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Second Saturdays unite Tucsonans in the heart of downtown

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Simon Asher | The Daily Wildcat Rosemary Downey displays her original acrylic and watercolor pieces during second saturday on July 8, in downtown Tucson, Ariz.

Every second Saturday of the month downtown Tucson comes alive with a festival that brings local music, food and goods to the community.

This past weekend, people flocked to the historic streets of downtown for July’s Second Saturday. Musicians occupied almost every corner and attracting crowds while playing their hearts out. Food vendors handed people plates of delicacies with a smile and patrons brought their dogs along to be a part of the special evening. Children took in the festivities with wide and sparkling eyes.

John Holladay is a member of One Heart Beat, a street drum group that has become a staple for Second Saturday festivities. They once played in front of the Fox Theatre and Chicago Music Store; now they claim the corner of Congress Street and Stone Avenue as their stage.

Holladay believes that participating in Second Saturdays is a great way to perform freely, allowing the audience to respond to the music by listening up close or even dancing along. Watching people react to his songs is his favorite thing about the event. 

"We play the drums and we never know what’s gonna happen; this is how I met her,” Holladay said, pointing to his fellow musician, Doris Testo. “She heard the drums and started dancing, and now she’s part of the group.”

Holladay appreciates how Second Saturdays brought downtown Tucson back to life. He said it's made a significant difference after downtown activities died out for a while sparking a resurgence in community engagement.

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Down the street from One Heart Beat, a sweet aroma coming from a red food truck wafted through the air. Joe and Judy Hite were selling their Hot Pops Kettle Corn.

According to Judy, who has been selling kettle corn at Second Saturdays for years, participating in the monthly event has opened many doors for her business.

“Being down here on Second Saturdays has been very advantageous for us," she said. "We’ve picked up a lot of other events because people see us here every month and they need a kettle corn vendor for their event, and we’ve gotten into quite a few."

Hite said one of her favorite parts is seeing all the diversity that the vendors bring to the event.

“You can find practically anything. Find things you didn’t know you needed or wanted,” she said with a chuckle.

Hite believes that this event grows by word of mouth. She said that just talking to people who have never heard of Second Saturdays helps the festival grow little by little.

Sherry Mandelbaum creates original ink artwork and recently started selling it at Second Saturdays after her first visit. Mandelbaum said she saw the event as an opportunity to get her work out there and make her mark as a selling artist.

“It’s a great community atmosphere … you have different generations of people, different cultures, different mindsets and different personalities,” she said.

According to Mandelbaum, Second Saturdays not only gives local residents the ability to go out and do something fun, it also benefits the city's economy.

“Economically, you know, when [people] are not down on their luck, and they’re doing okay, they’re gonna come and spend. So it’s going to bring up the economy,” she said.

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A few vendors down from the ink artwork, a table with eclectic purses, flying skeleton ornaments and other curious pieces was attracting customers. Sisters Candi Carrell and Kathy Nichols sell their art from their shared business, Quasimodo’s Sisters. They have participated in Second Saturdays for over seven years.

Like Mandelbaum, Carrell considers the festival a great way to gather the community, give people fun activities to partake in and grow Tucson economically. She said that people who don't regularly go to downtown do so for Second Saturdays, which makes for a flourishing business community.

“I’ve lived in Tucson all my life and it’s been nice to see downtown being alive again," she said. "When I was a kid it was alive, then it kind of wasn’t, and now it’s nice to see everybody back again."


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