Spring into 2020 with these 5 events

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Carmen Valencia | The Daily Wildcat

An overhead view of the setup for the Tucson Festival of Books on the UA Mall on March 7.

The new year brings a chance to relive or discover for the first time the cascade of classic seasonal festivals that have made Tucson their home. For students looking to get a concentrated taste of local culture, the Daily Wildcat picked some of these classic events to highlight this semester.

Leah Martinez, center left, examines an amethyst sphere in the Village Originals, Inc. at the Kino Gem Show during the annual Tucson Gem and Mineral Show on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2017. Martinez, a Tucson native, attends the show almost every year and made a wind chime out of a unique collection of rocks from the show as a mother's day gift last year.

Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase/Tucson Gem and Mineral Show

Here is the difference between the Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase and the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show, which are so often paired.

The Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase is a city-wide congregation of vendors, dealers, experts and hobbyists that begins in mid-January. From then to Feb. 16, Tucson will be home to about 40 shows. For an entire month, every kind of rock and stone, including some of the most priceless earthly items in the entire world, will be peddled across the city. 

All shows are free to the public, except the prize of them all: the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show held at the Tucson Convention Center.

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According to the Tucson Gem & Mineral Society, the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show was the first gem show to ever invite the public to join the experts in their celebration of gems and geology.

Since then, with the growth of the showcase, the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show has become the largest gem show on the planet.

The show hosts over 250 vendors showcasing beautiful jewelry, gems, minerals and other goods. In addition to the gems and minerals available to purchase, there are special collections. Past exhibits have included the Fabergé Collection, the Logan Sapphire and the Arkansas Yellow Diamond Crystal.

The Tucson Gem and Mineral Show runs from Feb. 13 to Feb. 16.

The Party People play at the Gem and Jam Festival on Friday, Feb. 3. The Party People showcase a unique blend of old school hip-hop with a deep bass twist.

Gem and Jam Festival

In the midst of the Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase is the Gem and Jam Festival — a popular music, art and entertainment festival that has been described by Huffpost as the “Crown Jewell of the Southwest Festival Scene.”

The Gem and Jam Festival was designed as a pairing to the internationally popular Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase for visitors and locals. The festival includes more than music — the gem and mineral-themed festival is a host to art galleries, workshops, lectures and food vendors.

The festival offers camping and RV parking options for the whole weekend, making the festival a hotspot for road trippers.

This annual festival celebrates its 13th anniversary this year, opening on Jan. 30 and running through Feb. 2 at the Pima County Fairgrounds. Tickets are already almost sold out and run from $179.99 to $379.99.

Tucson Festival of Books

The Tucson Festival of Books is a nationally recognized author and bookselling event. The festival made its debut in 2009, welcoming 50,000 attendants, according to the festival’s website. Since then, it has grown to be one of the biggest bookselling events in the U.S., with over 130,000 people attending every year since 2014. Authors of almost every literary genre attend, including culinary, sci-fi, nonfiction, poetry, memoirs and children’s authors.

Pulitzer Prize finalist Luis Alberto Urrea will be featured at the festival in addition to local Tucson writers and illustrators Adam Rex and Chris Gall. Among the books and author tables, there will also be live entertainment and food throughout. The festival takes place at the University of Arizona during the final weekend of spring break on March 14 and 15 from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Public admission to the event is free.

Riders smile as they swing up in the air as they ride G-Force at Spring Fling.

Spring Fling

According to the Associated Students of the University of Arizona, UA students have been organizing Spring Fling since 1974 and have transformed the event into one of the largest student-run carnivals in the country. Since the beginning, the carnival has been “student-led and student focused,” aimed at giving student leaders intrinsic skills and uniting students and alumni through the “complete student experience,” according to the ASUA website.

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There are over 40 rides and games at Spring Fling and more than 20 food vendors. The carnival is a three-day weekend event, taking place this year on the UA Mall on April 3 from 5 to 11 p.m., April 4 from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and April 5 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission prices have not yet been released, but all proceeds from Spring Fling will go toward UA clubs and organizations and other local charitable groups.

Ornamental decorations hang from a booth on Sunday, March 24, 2019 in Tucson, Ariz. It is estimated that the street fair brings in roughly 300 international artisans.

Fourth Avenue Street Fair

This 50-year-old Tucson tradition, which celebrated its Golden Anniversary this past winter, is a large scale showcase of artisans’ work, entertainment, food and children’s activities.

Taking place on its namesake, Historic Fourth Avenue, the biannual Fourth Avenue Street Fair hosts more than 300 artisan booths and over 40 food vendors. Described by the North Fourth Avenue Merchants Association  as “one of the premier community celebrations in the Southwest,” the fair attracts more than 600,000 guests each year. From the allure of local bands to the chase of popular artistry from around the world, the street fair attracts enough attention to bring the avenue to life twice every year.

The next installment of the fair will take place March 20-22, beginning at 10 a.m. and ending at dusk. The event is free and is open to the public.


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