Tucson Meet Yourself gets bigger yet again

October 12, 2011

The largest and most ambitious Tucson Meet Yourself yet will unfold for Tucsonans Oct. 14-16.

Last year, Tucson Meet Yourself expanded widely onto La Placita Village and down to the Tucson Convention Center.

There will be the back-by-popular demand demonstrations by folk artists, delicious food, Iron Chef competitions, Lowrider car show, interactive dance workshops, and music from all over the world in six stages.

This year’s new highlights include a larger cross-border vision in partnership with the neighboring Mexican state of Sonora; new special activities focused on celebrating traditions of health and wellness; and a variety of expanded educational programs, including active participation by TUSD students, teachers, and parents.

Altogether, the 38th annual Tucson Meet Yourself will offer 110 distinct music, dance, food, and folk arts presentations, demonstrations, and educational experiences representing the work from more than 170 traditional artists and 65 ethnic and occupational groups.

Standing apart from other multicultural celebrations in the Old Pueblo by its “folklife” mission, the TMY festival is always preceded by scholarly research and extensive relationship-building with the variety of living traditional artists, folk groups, and ethnic communities that reside here.

Affectionately called by locals, “Tucson Eat Yourself” for the abundance of delicious, inexpensive homemade ethnic foods, TMY also doubles as a fundraising platform for non-profit clubs, cultural organizations, and small ethnic entrepreneurs and small business owners that last year raised over $250,000 through sales at the festival.

“While food has always been the hook,” said Dr. Maribel Alvarez, chair of the TMY Board and UA folklore professor, “in the end our goal of serving 120,000 people over three days would be shallow were it not for the careful attention we pay to creating deliberate moments for artistic and human encounters.”

This year, a new Sonoran Pavilion will feature displays about our neighboring state’s natural and recreational assets, vernacular foods such as the famed carne asada, chiltepin chile, coyotas, and flour tortillas, in addition to distinctive arts and crafts associated with the state’s vaquero and agricultural lifestyle. This is the first time that Sonora is featured in such a large scale at a local festival and recognized for its intertwined culture and economy with Tucson.

A new Traditions of Health and Wellness area will highlight healthy ethnic recipes, alternative healing techniques rooted in traditional knowledge, a TMY Moving Path throughout the entire festival footprint, a large communal dance, Tucson MOVE Your Body, martial arts, yoga, massage, plus many distinct forms of exercise demos rooted in cultural traditions (capoeria, zumba, martial arts) as well as games, workshops, and lectures.

This year, a Passport to the World will allow festival goers, especially children and parents, to personalize their experience by collecting cultural “visas” throughout the festival by visiting and interacting with artists, tradition bearers, presenters, vendors, and folklorists in new dynamic ways.

Unlike official passports elsewhere, the TMY version grants immediate access to worldwide ethnic and folk groups who are also Tucsonans.

This year, TUSD will host its annual schools fair at the festival at 2 p,m. on Saturday Oct. 15. Thousands of TUSD children and youth will lead festival participants in the Tucson MOVE Your Body Dance followed by the MOVING Parade through the Festival grounds.

“This year we are offering the public multiple entry points to an authentic experience,” said TMY Executive Director Mia Hansen, “People will be able to add depth to what can otherwise seem simply festive by becoming involved. Something happens when people eat, dance, move, make, and experience things together.”

The 2011 Tucson Meet Yourself Folklife Festival will take place from October 14-16 at six adjacent site locations in downtown Tucson: El Presidio Park, Pima County Main Library, Jacomé Plaza, La Placita Village, Pima County Administration Building and Courthouse, Leo Rich Theater, Tucson Convention Center Plaza, and Church Street.

Festival hours are Friday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.