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Stagecoach Days

Frazier Show workers put up a carnival in the parking lot at Copper Sky. Photo by Michelle Chance

A surprise carnival seemingly sprouted in Maricopa overnight.

The carnival opens Thursday at 6 p.m. at Copper Sky’s south parking lot. Valley-based carnival company Frazier Shows will run the carnival through Sunday.

The event comes near the end of the first week of Stagecoach Days, a two-week celebration of Maricopa’s heritage.

A promotional coupon shared on social media sparked excitement – and confusion – for residents earlier this week who said they were surprised by the short-notice of the event, and questioned whether a carnival was really coming.

That rumor was laid to rest Tuesday when residents reported seeing carnival workers assembling rides at Copper Sky.

Interim Parks Director Fred Gray said a zoning hearing officer approved a temporary-use permit for organizers Tuesday night. Gray clarified the carnival is not a city-sponsored event, but a carnival that is occurring during Stagecoach Days.

“This sort of started through the special-event process, then when it got further along with staff reviews about what was required with regard to parking and dust control mitigation, at some point during that process it was determined that it was better to issue a temporary-use permit as opposed to a special-use permit because it wasn’t a city-sponsored event. It was more of a rental, so that sort of delayed it,” Gray said.

The city used to sponsor Stagecoach Days events in past years, but currently there is no central organizer for it. The city now promotes independent community events during the two-week period in October on its website.


Carnival Hours:

Thursday: 6-10 p.m.

Friday: 6-11 p.m.

Saturday: 2-11 p.m.

Sunday: 2-7 p.m.

Unlimited Ride Wristbands: (Only valid through certain hours)

Thursday: $20, from 6-10 p.m., $15 with coupon

Friday: None

Saturday: $20, 2-6 p.m., $15 with coupon

Sunday: $20, 2-6 p.m., $15 with coupon

One coupon per person is required. Wristbands are sold up to one hour before the special is over, according to an event flyer.

Visit the Frazier Shows Facebook Page for carnival coupons and more information.

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Stagecoach Days was once Maricopa's main community event. Photos courtesy Maricopa Historical Society

Courtesy of Maricopa Historical Society

The first of many Maricopa Stagecoach Days began on Sunday, May 3, 1959, with a BBQ dinner, and a slew of events including free rides on three stagecoaches – authentic, old-time stagecoaches with beautifully groomed horses. Drivers were trained and skilled in handling four-horse teams that allowed children to relive Maricopa Wells’ history with stagecoach rides through the desert. The only decision kids had to make was who would get the privilege of riding shotgun.

Horseracing and a cutting horse contest with some of the best quarter horses in the country was promised to be one of the highlights of the day. Other fun events included contests for bearded men, and women in long dresses who would later serve you barbecue. Everyone was encouraged to bring bonnets or hats and an attitude for enjoying the day.

On that first stagecoach day, the Rotarians expected a crowd of more than 2,000 and a pocketbook full of dollar bills to put a dent into the 1958 debt of $50,000 incurred for the community swimming pool’s construction.

The Maricopa swimming pool project began back in 1956 when the Rotary Club researched the needs of Maricopa’s youth and a viable project for them to embrace. It was decided a swimming pool would reduce or eliminate the many canal deaths in Maricopa and provide entertainment and exercise for its young people.

The first order of business toward achieving this goal was to secure land. Farming partners John Smith and Fred Enke stepped up to with eight acres they were willing to donate for a swimming pool and library. In the fall of 1957, local farmers donated bales of cotton, which was processed by the gins without charge, to ante up about $12,000.

 With good land and earnest money in hand, the Rotary Club organized a project that satisfied the building of a swimming pool and provided entertainment and embraced Maricopa’s heritage – Stagecoach Days.

The good ol’ days of whoopin’ and a hollerin’ brought in more than the anticipated 2,000 people, who celebrated with Maricopa throughout the day with BBQ atop cotton trailers, and way into the night with a frolicking hoedown that rocked the old barn into the morning hours.

For years to come, Stagecoach Days celebrated Maricopa’s heritage and raised money to pay off and maintain the swimming pool. The event has brought in sky-diving, horse racing, cutting horse contests, gymkhanas, Maricopa RCA rodeo Quadrille team performances, and celebrities such as Amanda “Miss Kitty” Blake of Gunsmoke fame.

These days the City of Maricopa encourages community organizations to create activities during the traditional time for Stagecoach Days, which is the second and third weeks of October.

This story appears in the October issue of InMaricopa.

The photo contest Maricopa Shutter Shots is the only city-sponsored event left of Stagecoach Days. The community is asked to create activities of its own if it wishes to see the tradition continue.

Maricopa’s two-week celebration of its history and heritage will sink or swim on the efforts of community members. Once the community’s biggest annual event, Stagecoach Days has had difficulty maintaining its existence.

In its heyday, before incorporation, Stagecoach Days events were organized by community members and local organizations. Events included stagecoach rides, a barbecue, a community dance and much more.

