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FAM Tours to Sample Mesa’s Bounty

Locals will have a great opportunity to show off the highlights of their town to an influential audience when meeting planners arrive in Mesa, Arizona, September 28-30 for the annual Small Market Meetings Conference.

Conference attendees include meeting planners who work for associations and corporations or who are third-party meeting planners who coordinate site selection and help with logistics. Hotels and other suppliers send people to meet those planners and potentially book business.

For Mesa, it’s a chance to have 200 visitors in town, many with the power to bring a meeting to that East Valley suburb of Phoenix. Familiarization (FAM) tours are being organized to show delegates the uniqueness of this south central Arizona city.

“It’s definitely important to bring planners into the market to experience what we offer,” said Michelle Streeter, Visit Mesa’s director of communications. “It’s a wow factor and really helps us sell the destination. Once they’re here, they see the unique qualities that make Mesa special compared to other Southwest destinations.”

What Mesa will showcase with these tours is how wide a canvas planners have for organizing meetings or events in Mesa. Visit Mesa partners with many local attractions that create behind-the-scenes experiences that people wouldn’t ordinarily get.

“They’ll visit Gilbert and Queen Creek, which we share a border with, along with the Apache Trail, all of which are a short distance from where delegates will stay and meet,” said Streeter.

Some of the FAM tour opportunities include the following:


Schnepf Farms — Pumpkin and Chili Party

The annual event was labeled “Arizona’s Best Family Fall Experience” by Phoenix Magazine.

“It’s a monthlong festival in Queen Creek, Arizona, and they get 100,000 visitors. We’ll be doing hayrides, the 10-acre corn maze and participating in other activities,” said Streeter.


Queen Creek Olive Mill — Tavolo Dinner

Tavolo, meaning “table” in Italian, is where guests gather for special four- to five-course feasts with wine pairings at this combination olive farm, working olive mill, restaurant and store. “This FAM tour features a staged table that is very well appointed and features several courses, along with the chef,” said Streeter.

Chef and owner Perry Rea prepares meals from his family’s cookbook. Ingredients are often seasonal and very fresh.

“They do boutique batches of olive oil on-site,” Streeter said. “You can see the olive trees that surround the mill. It’s going to be a gourmet culinary experience.”


Queen Creek Horseshoe Park and Equestrian Center

This state-of-the-art equestrian facility hosts Western and English equestrian events, as well as home shows, RV and car shows, concerts and weddings. Equestrians may drop in to use the arena and round pen. Event planners that choose this FAM tour will enjoy a performance by the Arizona Cowboy Mounted Shooters Association.



Postino East WineCafé

The unusual cafe and FAM tour offering in Gilbert, Arizona, presents 36 wines and simple, hearty meals prepared with local ingredients. The atmosphere is warm and friendly, with an indoor-outdoor bar, a wrap-around patio, and a green space for events. FAM attendees will enjoy the patio while eating dinner and sipping wines at the restored historic site.

“Downtown Gilbert is definitely fun, with a classic Main Street that’s often packed with people,” Streeter said. “It is very popular. Last year, Travel + Leisure magazine listed Gilbert as one of the coolest suburbs in America.”


Arizona Brewery Tours

Beer is more popular than ever thanks to the thousands of hometown breweries popping up everywhere. Arizona has its own wonderful craft breweries.

“The brewery scene has really taken off here,” Streeter said. “On these brewery tours you ride around in style in a minicoach and go behind the scenes from brewery to brewery. You talk with the brewmaster, go into the back rooms of these pubs and bars and see what they do to make their beers unique.”

This FAM tour will stop at Desert Eagle Tasting Room on Main Street in Downtown Mesa, Arizona, Wilderness Brewing in Gilbert — recently voted No. 1 Beer in the World — and the Beer Research Institute, Mesa’s newest brew house.


Mesa Arts Center

The venue, located in downtown Mesa, is the largest, most comprehensive arts and arts education center in Arizona. It showcases arts and culture: everything from art exhibitions to world-class performances to state-of-the-art studios for art education.

“We’re looking into creating a jewelry class where FAM tour travelers will make their own Native American-themed jewelry,” said Michelle Huebner, national sales manager for Visit Mesa.

For more information, visit

Dan Dickson

Dan has been a communicator all his professional life, first as an award-winning radio and TV news reporter for two decades and then as a communications director for several non-profits for another decade. He has contributed to The Group Travel Leader Inc. publications since 2007.