The annual folklife festival, Tucson Meet Yourself, is hitting the streets around Jácome Plaza this weekend, bringing food, entertainment and heritage to the Tucson area for a celebration of local culture and a splash of California tradition.
Set for Oct. 11-13 and spanning four city blocks, the festival is free to the public and has a packed schedule of live entertainment spanning all three days.
According to Kimi Eisele, the communications director, Tucson Meet Yourself has historically drawn an attendance of over 120,000 people with an estimated $3.5 million impact on the local economy. This is accomplished primarily via the festival’s trademark attraction: the food stands.
There will be “over 50 food vendors representing 30 countries and regions,” Eisele said.
In a city that is heralded for its gastronomy, Tucson Meet Yourself presents a unique opportunity for attendees to taste a variety of traditional cuisine prepared by community members.
This is also an opportunity for those who can’t operate year-round to be in business for a few days. Most of the food sells for less than $12, according to Eisele, but for many vendors, those purchases will go a long way towards supporting their cultural activities year-round.
This doesn’t just apply to food vendors. Eisele emphasized that for musicians and other live performers, Tucson Meet Yourself is a mutually beneficial relationship for vendors and visitors alike.
“Part of Tucson Meet Yourself’s beauty is that it supports Tucson’s cultural workers,” said Maribel Alvarez, the festival curator and associate professor of anthropology at the University of Arizona. “It does that by offering vending space at low cost and paying performers for their appearances.”
According to Eisele, 15% of the festival budget will pay the artists performing at Tucson Meet Yourself.
Alvarez suggested that a strong motivator for the vendors at Tucson Meet Yourself is the desire to share their culture with the rest of Tucson.
One such group is the Iranian-Students’ Cultural Association in Tucson, which consists of nearly 300 students from the UA. The organization prides itself on representing their culture not only on campus but at the yearly folk festival.
Arash Nikvar Hassani, a second year Ph.D. student in civil engineering and president of the club, looks forward to presenting food and other aspects of culture to festival attendants.
“The main thing is cooking traditional food, but we also set up the booth to show culture [and] photos from different parts of Iran,” Nikvar Hassani said.
Nikvar Hassani also hopes to show the Tucson community another side of Iran that is not portrayed in the media today.
“See our culture and enjoy our food,” Nikvar Hassani said. “We are ready to share how our people are kind, friendly and hospitable.”
Iranian-Student’s Cultural Association is just one of the many diverse groups to find this weekend at the folk festival.
To add a bit of extra flair to the event, there is an additional theme chosen annually. This year’s theme is “California Traditions” and it will feature a variety of Californian artists presenting work that meshes well with the established themes of Tucson heritage.
One such group is Cambalache, a Los Angeles folk music group hailing from Veracruz, Mexico, that will collaborate with the Tucson group Son Jarocho Collective. Expect there to be other collaborative acts at the festival.
Tucson Meet Yourself takes place from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday. While admission is free, donations are appreciated.
For more information about Tucson Meet Yourself, its vendors or the festival schedule, or if you are interested in volunteering, visit the festival website at tucsonmeetyourself.org.
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