Sonoita and Elgin, Arizona
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Sonoita and Elgin are closely aligned, sharing a common chamber of commerce. The two towns are either 9 miles or 13 miles apart depending on which road you take between them. The Santa Cruz County Fair and the Sonoita Horse Races are held each year at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds in Sonoita.
The Native American O'odham name of the Sonoita area is the Son 'Oidag, which may be best translated as "spring field". (There are several places that the O'odham called Son 'Oidag within 200 km of this place, all agricultural spots.)
Sonoita has for many years been a popular place for wealthy Arizonans to establish vacation and retirement homes and ranches. Sonoita is presently experiencing significant growth, which is a relevant term, as the 2000 census indicates there were 826 people, 358 households, and 264 families residing in the 45.5 square miles of Sonoita.
In the early days of the then Territory of New Mexico, it was the approximate home of Fort Buchanan, a United States Army post founded in 1856 three miles west of present day Sonoita, Arizona in what is now called Hog Canyon. The fort was located on the east slope of the canyon and under constant attack by Apache Indians. It was officially abandoned in 1861 but during the American Civil War troops of the California Column occasionally manned the post.
In February of 1865 Apaches attacked and forced the small garrison to retreat. It was then abandoned for good and Fort Crittenden was established half a mile east on the flats in 1867. By then the Territory of New Mexico had become the Territory of Arizona.
Elgin encompasses 48.5 square miles. The 2000 census puts the population at 309 people, 123 households, and 86 families. The median income for a household in the Elgin area in 2000 was $64,167, which makes Elgin and nearby Sonoita somewhat well-to-do.
The train station sequence in the 1955 film classic Oklahoma!, with Gene Nelson singing and dancing the song "Kansas City" partly atop a moving train, was filmed in Elgin.
Elgin is the first location in Arizona to engage in commercial scale winemaking. In the 1970s, Gordon Dutt, Ph.D., a soil scientist from the University of Arizona was intrigued with the similarity between the soil of the Elgin-Sonoita area and that of Burgundy, France. In partnership with A. Blake Brophy, he developed an experimental winery that later developed into the Sonoita Vineyards. Presently, growers in the area produce Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Mission, and Syrah grapes. There are presently (2009) nine vineyards in the region, producing about 50,000 gallons of wine yearly.
Elgin hosts several wine festivals throughout the year, most notably the St. Martin's Day festival and the Fall festival. The expansion of winemaking in the Elgin-Sonoita area has led to establishment of fine restaurants and bed and breakfasts and has regenerated the economy of this lightly populated, rural area.