Memorial Day wasn’t always part of a three-day weekend, and other things you probably don’t know about the holiday. Scott Craven/The Republic
While the thermometer and calendar have different views about the start of summer, make no mistake: Memorial Day weekend is the official kickoff, when the days are long and the SPF numbers are high.
The lure of three days off lends itself to a road trip. Here are six ways to get out of town to start the sun-drenched season.
Fans of cooler temperatures and Western art will be treated to both at the Phippen Museum Western Art Show and Sale May 27-29.
Artists from across the nation will set up booths in Courthouse Plaza downtown. The juried show includes works in oil, watercolor, sculpture and more.
At 2 p.m. May 27 and 28, roughly 20 artists will compete in the Quick Draw. Armed with their creative weapons of choice, they will have 60 minutes to complete a work of art. Their works will be auctioned on the north steps of the courthouse.
The Phippen Museum (4701 State Route 89, Prescott) is offering free admission during the show.
Details: May 27-29. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday. Courthouse Plaza, 120 S. Cortez St., Prescott. Free. phippenartmuseum.org.
The blanks will be flying during Wyatt Earp Days, a Memorial Day tradition in the town too tough to die (and too tough to be chased inside by triple-digit temps).
Tombstone has staked its claim on an Old West reputation that also refuses to die, thanks to a certain shootout at a particular corral. The annual festival salutes the spirit of famous lawman Wyatt Earp with staged gunfights, mock public hangings, a chili cook-off and more. Be sure to bring plenty of sunscreen because Tombstone is not too tough for skin damage.
Details: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday-Monday, May 27-29. Downtown Tombstone along Allen Street. Free. www.wyattearpdays.com.
This quaint town in the White Mountains celebrates its past old school, with a patriotic program, barbecue and soap-box derby.
It starts Saturday, May 27, with an American Legion pancake breakfast, followed by the Veterans Memorial Program at the LDS Stake Center. The entertainment highlight may well be the canine weight pull in which large, muscular dogs attempt to drag objects that look far too heavy to drag at all. The barbecue and a soap-box derby fill out the afternoon before a country music show and dance that evening.
On Monday, May 29, guests are invited on a hayride to see some of the town’s historic homes. Free chili beans and cornbread will be served.
Details: Starting at 6:30 a.m. Saturday, May 27, and 5 p.m. Monday, May 29. See full schedule and locations online. Taylor is about 15 miles north of Show Low on State Route 77. snowflaketaylorchamber.org.
In this town occupying a small clearing atop a mountain, residents will gather shortly before noon on Sunday, May 28, for a favorite annual event: The World’s Shortest Memorial Day Parade.
Those not driving ATVs and pickups draped in patriotic colors will line Main Street to cheer their neighbors’ spirit. When it’s over — and it will be in short order, befitting the name — families will gather at the Crown King Fire Department for an old-fashioned carnival, while adults head to the Crown King Saloon to toast those who gave their lives serving the country.
While there’s no definitive proof that Crown King’s Memorial Day Parade is the world’s shortest, no one tends to argue the point.
As Easter means church for those rarely attend, Memorial Day weekend means camping for people with barely passable outdoor skills.
Fortunately, Arizona is filled with campgrounds where sites are well-prepped and the plumbing is indoors. Even camping rookies will find themselves at home once the tent is pitched.
Visit azstateparks.com or www.recreation.gov (U.S. Forest Service) to pick the best campground for you. Some sit near quiet lakes that beg to be fished. Others offer trails that wind through thick pine forests. All have that outdoor feeling you can only get by being, you know, outdoors.
If you want to camp without the sorts of inconveniences implied by “roughing it,” try a cabin. Five Arizona state parks have cabins equipped with beds, heating and cooling: Lyman Lake, Alamo Lake, Roper Lake, Dead Horse Ranch and Kartchner Caverns. Kartchner’s cabins, the latest additions, also have microwaves and mini-fridges. Learn more and reserve a spot at azstateparks.com/cabins.
Like the swallows returning to Capistrano, desert dwellers stream north when the summer heat settles in.
More often than not, those journeys end in Flagstaff, land of comfortable temperatures and reasonable hotel rates.
Flagstaff is one of the most popular getaways thanks to amenities that range from brewpubs to hiking trails to mild summer weather.
Escape the crowds by exploring the trails along the base of the San Francisco Peaks, or visit Fort Tuthill County Park to test your agility and endurance at the Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Course (extremeadventure.com).
When you’re ready to unwind, head across the railroad tracks to explore Flagstaff’s lesser-known south side. Enjoy the dog-friendly patio behind the Southside Tavern (117 S. San Francisco St.), or relax with a local craft beer at Mother Road Brewing Co. (motherroadbeer.com).
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