RefugeeFEST Gives a Festive Look at the World That Lives Here

June 18, 2012

Tucson and the world come together June 23 at the 4th Annual Tucson World RefugeeFEST,  a free all-day family event in celebration of United Nations World Refugee Day.

The event will be held at Maracana Indoor Sports Arena, 555 East 18th Street, from 9 a.m.  to  9 p.m., beginning with National Bank of Arizona Refugee Soccer Tournament with refugee teams from all over Arizona competing for top honors.

The presenting sponsor is Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest.

Activities include the Learning A-Z Kids Corral and the Refugee Global Village featuring cultural exhibits, arts and crafts, games, ethnic foods, and displays from refugee community groups and services providers. Cultures represented include: Afghani, Iraqi, Bhutanese, Burundi, Somali, Sudanese, Burmese, Bosnian and Cambodian.

TLC Communications is underwriting the World Stage performances beginning at 2 p.m. and featuring: the Arizona Symphonic Winds conducted by Hungarian immigrant Laslo Veres; Balkan Spirit led by Bulgarian refugee Anton Sherkejiev playing gypsy-balkan-middle eastern music; Faraz Zein, Iranian-Flamenco guitar; Afro-Caribbean drumming and dance, and a refugee talent showcase. Peace Corps Global DJ dance music will bring the world together in a celebratory dance party to round out the evening and honor the Soccer tournament participants.

At 3 p.m. a special Citizenship Ceremony will be held by  the United States Citizen & Immigration Services. The Oath of Allegiance will be taken by refugee youth. Mayor Jonathan Rothschild and Pima County Supervisor Richard Elias will welcome the newest Tucson citizens. The USCIS will host an information table where festival attendees can take the U.S. Citizenship quiz. Attendees can learn to speak one of 50 different languages in the Refugee Global Village. The Western Passport Center will provide information on how to obtain a passport for international travel.

These activities provide our community an opportunity to have fun and share their cultural heritage while engaging Tucsonans in both local and global humanitarian issues.

The event is free. A suggested donation of $1 or any amount will be gratefully accepted and helps pay for the Festival. Food, crafts and cultural goods will be offered for sale supporting many refugee micro-businesses and non-profits such as Somali Bantu Association of Tucson, Bhutanese Mutual Assistance Association, Iskashitaa Refugee Harvesting, Laos Students Association, and Tucson International Alliance of Refugee Communities (TIARC).

This year organizers hope to create even greater excitement around soccer. Maracana Indoor Sports Arena is owned and operated by entrepreneur Mladen Kozak, a Bosnian refugee. Teams representing Bhutan, Bosnia, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Iraq, Liberia, Somalia, Sudan and are expected to be highly competitive. National Bank of Arizona is underwriting the Soccer tournament and other local businesses are supporting the event including Community Partnership of Southern Arizona (CPSA), La Frontera Arizona, TLC Communications, Diamond Eye Care, Learning A-Z, Horizon Moving Systems, Native SeedsSEARCH, and Innovative Living.

Tucson World RefugeeFEST 2012 is a volunteer driven project that seeks to build capacity among Tucson-based Mutual Assistance Associations. The Somali Bantu Association of Tucson Arizona (SBATA) has stepped forward to share this year’s festival fiscal sponsorship along with Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest, Refugee and Immigration Services.

“The Tucson World RefugeeFEST is all about connection–between the community, the refugees, and the diverse set of cultures we have here in Tucson. Since soccer is a language we all speak, why not play? Since food, music & dance is something we all love, why not eat, play & move? Being able to find our common ground together, and celebrate it is what RefugeeFEST is all about,” says Megan Fabry, Co-Chair of the RefugeeFEST Committee.

More information can be found online at: or call Megan Fabry at 520-881-4373. Donations are tax-deductible and welcome.

About World Refugee Day
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), in 2001, designated June 20 as World Refugee Day to acknowledge the resilience and strength of refugees. Tucson has become a safe haven for more than 11,000 refugees who have started new lives free from persecution.  World Refugee Day honors their remarkable courage and amazing spirit.


9 a.m. National Bank of Arizona Refugee Soccer Tournament, Learning A-Z Kids Corral & Ethnic Food Vendors open.

2 p.m. Refugee Global Village & Exhibitors open

TLC World Stage programming:

All Day – Global DJ

2:30 p.m. Arizona Symphonic Winds

3 p.m. Proclamations and USCIS Citizenship Ceremony – Mayor Rothschild in attendance

4 p.m. Balkan Spirit – Gypsy, Balkan, Middle Eastern music

5 p.m. Refugee Talent Show – dance, music, poetry from Burundi, Somalia, Bhutan and Congo

6 p.m. Faraz Zein – Iranian/Flamenco guitarist

7 p.m. Balkan Spirit

8 p.m. Soccer Awards & Peace Corps Dance Party

9 p.m. Festival closes