Love it or hate it, Arizona is home for most of us because wherever we came from wasn't as (take your pick) warm, cheap or brimming with opportunity. But this state is more than a concrete Shangri-la of swimming pools, tract housing and upstart businesses.
"Archaeology, zoology, geology, biology, botany -- it's all here," says Dee Strickland Johnson, cowboy poet and author of Arizona Herstory. "Hike down into the Grand Canyon and study geology. Go to the Petrified Forest [National Park] and see paleontology. It's just magnificent what we have in this state -- in addition to the marvelous beauty."
Such is the passion behind "Salute to Arizona." Presented this weekend by the Scottsdale Historical Society, the book fair showcases the state's literary pride and joy. Authors including Johnson -- who's also known as "Buckshot Dot" -- will read, sign and perform throughout the weekend.
What are attendees in for? Johnson says her curious nickname allows her to "sing good old songs, like ÔI miss my man, but my aim is gettin' better'" -- and her poems are just as likely to raise an eyebrow or two. Case in point: her King Solomon-esque piece about two Prescott men who gambled for a baby in a saloon. "One of them actually got the baby by gambling," she says. "These were true things. That's what fascinates me."
The lineup also features Marshall Trimble, Bob Boze Bell and Thadd Turner, among others. Like Johnson, each has his own shtick to perform. Turner, for example, is the author (and impersonator) of Wild Bill Hickok. He's appeared in films as the legendary Old West figure, and he'll talk about his book and his experiences making movies in Arizona.
Also among the scheduled personalities and presentations is a performance by the Pima Maricopa Community Dancers on Saturday afternoon, plus food tastings all weekend, courtesy of Author's Caf and Shelley Sikora of Channel 5's Home Plates.
This sort of event isn't necessarily new to its host site, Barnes & Noble in north Scottsdale, which aims to "promote literacy, the arts and education," says Larry Siegel, the branch's community relations manager. It is, however, a crucial fund raiser for the Historical Society: Up to 25 percent of the weekend's book sales will benefit the organization. Scottsdale's Paiute Neighborhood Center After-School Program also stands to gain from the event. Customers can purchase and donate requested titles during the fair, with a 10 percent discount as incentive. Yet another good reason to buy the books.
"What we're really trying to do," Siegel says, "is to have some entertainment, some information and some fun."