The Colorado River Fall Festival was inspired by two members of the Kingman York Rite Bodies in Kingman, Arizona in 1991.
Reed Anderson and Peter Stronge were driving to a Regius York Rite College meeting in February of 1991, discussing the problems surrounding the Kingman York Rite Bodies.
In 1989 Kingman had a brief influx of membership and funds from the consolidation of Parker Chapter #19 RAM with King Solomon Chapter #22 RAM and the removal from Parker of Agaman Council #12 CM and Mohave Commandery #13 KT to Kingman.
King Solomon Chapter, chartered in 1985, had a net increase of membership every year through 1990, then began to slip. Both Agaman Council and Mohave Commandery had been losing membership for years which accelerated with the move to Kingman - though we could at least gather enough members to open each meeting which, at times, took some last minute telephone calls.
The finances were bad with expenses exceeding revenues precluding our charities and it was beginning to look that in two or three years we would be giving up our Charters through lack of participation, dropping membership and finances. Something, we agreed, had to be done.
The membership, at the time, was pretty evenly divided throughout Mohave County and Parker. This was nothing new, the membership has been divided throughout the history of the Bodies to this day. Our policy in the past had been to bring the Degrees to the Candidates - if there were three or more. On a number of occasions we conferred Degrees in Needles, California for Candidates and we were willing to continue this - although expensive and difficult, the Candidate fees would break us even. Unfortunately, getting the Candidates together with a Degree team was very difficult and because of our small membership, the Degree team could only confer two Degrees at a time with 6 to 8 weeks between conferrals. The Candidates we did obtain were losing the thread of continuity and because so few of us were ritualists, they were not truly appreciating or benefiting from the work. We took most of our Candidates to Phoenix for the Commandery Orders, particularly Order of the Temple.
Reed and Peter concluded we would be able to attract more Candidates, and in a cost effective manner, if we had a Festival which would communicate all the Degrees and Orders at one time. But we would need help as we could not do all this ourselves at one time.
At the meeting of Regius, they talked to many Companions about the idea and received many expressions of encouragement and help. This was a real boost and the start of the Colorado River Fall Festival. We never heard "Oh, you can't do that" or "It won't work". Rather, we heard "It's a good idea" and "How can I help". This has been the success of the Festival - no one ever said "It can't be done!" Had we been discouraged at this seminal stage, the Festival would probably never occurred.
A month or so later we heard the Phoenix Bodies held a Spring Festival which had attracted only four Candidates, three of which were courtesies for other Bodies. We also heard they were not happy with the results.
Kingman then contacted the Phoenix Bodies, proposed they bring their Fall Festival to Bullhead City and, with us, hold a Festival. The initial idea was a traveling Festival, one that would be in different parts of the State on an annual basis, Bullhead City being the first. Phoenix, however, declined but did agree to assist us if we did hold one. We then went to the Yuma Bodies, requested their assistance, received assurances; to Regius York Rite College, the same; and to Oasis Chapter #15 RAM in Wickenburg, the same. Yuma was so enthusiastic about the Festival, there was some talk at the time to hold the second one in Yuma.
In short, all through this process of putting the idea into fruition, we heard nothing in the way of discouragement or that it couldn't be done, but we did receive a lot of encouragement and help.
The date, the week before Thanksgiving, was chosen for several reasons. It would give the membership sufficient time after the summer break to solicit Candidates - September was too soon - October had too many conflicts including the Grand Sessions - December had conflicts and the Christmas season. So November was selected, although not Thanksgiving as it was felt there would be too many family commitments (and no discount for housing). This was also immediately preceding the Yuma Ceremonial of El Zaribah Shrine Temple, so that those desiring to join that organization would be able to do so after attending our Festival.
Bullhead City has one of the strongest and most active Shrine Clubs in El Zaribah Temple. Their assistance has been invaluable, not only to promote our Festival to prospective Candidates, but also for providing the facilities and Banquet for the first Festival.
Once these facilities were secured, housing and dining arrangements made, the next step was to request the heads of the various Grand Bodies to attend, which would not only attract Candidates, but sideliners. The head of each Grand Body and the Grand Master F&AM attended. This absolutely proved itself. We notified the Grand York Rite Bodies of California and Nevada of our festival and those attending and invited their participation. Several of their Grand Officers attended with many observers from their jurisdictions.
Kingman obtained lists from the Masonic Lodges in the area and sent a mailing to over 500 Master Masons in Mohave County, inviting them to become Candidates or, if already York Rite Masons, to join us. As a result, we received applications for 25 Candidates. Very few Candidates were obtained directly from this mailing, rather it served to reinforce the solicitation of our membership.