This season, three college football bowl games are taking place right here in the Valley. The on-field action starts Tuesday, when the Missouri Tigers face the Iowa Hawkeyes in the 22nd annual Insight Bowl at Sun Devil Stadium. The Tostitos Fiesta Bowl and BCS Championship follow Jan. 1 and 10, respectively, at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale.
Whether you follow the action on the field or not, the merrymaking surrounding the games offers plenty to do.
Fiesta Bowl Band Championship
A long-standing Fiesta Bowl tradition, the championship is a competition for the best high school marching bands in the country. Participants perform their best 10-minute field presentations in front of a panel of judges, who critique them on musical performance, visual performance, auxiliary techniques, percussion, drum majors and overall effect. The top bands compete in the event finals, which are capped off with performances from the Pride of Connecticut Band and the Pride of Oklahoma Band.
>> 11 a.m. preliminaries and 6:30 p.m. finals Thursday, Dec. 30, at University of Phoenix Stadium, 1 Cardinals Drive, Glendale. $16-$29, good for all-day admission. (480) 350-0911 or fiestabowl.org.
Fiesta Bowl ArtWalk
This artistic prelude to the game features art gallery receptions (often with hors d’oeuvres and tiny cups of bubbly), artist demos, street performers and vendors, and a pre-walk concert with pop band Bullet Proof Soul.
>> 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Dec. 30. (Concert starts at 6 p.m. at Southbridge’s Stetson Plaza near the Scottsdale Waterfront.) Downtown Scottsdale. Free. scottsdalegalleries.com.
The Fort McDowell Fiesta Bowl Parade
A time-honored Valley tradition presented by Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation, the parade features an array of floats, helium balloons, marching bands and spirited specialty and equestrian units — and a popular local Grand Marshall: former Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner, along with his wife and seven children. If you can’t watch in person, the parade will air on Channel 15 (ABC).
>> 11 a.m. Friday, Dec. 31. Travels south on Central Avenue from Montebello Avenue, turns east on Camelback Road to Seventh Street, then south on Seventh to Minnezona Avenue in central Phoenix. Free; $25 reserved bleacher seating is available. (480) 350-0911 or fiestabowl.org.
Fiesta Bowl Block Party
Pop-rockers Jimmy Eat World are coming home to the East Valley for Arizona’s biggest New Year’s Eve celebration. The band, which formed in Mesa in 1994, will headline at the Fiesta Bowl Block Party, an all-ages fete packed with street performers, carnival rides, dueling pianos, kids’ areas, sports and dance clubs, beer gardens and fireworks (at 10 p.m. and midnight).
>> 5 p.m. Friday, Dec. 31 through 12:30 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 1. The Mill Avenue District in downtown Tempe. $17 discount tickets available at Fry’s Food Stores; tickets also available by phone and online. (480) 350-0911 or fiestabowl.org.
College Football’s Biggest Party
Called the “ultimate tailgating experience,” these pre-game parties attract thousands of fans who gear-up for the big games with pep rallies, performances by university marching bands and cheerleaders, interactive attractions and food and beverage booths.
>> 12:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Jan. 1 and Jan. 10. Glendale Youth Sports Complex, 1 E. Cardinals Drive, Glendale. $30 for the Tostito’s Fiesta Bowl pre-party, $35 for the BCS Championship pre-party; both tickets include a plated meal and beverage. (480) 350-0911 or fiestabowl.org.
The $2 Tailgate Party and Bud Light Fiesta
Cable sports network ESPN will broadcast live Jan. 3-7 from SouthBridge in downtown Scottsdale, and the city is hosting a giant soiree around broadcasts. Festivities start up with The $2 Tailgate Party, where restaurants Petite Maison, Heirloom, Eddie’s House, Marcellino Ristorante, Mission, Metro Brasserie, The Herb Box, Culinary Dropout, Tapas Papa Frita, FnB, P.F. Changs and Dos Gringos will offer two-buck food samples. On the menu are Tillamook mac-n-cheese, grilled cheese sliders, herb-marinated roasted chicken drumsticks, pulled pork crostini and short rib tacos.
Once the tailgating is done, the Bud Light Fiesta continues with football-themed games, live music, BCS team merchandise, an ESPN demo field, food and beverage gardens and, on Jan. 9, pep rallies by BCS Championship teams the Auburn University Tigers and the University of Oregon Ducks.
>> The $2 Tailgate Party takes place 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Jan. 3-4 and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Jan. 5-7. The Bud Light Fiesta is 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. Jan. 6 and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Jan. 7-9. Both at the Scottsdale Waterfront south of Scottsdale Fashion Square. Free admission. (480) 421-1004 or budlightfiesta.com.
Glendale Glitter & Glow Block Party
The BCS host city fills 16 downtown blocks with dozens of glowing hot air balloons, 1.5 million Christmas lights and a mix of rock, blues, reggae, country and jazz bands. There are also beer gardens, street performers and an “After Glow” featuring The Chadwicks on stage 9:30 p.m. to 11 p.m.
>> 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. Jan. 8. Downtown Glendale. Free admission. Preferred parking is $10, but free parking and shuttles are available. (623) 930-2042 or visitglendale.com.