titled “Treasures of the Sea of Cortez.” Over the course of the 11-day voyage, the ship will take passengers to eight ports along the Sea of Cortez, including Topolobampo, Mazatlan, Cabo San Lucas, La Paz, Bahia Loreto, Santa Rosalia and Guaymas. The ship itself has 250 cabins and can hold around 550 people. In addition, Cruise and Maritime Voyages arranged ground transportation from Phoenix and Tucson to Rocky Point. Most of the passengers are anticipated to be Arizonans and people from surrounding western states.

“With so many transplants to the Southwest from other parts of the U.S., there’s a huge number of people who’ve yet to experience the charm of Rocky Point first-hand,” said Steve Schwab, founder and president of Casago, a leading property management and vacation rentals company, founding member of Peñasco Business Coalition, and passenger on the Astoria. “This is yet another reason for first-time and seasoned visitors to experience Rocky Point and all its year-round offerings.”

“Puerto Peñasco is well prepared for the already growing tourism our community is seeing and we are proud to see the launch of the much-anticipated cruise, Treasures of the Sea of Cortez,” said Puerto Peñasco Mayor Kiko Munro. “New businesses, new development, and the hard work of our public safety officials make Puerto Peñasco an ideal beach destination for many Arizonans.”

There are three scheduled departures from Rocky Point for the Treasures of the Sea of Cortez Cruise on Jan. 9, Jan. 20 and Jan. 31. Following these three cruises, the Astoria will move on to other scheduled cruises launching from England in 2020. Cruise and Maritime Voyages will determine the 2021 schedule of the Astoria at a later date.

More information on the Treasures of the Sea of Cortez cruise can be found at

Wickenburg to Host Fortieth Annual Bluegrass Festival & Fiddle Championship

Photo: Craig Cutler;

The Four Corner States Wickenburg Bluegrass Festival, Nov. 8–10, is sponsored by the Wickenburg Chamber of Commerce, and it is one of the oldest bluegrass festivals in the Southwest.

Featured bands entertaining all three days at the festival are Chris Jones & The Night Drivers, Incidental Bluegrass, and The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys. Additionally, contestants will compete in eight categories for prizes and cash awards. Some of the categories bring championship designation, such as fiddle, mandolin, flat pick guitar and banjo.

The festival is held outdoors at the Everett Bowman Rodeo Grounds, 935 Constellation Road, just a half mile east of Highway 60/93 in Wickenburg. Limited reserved self-contained RV camping in Constellation Park is arranged through the Wickenburg Chamber of Commerce, as well a limited space in the tent camping area.

The festival opens Friday to the public at 11am, with entertainment from 1pm to 5pm. Saturday and Sunday, gates open at 7am for a pancake breakfast, and entertainment follows from 9am to 4:30pm.

At the festival for the three days, attendees will find food and drink concessions, beer booth, arts/crafts and a designated Kids Zone, Saturday and Sunday, 11am to 4pm. Organizers prohibit bringing in alcoholic beverages, dogs, food and coolers. A covered grandstand seating area is available; however, spectators are encouraged to bring lawn chairs or blankets to sit on.

Tickets for the Bluegrass Festival are $18 adults, $15 senior citizens, $10 children; three-day passes are $ 45, $40 and $25 at the gate. For more information and tickets call the Wickenburg Chamber of Commerce, 928.684.5479, or visit

Explore the Centrality of Water in Our Lives with Black Canyon Heritage Park

Black Canyon Heritage Park (BCHP) is hosting its final two “Water, Black Canyon City & Me” events in October and November.

The “Water, Black Canyon City & Me” programs lead up to the Smithsonian’s Museum on Main Street traveling “Water/Ways” exhibition coming to Cañon School (34630 South School Loop Road, Black Canyon City) Dec. 14 to Jan. 26.  Working with their regional sponsors and partners, BCHP is supplementing the national “Water/Ways” exhibit with a local exhibit that focuses on the Agua Fria watershed that extends from the Prescott Valley area through Black Canyon City and Lake Pleasant and ending as the Agua Fria river merges into the Salt River.

These events are free and family friendly:

  • Sunday, Oct. 20; 1:30–3pm: Art Exhibit & Afternoon Concert by ProMusica Arizona at Black Canyon Community Health Center, 19251 Oasis Drive, Black Canyon City
  • Saturday, Nov. 16; 3–4:30pm: Celebrating History of Water — Marshall Shore, Arizona’s Hip Historian at Pioneer Masonic Lodge #82, 19055 East K-Mine Road, Black Canyon City

Black Canyon Heritage Park has additional activities to compliment the Smithsonian’s “Water/Ways” exhibit, including the WinterFest/BookFest exhibits Jan. 26.

