Tucson Palooza, mental health awareness, returns to campus for third year

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Sofia Moraga | The Daily Wildcat The University of Arizona Mall in Tucson, Ariz.

The third-annual Tucson Palooza is coming to the University of Arizona Mall this Saturday, May 4, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. — just in time for finals week.

The Tucson Palooza is organized by UA’s mental health program, Camp Wellness, and is presented by Arizona Complete Health. Admission to the event is free.

Pamela Wagner, lead coordinator for this year’s Tucson Palooza, promises “this is not your typical resource fair.”

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The Tucson Palooza is a living, evolving mental health awareness event to feature fruit, games, giveaways and live entertainment for all ages.

“Tucson Palooza strives to make mental health an accessible, non-threatening topic [for] everyone by presenting Tucson’s mental health resources in a festive, family-friendly setting,” said Joanna Keyl, exhibitor coordinator for the Tucson Palooza.

Mayor Jonathan Rothschild will kick off this year’s event, followed by live music by local bands and DJs who have volunteered their time for this event, including DJ Clint Pittenger, DUI Squad, The Rifle, CW Tubbs and the Bucket List Band and E.S.P.

Student passersby and other attendants can look forward to dunk tanks, duck races, a meditation labyrinth, “living libraries” providing open dialogue on mental health issues and encounters with therapy dogs from the Humane Society.

According to Wagner, coordinators are working on acquiring therapy miniature horses as well.

“Because mental illness is still highly stigmatized, we need to make sure that people feel as comfortable as possible attending the event and talking about it with their friends, kids and others,” Keyl said. “We do that by emphasizing the festive atmosphere and making music and games a main focus of Tucson Palooza.”

This year, the Tucson Palooza is implementing the first ever First Responders Lip-Off Challenge — a lip sync battle between local emergency service departments beginning 11:15 a.m.

According to Cheryl Glass, the event’s music coordinator and Director of the UA Health and Wellness Center, the Lip-Off Challenge is the experimental brainchild of the Tucson Palooza Steering Committee intended to build a bridge between first responders and the community.

“Sometimes people in the community have never had the opportunity to have positive interactions with first responders,” Glass said. “The opportunity to interact with first responders in a different context creates a chance to find commonalities, build positive connections and remind us all that we’re working together for the health and safety of our community.”

Getting first responders and the community to have faith in each other is paramount when discussing mental health, and Glass said she believes the best way to bridge that gap is through music and playful interaction.

“Music is such a powerful way to build connections,” Glass said.

The Tucson Palooza is also partnering with UA Finals Survival Week this year.

According to Wagner, the Tucson Palooza spends each year at a new location to spread awareness to all different communities.

By hosting Tucson Palooza on the UA Mall, coordinators like Glass hope to reach a broader audience and give students the opportunity to benefit from this event — through relaxation and stress relief.

“We, as a behavioral health community, notice enough swing in resources being needed during this time of year,” Wagner said. “We want to be sure that students have access to those resources.”

Glass said the Tucson Palooza is a great opportunity for students to take a break from studying and soak up some Vitamin D. Between the natural light, fun games and cuddly therapy dogs, the Tucson Palooza is a recipe for positivity.

“These are all strategies that help people relax and clear their minds, which will improve their ability to concentrate,” Glass said. “These same strategies have a positive impact on mental health. I hope that students remember this for years to come, that when facing tough times or stressful situations, taking a break, getting out and having some fun will help carry them through.”

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By amassing a following and spreading mental health awareness every May, Keyl said she believes the Tucson Palooza has potential to become a local staple.

“I would love to see Tucson become better known for its great mental health resources, and Tucson Palooza could certainly take a central role in that,” Keyl said.

For more information concerning the Tucson Palooza, visit the Camp Wellness website.


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