Arizona Matsuri, SAVI Fest and Phoenix’s nerdy events in February | Phoenix New Times

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Arizona Matsuri, SAVI Fest and Phoenix’s nerdiest events in February

Get a geeky tattoo at the Body Art Expo, attend the Indie Film Fest or score new reads at the VNSA Used Book Sale.
Arizona Matsuri 2024 is one of the nerdy events happening in Phoenix this February.
Arizona Matsuri 2024 is one of the nerdy events happening in Phoenix this February. Michelle Sasonov
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There’s more going on in the Valley in February besides Valentine’s Day activities or high-profile sporting events like the WM Phoenix Open or Spring Training.

The next few weeks will offer local geeks to chance to screen indie films, check out the latest sci-tech innovations or engage in costumed mayhem with shopping carts. Other options include watching the spandex-clad action of All Elite Wrestling or attending a new improv comedy festival in Mesa.

Several annual events will also return for their 2024 editions in February, including the VNSA Book Sale and Arizona Matsuri.

Here’s a look at where to let your geek flag fly this month in metro Phoenix.
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Sting (right) and former Valley resident Darby Allin (left).

All Elite Wrestling

Wednesday, Feb. 7
Footprint Center, 201 E. Jefferson St.
A spandex-filled evening of slams and suplexes will be served up by the competitors of All Elite Wrestling on Feb. 7 when the company brings its one-ring circus back to the Footprint Center. More than a dozen matches will take place when the company films two of its television shows at the downtown Phoenix arena. First, its flagship program, “AEW Dynamite,” will be broadcast live on TBS followed by the taping of “AEW Rampage,” which will air Friday night on TNT. Scheduled bouts include former Valley resident Darby Allin and wrestling legend Sting facing Ricky Starks and Big Bill for the AEW World Tag Team Championship and a battle between Swerve Strickland and “Hangman” Adam Page. The action starts at 5 p.m. Tickets are $20 to $90.
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The Arizona Renaissance Festival is back for 2024.
Arizona Renaissance Festival

Arizona Renaissance Festival 2024

Weekends through March 31
Arizona Renaissance Festival, 12601 E. US Highway 60, Gold Canyon
Admittedly, the annual Arizona Renaissance Festival isn’t a perfect recreation of a 16th-century Tudor-style English village (the presence of fanciful creatures like dragons, mermaids, and various other anachronisms, destroys that notion). Then again, you don’t go to the 50-acre springtime attraction to nitpick historical accuracy. You go to watch jousting, dress in garb, interact with fairies, buy hand-crafted items from artisans, drink mead and eat various food skewered with sticks. This year’s festival runs weekends through the end of March. As is the norm, multiple themed weekends will be offered, including a visit by local time traveler cosplayers on February 24 and 25. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is $34 for adults, $22 for children 5 to 12 and free for kids 5 and under. (Our guide to this year's festival can be found here.)
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Find your new favorite reads at the VNSA Book Sale.
Melissa Fossum

VNSA Used Book Sale

Saturday, Feb. 10 and Sunday, Feb. 11
Arizona State Fairgrounds, 1826 W. McDowell Road
Bookworms, bibliophiles and word nerds alike will flock to the Agriculture Center at the Arizona State Fairgrounds during the second weekend of February to peruse tables stacked with more than 500,000 books, albums, magazines, maps, games, CDs and DVDs. It's the largest secondhand sale in the Southwest with tens of thousands of attendees each year. Some folks will even camp outside the building overnight, eager to get inside as early as possible to snag the best deals. Books and other items start at $1 each and many tomes will be half-priced on Feb. 11 (except for items in the “Rare & Unusual” section). Admission is free and parking at the fairgrounds will be $12. Hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Feb. 10 and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Feb. 11. Check out our guide to the event for more details.
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The Media and Immersive eXperience (MIX) Center in Mesa.


Friday, Feb. 16 to Saturday, Feb. 17
Media and Immersive eXperience (MIX) Center, 50 N. Centennial Way, Mesa
Are you a fan of improv comedy? The inaugural SAVI Fest in mid-February will offer two days of interactive and off-the-cuff humor in downtown Mesa. Here's the setup: Dozens of improv artists and comedians from across the U.S. will pack their gags and head for the Media Immersive eXperience (MIX) Center to participate in the weekend-long event, which will feature 16 performances and a variety of workshops and live podcasts. The festival is being organized by Sonoran All-Valley Improv, a local nonprofit supporting the art of improvisational comedy in Arizona. Comedians and actors Ithamar Enriquez (“Wandavision,” “The Office”) and Frank Caeiti (“MadTV,” “Modern Family”) will headline SAVI Fest and participating local improv troupes will include The Collaboratory, Light Rail Pirates and Verizon Qwest. Daily admission is $20 to $25, workshops are $45 each and a full weekend pass is $50. Times vary. The full schedule is available here.
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Get a geeky tattoo or two at the latest Body Art Expo.
Benjamin Leatherman