Visit Black Canyon Heritage Park Monday through Friday, 9am–4pm, and Saturday and Sunday, 9am–2pm —  walk the mini-trail and view native plants, birds and butterflies in the riparian preserve. For additional information, call 623.374.5282 or visit or

Camp Verde Performing Arts Center Announces New Season

The Phillip England Center for the Performing Arts Foundation announced that its 2019–20 concert schedule will kick off with the annual Labor Day Jazz Festival Aug. 30, featuring the Bresnan Unplugged Ensemble. The Festival continues Aug. 31 with the Dom Moio Quintet. Moio will be joined by Nick Manson, a jazz pianist and two-time Emmy Award winner, with bassist Dwight Kilian, saxophonist Andrew Gross and percussionist Joe Garcia.

The Sweetwater Strings ensemble presents “Strings at the Movies,” a classical pop concert, Sept. 22 featuring some of the most loved and unique movie themes. The Camp Verde Blues Project follows on Oct. 5 featuring Innocent Joe Kopicki and the Silent Witnesses.

The holiday season offers two concerts. On Dec. 5 the Sahnas Brothers blend the sounds of their Greek culture, the Desert Southwest, and the warm inviting romance of the Spanish guitar, and 2019 will come to a close with the “Almost New Years’ Eve” concert Dec. 28, featuring the Uptown Big Band with vocalist and dancers presenting the sounds of the Big Band era.

The Center for the Performing Arts is located at 210 Camp Lincoln Road, Camp Verde, one mile south of the Cliff Castle Hotel and Casino. For additional information, call 928.593.0364 or visit

Waking Up In Budapest

By Kathi Kovach Koenig

It’s just before dusk as we slowly head into the city. Suddenly, our driver takes a quick turn, skirting traffic. Circling a flower-lined roundabout, he stops in front of a glistening hotel set in a centuries-old backdrop.

I’m immediately struck by the beauty of fading light and color, the mix of old and new, all playing off the reflection of the river Danube. It’s taken years of planning, but my brothers and I are finally here — ready to discover our hometown heritage of generations before us.

Waking up in Budapest is a travel moment to remember.

Looking across the fairy-tale scenery from the hotel’s picture window, there’s a sense of elation being in Hungary’s capital city. The feeling is contagious, as our extended Arizona family gathers on the ground floor of the sleek hotel. We’re on a mission. With no time to waste, we split up to explore the massive Buda Castle, the Gothic Revival designed Parliament and St. Stephen’s Basilica.

Budapest is a tale of two cities. Buda and Pest lie on either side of the Danube. The two towns merged into one over a century ago. We are staying on the Buda side, directly across the historic Széchenyi Chain Bridge that connects to Pest. Our Hungarian grandparents spoke about its significance as one of the city’s most famous landmarks — yet its beauty and setting are beyond description. Impressive stone lion statues guard both bridgeheads, carved by sculptor János Marschalkó back in 1852.

A delicious mix of languages flow through the air — yet everyone seems to understand one another. I recognize the eyes of my grandmother in women along the streets — and can almost hear the hearty laugh of my grandfather drifting from a local café. All so vaguely familiar, yet not quite understood. To our delight, sounds of Hungarian rhapsodies are still woven throughout the districts, and my brothers and I nod to each other, affectionately remembering our grandfather playing his violin for us as children.

The extraordinary beauty of the crown jewel of Europe shows up in its historic buildings and sculpture that skim the landscape. Walking through the city lost in thought — my past sits before me like an Old World painting in the Hungarian National Gallery — which itself is a work of art.

The gallery is located inside the massive Buda Castle, where you’ll find the finest panoramic views offered in the city.

If Budapest is a truly a feast for the eyes, it’s also a fabulous choice for foodies. They say one of the strongest forms of memory is taste. Must be true, because it takes us three great restaurants to discover our grandmother’s Chicken Paprikash (chicken and dumplings) recipe. With one bite, we’re all transformed back to her dinner table. Paprika is a staple here. Hungarians put in on just about everything.

Colorful architecture, cobblestone streets and cafés line each side of the river along with a lively mix of locals and tourists. The landscape can be sun-drenched and rain-soaked all in the same day.

At twilight, while cruising the Danube, the landscape transforms again with the stunning lights of Pest shining like glittery jewels along the shore. We talk about our Hungarian past — our late parents and grandparents — while taking it all in under the spell of a deep sapphire night sky.

