The Lost Dutchman Days, Feb. 26 to 28 in Apache Junction, began 35 years ago as a mule race through town. Nowadays the celebration, named for the legendary miner Jacob Walz, who got lost in the nearby Superstition Mountains, draws huge crowds. Events include a parade, rodeo, carnival, live outdoor entertainment, polka festival, beer garden and western dance. Western wear is encouraged. Apache Junction is 45 miles east of Phoenix. For more information, contact the Apache Junction Chamber of Commerce, P.O. Box 1747, Apache Junction, AZ; telephone (602) 982-3141.
Denver celebrates Buffalo Bill's birthday with two events. The annual birthday party is held at the Buckhorn Exchange Restaurant on Feb. 27 and features a look-alike contest, Old West gunfights and western music. The Buckhorn is one of Denver's oldest saloons and was among Buffalo Bill's favorite watering holes. Reservations are required for dinner but not for the general milling about, which most people do. The next day, the crowd (including the look-alikes) convenes at Buffalo Bill's grave site at the top of Lookout Mountain for a not-too-somber commemoration (more western music and live entertainment). For more information, contact the Denver Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau, 1555 California St., Suite 300, Denver, CO 80202; tel. (800) 393-8559.
You don't have to travel all the way to Alaska's Iditarod to see a major sled dog race. Head for Helena Feb. 12 to 18 for the 145th annual Race to the Sky Sled Dog Competition. Two simultaneous races attract dozens of mushers and dog teams that compete in this 350- to 400-mile back-country event, which crosses the Continental Divide several times along the way. Best viewing spots are at the start, at checkpoints on the route and in Missoula, at the finish line. Contact Travel Montana, P.O. Box 20053, Helena, MT 59620-0533; tel. (800) 548-3390.
Newport's Winter Festival, Feb. 12 to 21, draws visitors during the off-season with more than 150 events over 10 days. Highlights include hayrides and horse-drawn carriage rides; sand, snow and ice sculpture competitions; a citywide scavenger hunt; wine tasting and an antiques show. Special hotel rates are available, and early booking is suggested. For more information, contact the Newport County Convention & Visitors Bureau, 23 America's Cup Ave., Newport, RI 02840; tel. (401) 847-7666.
Belgium's most famous carnival takes place in the small town of Binche, about 34 miles south of Brussels. The festivity, Feb. 14 to 16, focuses on exuberant parades through the town. The most lavish is on Shrove Tuesday (Feb. 16), when, from dawn until the midnight fireworks display, the streets are filled with hundreds of local men and boys dressed in carnival costumes decorated with appliqued lions and white feathered headdresses (some as high as 4 feet). These characters toss oranges to the crowd. Binche also has a Carnival and Mask Museum for more carnival spirit. Contact the Belgian Tourist Office, 780 3rd Ave., Suite 1501, New York, NY 10017; tel. (212) 758-8130.
Toronto Winterfest, Feb. 12 to 14, takes place at several downtown locations, including Mel Lastman Square, Nathan Phillips Square and the intersection of Yonge and Eglington streets. Highlights include a playground made from 750 tons of ice (ice slides and mazes), ice shows, live music, midway rides and games, fireworks and performances by some of Canada's top family entertainers. For more information, contact City of Toronto Special Events, 5100 Yonge St., Toronto, Canada M2N 5V7; tel. (416) 338-0338.