Body Art Expo

Friday, Feb. 16 to Sunday, Feb. 18
Arizona State Fairgrounds, 1826 W. McDowell Road
What separates a good tattoo from a bad one? Picking the right artist is the first step. An experienced and talented ink-slinger can keep your potential piece from becoming some muddled abomination suitable for being mocked online. At the latest Body Art Expo, you’ll have plenty of talent to chose from. More than 200 artists from all over the U.S. will sling ink inside the Exhibit Building at the Arizona State Fairgrounds during the three-day event. And if getting needled doesn’t hold your attention, there will also be freak shows, tattoo contests, live entertainment and “extreme human suspensions.” Hours are 2 to 11 p.m. on Feb. 16, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Feb. 17, and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Feb. 18. Tickets are $25 per day or $55 for the weekend.
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Phoenix's Indie Film Fest will feature four nights of screenings, panel discussions and other activities.
Indie Film Fest

Indie Film Fest 2024

Wednesday, Feb. 21 to Saturday, Feb. 24
Phoenix Center for the Arts, 1202 N. Third St.
Like its name portends, this four-night festival will offer a multitude of independent flicks, ranging from dramatic and documentary features to shorts and even music videos. This year’s edition, which takes place at the Phoenix Center for the Arts, will also include a focus on storytellers and community filmmakers. The festival will kick off with a “Documentary Night” and discussion panel on Feb. 21. An “Original Storytellers Night” follows on Feb. 22 showcasing films focusing on indigenous narratives and culture, as well as the work of local fashion designers. Additionally, there will be a pitch presentation where filmmakers have the opportunity to vie for a grant to support their next project. Fictional and narrative films will be featured on Feb. 23 and the festival will wrap up on Feb. 24 with a Grande Finale party and awards ceremony. Hours vary. Admission is $10 each night or $75 for a festival pass. Click here for more information and the full schedule.
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See what local students and other tech-minded folks have come up with at the Chandler Innovation Fair.
City of Chandler

Chandler Innovation Fair

Saturday, Feb. 24
Dr. A.J. Chandler Park, 178 E. Commonwealth Ave., Chandler
The first thing you should know about the Chandler Innovation Fair is that you don’t need to be a nerd to appreciate the genius on display at the annual sci-tech event. The inventions created by local innovators, technology businesses and students from more than three dozen Chandler schools will be showcased from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. throughout the Stage Plaza at Dr. A.J. Chandler Park. According to the City of Chandler’s website, the M.O. of the event is to help educate and explain “how science is important to daily life.” Admission is free and more information is available here.
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A Batman-themed cart from the 2020 edition of the Phoenix Idiotarod.
Benjamin Leatherman

Phoenix Idiotarod 2024

Saturday, Feb. 24
Downtown Phoenix
When the Phoenix Idiotarod returns to the streets and sidewalks of downtown Phoenix on in late February, we’re fully expecting the gonzo event to be just as surreal, strange and colorfully chaotic as ever. Equal parts urban shopping cart race and bar crawl, the event is a wild spectacle of drunken, culture-jamming fun involving teams of costumed pranksters piloting decorated carts (many of which are inspired by geeky subject matter like movies, television shows or comic books) around the downtown area. Along the way, they’ll stop at various checkpoints at various parks, bars and other locations to compete in challenges that typically involve alcohol and bizarre antics. It’s a boozy spectacle that you’d be an idiot to miss. If you’d like to participate, registrations will be accepted until midnight on Feb. 18. Complete details are available here.
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Celebrate Japanese culture at the annual Arizona Matsuri.
Michelle Sasonov

Arizona Matsuri 2024

Saturday, Feb. 24 and Sunday, Feb. 25
Steele Indian School Park, 300 E. Indian School Road
The annual Arizona Matsuri will celebrate all aspects of Japanese culture, showcasing a diverse array of activities ranging from traditional arts such as origami and ikebana to dynamic performances like taiko drumming and martial arts demonstrations. Attendees can participate in a haiku expo or cosplay contests, witness tea ceremonies and explore a large vendor marketplace. Japanese cuisine options like ramen, yakitori and takoyaki will also be available for patrons to purchase. Arizona Matsuri will also showcase the intricate craftsmanship of The Candyman, one of only 12 people in the world who practices Amezaiku, the art of candy crafting. Hours are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. Admission is free. A full rundown of the festival is available on its website.
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