Giving the Birds

Quick . . . which East Valley city was the leading manufacturer of ostrich-related products during the first quarter of the 20th century? If you answered Chandler, you're correct. (You may also be one of those trivia geeks no one likes to stand next to at a party.)

Dedicated to one of the unlikeliest birds ever to call the desert home, the Chandler Ostrich Festival has become one of the Southwest's premier annual parties. Approximately 250,000 people attend each year, and we're guessing that the majority of them don't give a damn about ostriches or their rich history in our midst. But, hey, any excuse for a party.

The 16th annual event takes over Chandler's Tumbleweed Park this weekend with a three-day schedule of events perfect for attendees of all ages. Highlights include Saturday's Thorobred Ostrich Festival Parade (slated to include more than 100 ostriches strutting along Arizona Avenue), some 150 arts and crafts vendors, carnival rides, a petting zoo, cheer and dance squads, game-show mania, and enough food and beverage options to clog your arteries and blur your vision in the course of one glorious visit.

Those who expect an added degree of danger and excitement for their entertainment dollar won't be disappointed, thanks to an exhibition by the Extreme Air stunt team and daily appearances by chain-saw sculptor Dave Shelton. And in the fine tradition of actors who want to be singers, Jim Belushi and his band, the Sacred Hearts, headline a live entertainment bill. Also on tap: '70s rock heroes War, Little Joe y la Familia, Grammy winner Emilio and, of course, an exotic bird race featuring the event's namesake, which just happens to be the world's second-fastest animal.

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Craig Wallach