It's been said that cowboys are born and not made -- a fact apparent to anyone who's ridden and roped with white-collar wanna-bes at a dude ranch. Still, everybody wants to be a cowboy, and our fascination with the character and culture of the Old West thrives in a society short on both. Saddle up with some 60,000 of your closest cowboy friends and head north, of all places, to the 14th Annual Festival of the West, Thursday, March 18, through Sunday, March 21, at WestWorld, 16601 North Pima Road in Scottsdale. "The country's largest celebration of the Old West and the American cowboy" includes a Western film festival and celebrity panel discussion, Western trade show, chuck-wagon cook-off, cowboy poetry, tribute to John Wayne, and presentation of the Cowboy Spirit Award to Jack Palance, Robert Fuller and The Westerns Channel. Three stages of live entertainment hit a high point with Saturday night's performance by Michael Martin Murphey.
Gates open at 10 a.m. each day. Admission is $12 for adults, $11 for seniors ($6 on Thursday), and $4 for children (free on Friday). Call 602-996-4387 or visit www.festivalofthewest.com for more information. -- Craig Wallach
Strum over to guitar show
Funny thing about guitar aficionados: No matter how cool one's collection may be, it's always one ax short of perfection. Remedy the situation by buying low, selling high, and looking longingly at potential six-strings at the Phoenix World Guitar Show, Saturday, March 20, and Sunday, March 21, at the Arizona State Fairgrounds, 1826 West McDowell. Either a buyer or a seller be on a weekend awash in new, used and vintage instruments. For details call 1-800-525-7273 or visit www.texasguitarshows.com. -- Craig Wallach
All Fired Up
Local paddlers enter the dragon boat race
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It's rush hour on Tempe Town Lake -- a busy intersection of modern team-building and ancient Chinese whoop-ass. Following a 2,400-year-old tradition, 22-person crews power dragon boats (complete with head and tail) at the inaugural Arizona Dragon Boat Festival, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, March 20, and Sunday, March 21. Despite the galley-slave look of the boats, nobody here's been shanghaied: Corporate and private teams pay many yuan for the chance to paddle the competition -- and raise funds for the YMCA. Will APS nuke SRP? Will America West Airlines fly by the Town of Queen Creek? Squirt on the sunblock for a day at the lake and find out; admission is free for spectators. For more information, visit www.azdba.com. --Kim Toms
Lei of the Land
Aloha Fest fetes island culture
Tell your friends "Kamanawana hula," and lei the weekend dilemma to rest. Meet island girls prettier'n Grandpa's tattoo at the Arizona Aloha Festival's tour of Polynesia, minus the spendy air fare. Dive into Pacific island culture from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, March 20, and Sunday, March 21. Scoop up poi, pork and pearls -- and that's just for starters; 60 vendors offer South Pacific clothing, jewelry, snacks and knickknacks. Once fortified, catch the Samoan fire dance, the Maori war dance, and the Tahitian dance treat called "otea." Learn about ocean navigation in a "bare-eye"-for-the-seafaring-guy talk by a member of the Polynesian Voyagers Society. Landlubbers, use a map or follow the swaying palms to Heritage and Science Park, 115 North Sixth Street, just south of Van Buren. Admission is free. For more information, call 480-967-7366 or visit www.azalohafest.org. -- Kim Toms