Holding more than 40 statewide events, the weeks leading up to the battle between Baylor University and University of Central Florida Wednesday, January 1, at the 43rd annual Tostitos Fiesta Bowl are the ultimate pre-game.
There are the known highlights, of course. The anticipated and always colorful Fiesta Bowl Parade takes over central Phoenix at 11 a.m. Saturday, December 28, snaking traffic between Central Avenue and Seventh Street for the handful of Phoenicians not in attendance. The Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, itself a 25-year tradition, pits Kansas State and Michigan against each other at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe the same day.
There are parties, both pre- and post-game. An elected queen and her court. A Fiesta Bowl-sponsored youth football clinic; a Fiesta Bowl-sponsored aerospace challenge. A half-marathon. A senior tennis tournament. And an art walk.
Though the latter seems a little out of place, the Scottsdale Gallery Association's Fiesta Bowl Art Walk has been a crowd-pleaser for locals and snowbirds alike for 16 years -- proof positive that on the Venn Diagram of hobbies and interests, sports and the arts are not mutually exclusive.
The event, essentially a tour of the Scottsdale Arts District, is a large-scale version of the Gallery Association's Thursday night art walks. That itself is a 30-year tradition that has gained popularity thanks to great weather and intriguing art from both undiscovered native artists and popular national shows.
Titled "Art Walk the Line," enthusiasts and collectors can get their fix before the big game from noon until 4 p.m. Saturday, December 28. The event includes live music, artist demonstrations, and dining at the district's many restaurants.
The Walter Art Gallery features works by local artists Eleanor Trevino Babbitt, Mark Feinstein, and Barbara Goldberg for its show, "Spectrum," on view through January 15. The pieces range from expressionism to contemporary still lifes to minimalism.
Stearns Studios hosts ceramicist Barbara Frangas, who specializes in porcelain and stonewear bowls. Xanadu Gallery will hold a group exhibition, and oil painter John Horejs will be in-house to discuss his detailed Sonoran sunset pieces with out-of-towners perhaps unaccustomed to the greatness of the desert sky.
The Gallery Association's weekly event tends to draw more than 1,500 pedestrians, Rhonda Verona writes in an e-mail. Verona handles media relations for the group and adds that the organization anticipates a couple thousand to hit the pavement for Saturday's art walk.
Over the course of its history, the Fiesta Bowl has brought an estimated 3 million out-of-town visitors to the Valley, generating more than a billion dollars in tourist revenue over the past five years alone.
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Be it the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl in Detroit, Mich., or the Fight Hunger Bowl at AT&T Park in San Francisco, Calif., these head-to-head match-ups draw fans and alumni from far reaches of the country to stadiums across the nation.
Using the blanket term "big event" hardly describes the impact bowl games have on the local economy and, frankly, communities both as outstretched as greater Maricopa County, or as small as the few square miles home to the Scottsdale galleries, along Main Street and Marshall Way.
"The teams bring additional tourism," Verona writes. "We would like the opportunity to [allow them to] experience the wonderful art community that is unique to Scottsdale."