Apache Junction, AZ

Lost Dutchman Days Rodeo Roundup

Grace Lieberman

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Courtesy of Lost Dutchman Days

Apache Junction’s 58th annual event Lost Dutchman Days is set to begin Thursday, and the action-packed weekend has no shortage of family-friendly festivities for attendees to enjoy.

The five-decade-long tradition that occurs on the last weekend of February is estimated to attract some 30,000 attendees and is primarily marketed to families with its motto of "Putting Smiles On Kids Faces.”

You can even bring your dogs, so long as they’re well-behaved and leashed. It offers a number of events such as pageants, rodeos, and a carnival as well as dozens of vendors selling wares and food. Apache Junction approved 66 business licenses in January, many of which included new vendors for the event. Lost Dutchman Days will run from February 25-27, but a kickoff dinner and charity golf tournament were also held in January ahead of the main celebration.

The festival is named after the Lost Dutchman Mine of legend, considered one of the most famous “lost mines” in American history. The Lost Dutchman is believed to be gold-rich and located in the Superstition Mountains near Apache Junction. The legend dictates that it was discovered in the late 1800s by German immigrant Jacob Waltz, who supposedly hid his gold there, but its existence has never been confirmed and over the years many have searched in vain for its location.

Here’s a summary of what to expect in the Western themed weekend:

Lost Dutchman kicks off Thursday afternoon with its annual Bratwurst & Beer party at the Apache Junction Elks Lodge 2349. From 12 to 8 p.m., attendees can enjoy Jacksonville Bratwursts and entertainment including a Patsy Cline tribute show from Arizona local singer Carmen Ruiz, a performance from Sylvia's Arizona Polka Band, followed by country and the old-time rock and roll Exit 40 Band.

On Friday night, over-21 festival goers can attend the Rodeo Dance at Elks Lodge with a performance from Canyon State Band for a $5 admission fee.

On Saturday, the annual Lost Dutchman Days Parade will be held in downtown Apache Junction starting at 9am. The parade is held on Apache Trail between Idaho and Ironwood beginning just West of Idaho Road at Phelps Drive. The parade features a number of representatives from non-profit, commercial, and political organizations.

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Courtesy of Lost Dutchman Days

The main events are held throughout the weekend, and include more than 30 carnival rides, vendor booths, and a professional rodeo each day. The carnival is held Friday afternoon from 3 to 7pm and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday before finishing out the weekend from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.

The festival also hosts the crowning of the Miss Lost Dutchman Days Pageant queen. The Lost Dutchman Days Rodeo Royalty makes appearances and attends and hosts fundraisers and community service events year round, and the queens attend the Brat Party as well as each rodeo event through the weekend.

The premiere event of Lost Dutchman Days is naturally the daily professional rodeos. Starting each day at 1:30 p.m., attendees can go to the Apache Junction rodeo park and expect over half a dozen events in the GCPRA sanctioned rodeo including bull riding, bareback, barrel racing, breakaway roping and more.

The rodeo also hosts mid-performance entertainment from the trick rider Madison Macdonald. Rodeo tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for children under 10 years old, but attendees can also get two dollars off their tickets if they get them in advance from the Apache Junction Chamber of Commerce or Crazy Horse Saddle Shop.

Admission to the Main Event Center, located at Rodeo Park in Apache Junction, is $2 with free parking and proceeds from many of the events benefit various local youth charities, while additional charges apply for the games, carnival rides, purchases from the vendors, and rodeo admission. The carnival offers a limited quantity of $25 all-day ride passes if you buy one in advance, and they’re $35 to purchase at the event.

Attendees can also participate in a raffle for $2, or 3 tickets for five, which will be drawn on Saturday in the area after the last rodeo performance. You don’t need to attend the drawing to claim your prize, but your contact information must be on the ticket stub to be able to get what you’ve won. Prizes include a half cow’s worth of beef and a freezer or $500 cash for first place, $150 for second place, a Dolly Steamboat dinner cruise on Canyon Lake for third, and a $100 gift certificate from the Crazy Horse Saddle Shop for fourth place.

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Courtesy of Lost Dutchman Days

All said, the Lost Dutchman Days rodeo attracts tens of thousands of tourists and locals alike for an action-packed weekend with its plethora of events and offerings based on the country Western themes commonly seen in the region.

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Grace Lieberman is a business, science and technology reporter based in Phoenix, AZ

Phoenix, AZ
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