At the end of a perfect summer evening, it’s time to head back across the Chain Bridge to our hotel. I may be 6,000 miles away from Arizona, but it feels like I’m finally home.

Kathi Kovach Koenig is a former television and print journalist who continues to write about her travels.

Collaboration Pairs Wildlife Conservation With Craft Beer

Through an innovative public-private partnership, the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) and Mother Road Brewing Co. present Conserve and Protect Kӧlsch.

In a creative twist on funding for wildlife conservation, Flagstaff-based Mother Road Brewing Co. has released special-edition cans of its Conserve and Protect Kӧlsch-style ale. As the sunset-orange, purple-mountain colored label says, “Conserve and Protect Kӧlsch is best enjoyed pulled from a cold river, and straight from the can. It pairs well with fresh air, wild-caught fish, and good company.”

For a limited time, wildlife enthusiasts can contribute to the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s mission to conserve and protect wildlife in a new way. A portion of the proceeds from the sales of Conserve and Protect Kӧlsch cans will be donated to AZGFD to support its on-the-ground conservation work that is done without any general fund tax dollars. Conserve and Protect Kӧlsch will be available statewide.

“We want all Arizonans to know about the agency’s efforts to conserve and protect 800-plus wildlife species in the state,” said Ty Gray, director of AZGFD. “With Mother Road’s launch of Conserve and Protect Kӧlsch, we’re talking to a new audience that cares about sustainability, enjoys the outdoors and wants to contribute to wildlife conservation.”

Mother Road branded its summertime Kӧlsch with the agency’s Conserve and Protect messaging at no cost to the department.

“Assisting with wildlife and habitat conservation in Arizona is a natural fit for Mother Road as it dovetails with our mission of ‘building community one pint at a time,’” said CEO Michael Marquess.

In addition to supporting this unique collaboration, the public can contribute directly to Arizona’s wildlife by becoming a Conservation Member at The public also is invited to share their love of Arizona wildlife and support of the collaboration by tagging photos with #cheerstoAZwildlife.

The mission of the Arizona Game and Fish Department is to conserve and protect the state’s 800-plus species of wildlife. AZGFD receives zero general fund tax dollars. Funding is primarily provided by the sale of hunting and fishing licenses, tags or stamps, and via a federal excise tax on firearms and ammunition. Learn more at

Mother Road Brewing Company is an Arizona top-five craft microbrewery located along Route 66 in Flagstaff. Mother Road was John Steinbeck’s name for Route 66 in The Grapes of Wrath. The original brewery on Mikes Pike, the 1926 alignment of Route 66, is dedicated to experimental beers and processes, while the new Butler Avenue brewery brews for distribution in kegs and cans. Both breweries welcome guests into the tap rooms for pints, conversation, games, merchandise, and tours. Mother Road distributes statewide in Arizona with Hensley Beverage Company and its partners. For more information, visit

Enjoy Classic Rides and Cool Temps at Show Low Car Show

The 10th annual Cruz’n the Rim Car Chow, scheduled for May 31 – June 1 in Show Low, features classics of all ages, including Rat Rods. Festivities start Friday, May 31, with a 5pm cruise to Hatch Toyota and free burger burn and root beer floats.  Register on site starting Friday from noon–5pm, and Saturday 7–9am, with the gates opening to the public at 9am Saturday, June 1.

The whole family is invited to enjoy food, fun, prizes, giveaways, silent auctions and poker walk.  The first 200 spectators through the gate get to vote on their favorite car.  Proceeds from the event will benefit the local Salvation Army.

The Cruz’n the Rim Car Show takes place at Frontier Fields, 600 North 9th Place in Show Low. For additional information, visit and click on the “Events” link.

Explore the Benefits of Dark Skies and Amazing Nocturnal Creatures

Visitors are invited to join Tumacácori National Historical Park staff and scientists on National Bat Appreciation Day, April 17, from 7–8:30pm to experience beautiful dark skies and learn about the amazing creatures of the night. Under the blanket of darkness, the desert comes alive with animals of all shapes and sizes venturing into the cool night air in search of food and water. In addition to live critter demonstrations, visitors will have the opportunity to talk to biologists, observe science in action and explore the benefits of dark skies to communities and wildlife.

