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For 16 years, Camp Verde has annually celebrated one thing: Before the wine got added to its name, the Spring Heritage Pecan and Wine Festival help locals and visitors go nuts over the pecan, one of the town’s assets.

A brief history lesson for those who don’t know: In the late 1920s, landowner’s daughter Eva Haydon planted a row of pecan trees along what would become a section of Montezuma Castle Highway known as Pecan Lane. In 2000, the Pecan Lane Rural Historic Landscape became a site on the National Register of Historic Places.

The area’s largest pecan grower, Summer Place Pecan Farm, was started by Richard Tinlin in 1977 when he planted 1,400 trees along the Verde River. Summer Place produces tens of thousands of pounds of pecans in a good year.

Long before grapes came back into their season in the Verde Valley, Camp Verde boasted its own artisan crop — which is not, of course, to put down its corn, pumpkins or other farm-fresh produce.

On Saturday, March 18 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday, March 19, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the Spring Heritage Pecan and Wine Festival kicks off along Main Street, at the corner of Hollamon Street.

The event features the region’s largest wine tasting featuring 14 vineyards, over 60 food and craft vendors, the 10-mile Verde River Runoff Canoe and Kayak Race and the Verde Valley Archaeology Fair.

Fort Verde State Historic Park, located next door, will be sponsoring a Pecan Pie Contest and vintage base ball.

“This event is user friendly,” said Nikki Miller, of Camp Verde Promotions — which has coordinated the event for four years alongside other partners — adding that river race organizers expect over 75 participants “and, if the river cooperates, probably more.”

Rafters can register at 7 a.m. Saturday.

“Since the beginning of this event we’ve had requests for beer, so last year we added a beer garden,” Miller said. “Not everyone likes wine. Now we make both happy .... You can see [the event] has a lot of variety.”

According to Miller, he event usually attracts anywhere from a 1,000 to 2,500 people.

“It will continue to grow if the weather is nice to us and doesn’t blow us away .... The only fee is if someone wishes to taste wine, then there is a $15 fee that includes wine-tasting tickets and a glass.”

New this year, organizers have added a few pecan contests, interactive art exhibits and “make something out of pecan time” on both days. Small prizes will be given out to the winners.

“So, those that are creative, put on your thinking hats,” Miller said.

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