Camp Verde’s “golden festival”, Fort Verde Days, started during the golden age of the ‘50s.
This charming historically based community event is a longstanding tradition of fun and festivity, showcasing the Town’s historic jewel, Fort Verde.
Long before Camp Verde Historical Society came to be in the old grammar school, Camp Verde historians started a small, but impressive museum at Fort Verde in 1956 in what is today’s administrative building. The museum was divided into four parts – Indian, military, pioneer and a 1880s living room. The Camp Verde Improvement Association actually appointed the Fort Verde Museum Committee; members included well-known people like journalist Florence Dickinson, Jean Godard and Margaret Hallet. Margaret Hallet, according to niece and local historian, Babs Monroe, owned the building. Whether it was sold or donated to the museum group is unknown. According to Fort Verde’s Dennis Lockhart, it was about 1970 when Fort Verde would go under the wing of Arizona State Parks and become a state park, open daily to the public.
Getting back to the early days, a first anniversary celebration in 1957 honored all who had supported and visited that first museum; thus Fort Verde Days sprung to life. The first event included an open house at the museum, a period fashion show, a talk on Fort Verde’s history and refreshments.
According to an Old Fort Verde Days Special Edition, “This community effort has enjoyed excellent reception by people from all over the nation and in appreciation for this support; the Improvement Association has planned a gala two-day celebration for the entertainment of visitors and supporters of the museum.”
According to Mrs. Monroe, early Fort Verde Days had no commercialism; townspeople volunteered their own money and time. And in the spirit of the event, waitresses and clerks dressed in period outfits a week prior to the festival; there were also historic-based contests - a “beard growing” challenge and a “fiddler” competition.
The Fort Verde Days Parade, now a mainstay of the festival, came into existence the second year, showcasing life on the frontier. The Camp Verde Cavalry performed at that first parade and are today, well respected re-enactors.
In 1960, the Colonel’s Daughter, a fictional novel by Capt. King (suspected to be based on true facts) became the basis for “our local queen contest,” another foundation of Fort Verde Days.
According to one old report, the original festival was held in late November to commemorate the day(s) that Camp Lincoln changed its name to Fort Verde. Today, however, the event is always the second weekend in October. In 2006 Camp Verde’s signature event surpassed its 50th year; one of Arizona’s longest standing festivals. It is hosted by Fort Verde State Parks in cooperation with the Town of Camp Verde.
Attendees enjoy fort re-enactments, arts and crafts’ exhibits, a wild horse and burro adoption, demonstrations, an 1870s church service, the Colonel’s Daughter presentation, Cliff Castle Casino’s Bull Bash and Kids’ Rodeo, a Kiwanis Pancake Breakfast, a vintage ball game, an antique show, a carnival, an art show, community dances, and much more.
To learn more about Camp Verde’s Fort Verde Days, contact the Camp Verde Chamber of Commerce, 385 S. Main Street, Camp Verde, AZ 86322; (928) 567-9294 or e-mail info@CampVerde.com. The Chamber’s web site is: VisitCampVerde.com