Colorado River Fall Festival 2023

Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah come together annually.

By: James Lamb
Grand Commander

Grand Commandery of Knights Templar of New Mexico

Photos courtesy of Ben Vik, AZ.

Ninety miles south of Las Vegas, Nevada and along the Colorado River lies a resort town developed by Don Laughlin. The town is his namesake and is across the river from Bullhead city, Arizona. You can visit two states in minutes! For over a quarter century, every October, York Rite Masons from Arizona, California, Nevada, and New Mexico gather to confer the Degrees and Orders upon worthy Candidates, as a courtesy to their home Bodies. The first festival was held in 1991 in Bullhead City, Arizona and was strictly an Arizona festival. A number of Companions from California and Nevada were present and, after conferring the Degrees and Orders on 42 Candidates, expressed a desire to participate the following year. As it had quickly outgrown the facilities available, it was moved across the Colorado River to Laughlin, Nevada and has been there ever since. In later years, New Mexico and Utah joined in with the festival. This year, nine New Mexico York Rite masons attended the Colorado River Fall Festival (CRFF) to perform the rites.

The festival began on October 23, 2023, with an opening of the Chapter degrees. Arizona led the Mark Master and Past Master Degrees, the Most Excellent Master by Utah, and work was led by the New Mexico team for the most sublime degree of the Holy Royal Arch. Companions Kevin Fitzwater, Steve Balke, Richard Butterfield, Dennis Detrow, DW Winchester, Adam Hathaway, James Lamb, James Bungard and James Overfelt provided an excellent degree experience with parts well memorized and rehearsed.

Later that afternoon the Council degrees were opened. The degrees of Royal and Select Master were performed with the New Mexico Most Illustrious Grand Master, DW Winchester in attendance by Companions from Nevada.

On October 24, 2023, the orders of Christian knighthood were conferred on all the candidates. The Commandry consists of the following orders: Order of the Red Cross, led by Utah, the Order of Mediterranean Pass/Malta, and finally the noble Order of the Temple. I was honored to be present as Grand Commander and witness as well as participate as your New Mexico team performed the Order of the Mediterranean Pass along with selected members from the California and Arizona Commandries, then assist California Sir Knights to perform the crowning Order of the Temple.


Well over 1000 candidates from twelve jurisdictions, from both North and South America have received a reception into the York Rite at the CRFF. Attending the conferral of the Degrees is the “Masonic Motivation”, but the Colorado River Fall Festival is really about camaraderie, fraternalism, education, and cooperation. You’ll see some of the finest ritual work in the Southwest. The CRFF planning Committee from each jurisdiction is responsible for the ritualistic work assigned to them, coordinating with their Grand Bodies as well as the general publicity surrounding the event. Our own Dennis Detrow and Stephen Balke are members of that committee.

There are normally between 35 and 50 Candidates per class with between 100 and 150 Companions, Sir Knights and Ladies attending. In addition to the conferrals there is a Banquet and a Ladies program. There has always been a “Survivor’s Party” on the last day and if there are any Ladies present who are eligible for the Royal Arch Widow’s Degree – King Solomon makes an appearance. This year was no exception with the degrees and orders being conferred on 35 candidates! Even Grand Masters from the Southwest jurisdictions were in attendance.

The cooperation and level of professionalism of all the Companions and Sir Knights that worked hard to impress upon the new candidates the symbolism and meaning of the degrees and orders was very impressive. And as always, it was great to rekindle relationships with our friends from other states, break bread at the formal banquet and survive the long two days of the festival. Especially it was nice to see our Companions and Sir Knights from California and our brothers from western New Mexico (aka Arizona). The brothers from Arizona and New Mexico have a long-standing relationship. Arizona also calls New Mexico, eastern Arizona.

If you missed this historic event and have a desire to learn what the York Rite is all about, maybe even receive the long-lost Master’s word, we have a place for you and an event you will not soon forget. Come with us next year on October 21st and 22nd, 2024. See you soon!

Colorado River Fall Festival

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