You have to admit, Arizona’s home to some odd animals: the Gila monster and chuckwalla, the coatimundi and the javelina — and at one time, to a greater extent than it is now — the ostrich.
Though not native to the state, the two-toed birds are celebrated at this weekend’s 26th Annual Chandler Chamber of Commerce Ostrich Festival. The event honors the city’s role as a major site for ostrich ranching in the early 1900s, when the birds’ plumes were in high demand for ladies’ hats.
Here’s your quick guide to the fun.
The Main Stage will blast sounds from its speakers beginning 6 p.m. Friday, March 7, with a concert by Edwin McCain. Following him, the synth-heavy and ruthlessly stylish neo Romantic Movement group, A Flock of Seagulls, will perform.
Three Dog Night will play the Main Stage 8 p.m. Saturday, March 8. Rancho Viejo — Univison Awards best new artist — closes the festival at 8 p.m. Sunday, March 9.
Several other acts will play on two additional music stages throughout the festival grounds.
The highlight may be the ostrich races, but there’s plenty more to see and do. The festival will offer motorcycle action with performances by the BMX Freestyle Team and the Fearless Flores Thrill Show, trick roping from the Rhinestone Roper, a magic show, water balls to roll around in, a bungee trampoline, a state fair-style carnival with rides for all ages and more than 150 vendor booths. Actress Peyton List, from the Disney Channel comedy “Jessie,” will meet fans 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday, March 9, at the Main Stage.
One additional race per day has been added to the ever-popular Freeway Chevrolet Ostrich Races, a hilarious event in which crazy riders and unpredictable animals put on an entertaining show. Ostrich Races are scheduled for 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. Friday, March 7, and noon, 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. Saturday, March 8 and Sunday, March 9.
Petting Zoo and other critters
Kids can pet and feed baby calves, goats, pigs, burros, buffaloes and miniature horses in this zoo that the Animal Planet network finds so unique it will be filming it for two days.
Pony and camel rides, a live stingray exhibit, and pig races are also planned.
Fresh off the set of TruTV’s “Full Throttle Saloon,” the vaudevillian FreakShow Deluxe is back by very popular demand to showcase acts like fire breathing, sword swallowing, contortionists, Bed of Nails and Ladder of Machetes. Patrons will get to tie up an escape artist. You can catch The FreakShow Deluxe at 4 p.m., 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. Friday, March 7; 4 p.m., 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, March 8; and noon, 2 p.m., 4 p.m., 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. Sunday, March 9.
What other festival boasts food booths offering USDA-approved ostrich steaks, ostrich burgers, and ostrich jerky? A tantalizing red meat low in both fat and cholesterol that doesn’t shrink when cooked, ostrich meat is a must-try here.
Other foods available: turkey legs, Cajun frog legs, Rocky Mountain oysters, fried catfish, deep-fried brownies, alligator Po Boys, smoked trout and salmon, fresh emu eggs and emu jerky.
IF YOU GO
What: The 26th Annual Chandler Chamber of Commerce Ostrich Festival
When: 2 p.m. to midnight Friday, March 7; 10 a.m. to midnight Saturday, March 8; and 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday, March 9
Where: Tumbleweed Park, 2260 S. McQueen Road, Chandler
Cost: General admission at the gate is $10 for adults, $7 for seniors (60 and older), $7 for kids 5 to 12, and free for children 4 and younger. All-day carnival ride wristbands are $25 at the gate. Parking is $5 for vehicles and $3 for motorcycles. Advanced tickets may be purchased at Fry’s Food Stores or at the Chandler Chamber of Commerce.