Tumacácori NHP serves as a role model in the conservation of night skies. The park earned International Dark Sky Park designation in 2018, becoming the 100th designated Dark Sky Place. The International Dark-sky Association (IDA) began the recognition program in 2001 with the designation of Flagstaff, Arizona, as the world’s first International Dark Sky Place, and the first International Dark Sky Community. Designations are made on the basis of a written nomination to IDA and judged according to merits such as night sky quality and proactive efforts to promote the benefits of natural nighttime darkness. Sometimes forgotten is the importance of natural darkness for wildlife. Nearly half the species on Earth are nocturnal — active at night instead of during the day.

A limited supply of free posters of the “Bats of Arizona” will be available for those interested in taking one home.

Admission to the park is $7 per adult, free for federal pass holders and children under age 16. For more information on National Bat Appreciation Day or other events and activities at Tumacácori National Historical Park, call 520.377.5060, or visit the park website at


Slow Down & Enjoy the Ride — Grand Canyon Railway’s ‘Iron Horse’ Gallops On

The steam engine changed everything. It created time zones, kick-started the Industrial Revolution and 150 years ago the Transcontinental Railroad was created, connecting the East and West coasts and reducing travel from around five months to about five days. It opened up the possibilities of exploring destinations all across America, including the South Rim of the Grand Canyon in 1901. Today, finding a living, working steam engine pulling a real train that’s going somewhere in the U.S. is rather rare. Of the 30,000 built, less than 200 survived, and only a few are still running today.
One place where romantics, rail enthusiasts and younger generations can learn, hear, see, smell and feel the majesty of the Iron Horse is on Arizona’s Grand Canyon Railway.
Grand Canyon Railway is once again bringing out its operational Steam Locomotive monthly on the first Saturday, through Oct. 5. They will also run a special steam train Sept. 21 to celebrate the Railway’s 30th anniversary.
While the Grand Canyon Railway has two operating steam engines, this year the honors will go to #4960, built in 1923 and weighing in at 310 tons. For more details, including departure times and ticketing information, visit
For information about the Grand Canyon Railway and special overnight packages at the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel in Williams, AZ, visit or call 800.843.8724.

Photos courtesy of Grand Canyon Railway & Hotel

Sedona International Film Festival Celebrates Twenty-Five Years

More than 165 films — from Oscar-nominated documentaries to narrative features, narrative short films, documentary short films and animated shorts — will highlight the 25th anniversary Sedona International Film Festival, Feb. 23 – March 3.

“Just saying the words, ‘25th anniversary,’ stops us in our tracks,” said executive director Pat Schweiss. “Looking back, it’s been an incredible run. Looking ahead, the best is yet to come.”

The Festival’s three film selection committees screened more than 1,400 submissions from around the world.

Among the new films selected for screening this year are To Dust (starring Matthew Broderick), The Chaperone (starring Elizabeth McGovern and Blythe Danner), Non-Fiction (starring Juliette Binoche), Tell It To the Bees (starring Anna Paquin), Promise at Dawn (starring Charlotte Gainsbourg) and the outrageous comedy, The Bill Murray Stories.

Period. End of Sentence, a nominee for an Academy Award for documentaries about a group of women in a rural village outside Delhi, India fighting against the deeply rooted stigma of menstruation, is among the films to be screened. So, too is the Oscar short-listed documentary Crime + Punishment about a group of brave NYPD officers who risk it all to expose the truth about illegal quota practices in police departments.

“We’ve been planning for our Silver Anniversary Festival for more than a year, and the excitement is palpable,” Schweiss said. “With everything we’ve got planned, it will be a week filled with great entertainment, great films and great memories.”

The Sedona International Film Festival began in 1994 as an off-season project of the Sedona Cultural Park, originally intended as a fund-raising vehicle to get the park built. When the park closed in 2003, that group of forward-thinkers created a separate nonprofit so the festival could continue.

The largest single event of the year in Sedona, hundreds of volunteers and dozens of businesses have thrown their support behind the festival.

Special guests expected this year include Ed Asner, whose film Ed Asner: On Stage and Off, will be screened, Richard Dreyfuss, Diane Ladd, Mackenzie Phillips and Depak Choprah, with more to be announced.

Films will run all day beginning Saturday, Feb. 23, at the Mary D. Fisher Theater, 2030 West Highway 89A, the Sedona Performing Arts Center at Sedona Red Rock High School, 995 Upper Red Rock Loop Road and Sedona Harkins 6, 2081 W. Highway 89A.

Ticket packages and individual tickets are on sale now. Packages, other than for full-time students, are available at or through the Festival Box office at 928.282.1177. Student packages must be purchased through the Box Office and student ID’s are required.

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