As events dried up, city staff tried to carry on the tradition with attempts at a variety of events. Due to low interest in previous years, Special Events & Marketing Manager Niesha Whitman said the city will not hold a large Stagecoach event nor Pecan Pride, but will instead focus its autumn efforts on the large holiday celebration, Merry Copa.

The one Stagecoach Days event the city will sponsor is the annual photo contest Shutter Shots on Oct. 15 from midnight to 11:59 p.m., however.

“It’s a good time for families to get out and enjoy the weather cooling down. It’s an opportunity to do some fun and exciting things,” Whitman said.

The purpose of the Maricopa Shutter Shots Digital Photo Contest is to capture a typical day in the life of Maricopa in 2017, to be saved in the city’s archives. Winners will be put on display at the library Oct. 21-28. Learn more at Maricopa-AZ.gov/Web/Shutter-Shots.

For residents and organizations that wish to create a Stagecoach Days event or two, the time set aside for Stagecoach Days is Oct. 9-23. Event organizers can email specialevents@maricopa-az.gov to request promotion by the city.

Autumn in Maricopa will see other events including the annual Mud Run on Oct. 28 at Copper Sky and the return of the Second Saturday Market in November.

This story appears in the October issue of InMaricopa.

Maricopa homes have sported three-headed dogs, dead bodies and ghoulish displays for Mystery Mansion Mayhem on Halloween.

October brings cooler temperatures and heightened activity to Maricopa.

That means the return of Stagecoach Days events Pecan Pride, Maricopa Shutter Shots, Copa History Hunt and Maricopa Mud Run. It also means it’s time to get your homes spookily decorated for the annual Mystery Mansion Mayhem during Halloween.

October also includes a Domestic Violence Awareness Concert.

COPA HISTORY HUNT (Stagecoach Days)
The second Copa History Hunt is a digital photo scavenger hunt for all ages. Participants will take photos of required places, buildings or items all over Maricopa, following clues provided by trivia questions and riddles.

There are cash prizes at stake. First place gets $100, second place $75 and third $50.

The event starts Oct. 8 with registration from 8 a.m. to noon in the large ramada at Copper Sky Regional Park. Entry fee (cash only) is $10 for individuals, $15 for pairs, and $25 for team of three to six people. Photos must be submitted by email by 5 p.m. on Oct. 15.

There will be a bonus round on Oct. 17 from 9 a.m. to noon.


PECAN PRIDE (Stagecoach Days)Stagecoach-Days---pecans
Last year, a dozen Maricopa eateries participated in Pecan Pride to honor Maricopa’s agricultural heritage.

Niesha Whitman, special events manager for the City of Maricopa, said she has again contacted those restaurants, which include Helen’s Kitchen, 347 Grill and Sunrise Café, in a search for unique uses of pecans.

Oct. 9-24, the participating restaurants will offer at least one specialty dish using pecans. This may be an entrée, a side dish, a sauce, a dessert or even a drink.


2015 Shutter Shots Best Overall Professional Image The Milky Way Milk Maid by Anita Turner
2015 Shutter Shots Best Overall Professional Image The Milky Way Milk Maid by Anita Turner

This 24-hour Day in the Life of Maricopa photo contest is Oct. 15 from midnight to 11:59 p.m.

The photos will be used for a photo documentation of how Maricopa looks today. Photograph a building, business, home, street or people as part of the celebration of the incorporation anniversary.

There are categories for amateur and professional. Entry is free. Put your best shots on a CD along with 5-by-7-inch prints and drop them off at City Hall by 5 p.m. Oct. 17. Photos will be juried. All photos will be returned.

2015 Shutter Shots Best Overall Amatuer Image by Dean Crandall
2015 Shutter Shots Best Overall Amatuer Image by Dean Crandall

Grand prize is $100. There are also prizes for best photo in categories of humorous, nature, business exterior, business interior, neighborhood, “Hidden Treasure,” night shot, people and historical.


The concert will feature Blues Review Band at Copper Sky Oct. 15 from 6 to 8:30 p.m.

“We’re going to incorporate a ‘Strut Your Mutt’ contest,” Whitman said. “So people can sign up and register their dogs, and then they’re going to do a little costume contest at the concert, and we’ll have prizes for the cutest dog.”

Organizers want to get the anti-violence message out by incorporating something fun, she said.

MARICOPA MUD RUN (Stagecoach Days)
The fourth annual Mud Run is Oct. 22, with registration starting at 8 a.m. at Copper Sky Regional Park.

Maricopans, it turns out, are very, very good at creating very, very scary Halloween homes. This decorating contest allows them to pull out all the stops on fright night.

Registration is ongoing through Oct. 9. There will be prizes for judge’s pick and resident’s choice. Judges from the Parks, Recreation and Libraries Committee and Youth Council will decide first, second and third and best haunted house. Judging takes place Oct. 25.

First place earns $250 as does Resident’s Choice. Second place is $150, third place is $75 and best haunted house is $150.

If you want to pull your skeletons out of the closet and put them on display, register for Mystery Mansion Mayhem at RegOnline.com/MM2016.

This story appears in the October issue of InMaricopa.