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Rock Art Center festival offers something for everyone

March 10, 2009

These days, it’s hard to find affordable entertainment appropriate for the whole family. But the Deer Valley Rock Art Center’s annual Rock Art Expo is an exception.

Every spring, Arizona State University’s archaeological site, museum and nature preserve—a Phoenix Point of Pride and the 2008 Nickelodeon Parents’ Pick for Best Museum for Little Kids in the Phoenix Area—opens its doors to people of all ages for a special day of cultural entertainment and enlightenment, at no charge.

Last year, over 800 people attended the event. This year, around 1,000 are expected to take advantage of the balmy weather and exciting offerings, which include a mock archeology dig for kids, flint-knapping demonstrations, the storytelling of Conrad Storad and an afternoon of DJ-hosted African and Brazilian fusion music in the amphitheater.

Outdoors, guests will be treated to guided tours of the petroglyph trail and interactive stations on archaeology and desert ecology. Indoors, visitors can enjoy the center’s permanent and temporary exhibits: People were Here, the Rock Paintings of Hueco Tanks and, in celebration of Arizona Archaeology Awareness Month and Youth Art Month (March), the 11th Annual Children’s Art Exhibit.

Sharing space with the indoor exhibits will be a variety of artists’ displays, from handcrafted fountains and contemporary rock art to Yaqui jewelry and Huichol beadwork.

An agave roast and tasting is a highlight of the affair. Working with the Hualapai tribe, center staff and volunteers harvest agave plants and transport them back to the center, where they roast them for two days in an earthen pit. Rock Art Expo visitors will have the opportunity to sample the chewy, slightly sweet roasted agave hearts, a traditional food of many indigenous peoples of the American Southwest. Those not inclined to chow down on agave will find fun, affordable refreshments, like bratwurst, snow cones and hot dogs, from an onsite food vendor.

Kicking off the expo at 10 a.m. is an awards ceremony for the children’s art exhibit currently on display. Representing 154 kids from the PhoenixDeer Valley Rock Art Center. metropolitan area, the art ranges from painted landscapes to masks, all themed around rock art, archaeology or desert plants and animals. Every child will receive a certificate of participation, and special awards—such as “best multimedia piece”—will be presented, with the “best of show” winner receiving free summer camp at the

A raffle drawing for a 3-day, 2-night stay at the Avi Resort and Casino in Laughlin will wrap up the day’s activities. Tickets, $1 each or 6 for $5, are on sale now through the day of the expo. Proceeds will go towards furthering the center’s educational and preservation programs.

Deer Valley Rock Art Center is managed by Arizona State University’s School of Human Evolution and Social Change. It is located at 3711 W. Deer Valley Road, approximately 2 miles north of Highway 101 and 2 miles west of I-17. For more information, call (623) 582-8007 or visit