Friends of Sabino Canyon have big expectations for Saturday’s 18th annual Music in the Canyon festival.

Event chair Christina Mahar said the goal is to double attendance from last year, from 1,500 to 3,000 people.

Friends’ secret weapon: American Authors, the indie rock band from Brooklyn, N.Y., known for its wildly popular 2013 single “Best Day of My Life.”

This is the first year that Music in the Canyon has enlisted such a high-profile touring act to perform, Mahar said. The band’s debut, full-length album, “Oh, What a Life,” featuring “Best Day” came out on Tuesday.

“We booked them two months ago,” said Mahar. “We were so lucky to get them when we did. They are rocketing up the charts.”

The group serves as the main event for an afternoon full of family-friendly activities.

The music leading up to American Authors includes performances from Angela Ferrari out of Phoenix, the Abbott Taylor Band and Ryanhood.

Cirque Roots, a Tucson-based circus arts group will perform stilt-walking, hoop dancing and acrobatics on their own stage throughout the day.

A large children’s area will be set up, courtesy of the Sabino Canyon Volunteer Naturalists. The zone will include storytelling, puppet shows, wildlife encounters and face-painting.

A beer and wine garden will be available for the parents.

All proceeds go toward the Friends of Sabino Canyon, whose goal since 1993 has been to protect, preserve and enhance Sabino Canyon, according to the organization’s website.

Mahar said the group has received help this year from several high-level supporters, including Finley Distributing, Clear Channel and Whole Foods.

Their generosity has given the planning committee the ability to throw a bigger, better event.

Mahar said the greatest attraction, of course, will be the beautiful, natural surroundings of Sabino Canyon.

“What’s better than hearing some amazing music, right there in the desert amid the mountains,” she said.

Contact reporter Gerald M. Gay at or 807-8430.