The 48th Annual Tucson Meet Yourself (TMY) Folklife Festival returns to downtown Tucson Oct. 8, 9, and 10, allowing the public to reconnect with its diverse and distinct cultures. As always, innovation and adaptation are emblematic of shifting traditions, and this year festival organizers have redesigned the event to prioritize the safety of artists, vendors, and the community at large.
Organized by the Southwest Folklife Alliance, this year’s TMY will be held on Jácome Plaza and the surrounding blocks of Stone Avenue, Church Avenue, and Pennington Street. Casino del Sol is back this year as the festival’s title sponsor after taking a hiatus in 2020 due to the pandemic’s effect on its closure. Organizers have consulted City of Tucson and Pima County Health Department officials as well as Centers for Disease Control to plan an adaptive festival that mitigates risk associated with Covid-19. A 15-point set of Covid Guidelines is viewable (and regularly updated) on the TMY website.
Festival highlights for 2021 include:
Over 50 performing groups sharing music and dance on only two stages set up with social distancing reminders. Performers include long-time TMY favorites such as Gertie N the T.O. Boyz, Seven Pipers Scottish Dancers & Tucson District Pipe Band, Odaiko Sonora Taiko Drumming, as well as Chinese dance and folk songs, Hawaiian hula dance, Argentine folk music, and the ceremonial Yaqui Deer Dancers.
30 food vendors representing over 20 cultural regions, including Mexico, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Poland, Egypt, Jamaica, as well as local Indigenous tribes. Rope walkways and signage will encourage and monitor social distance in the event of wait-lines. Take-out options and several reserved parking spots will be available for pick-up food only.
50 folk artists will share manual and visual arts. Artists will offer no hands-on activities for visitors this year and some will share work and process in a demonstration tent for short periods of time.
The inaugural Arizona Ethnic & Traditional Dance Festival, presented by TMC Healthcare, on Thursday, Oct. 7, Tucson’s Fox Theatre. Featuring some of the region’s most celebrated ethnic and traditional dance companies. A stunning line-up includes Suzuyuki-Kai Traditional Japanese Dancers, Lajkonik Polish Folk Ensemble, and Barbea Williams’ Performing Company, plus Yellow Bird Indian Dancers, Siva Maia Polynesian Dancers, Sound of Thunder Korean Dance and Drumming, Urvashi Indian dancers, Ballet Folkorico Tapatio de Tucson, Somos Tango, Celtic Steps, and Flamenco del Pueblo Viejo. This event is ticketed (16 and under are free but must reserve tickets) and follows Fox Theatre Covid guidelines, which requires proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test result for entry.
A lowrider car craftmanship demonstration organized by Tucson’s Dukes Car Club, featuring 10 cars and ongoing demonstrations in how to trick out your own ride.
Mariachi Pop-up Performance & filming of the Ugly Little Monkeys documentary finale. Join the final scene of a documentary film about Los Changuitos Feos, one of Tucson’s oldest and best-known youth mariachi groups, expanding opportunities for young people for over 50 years.
TMY Corrido Contest, back by popular demand, celebrating the art of corridos, a musical genre and oral tradition from Mexico and the US-Mexico borderlands with running accounts of contemporary and historical events put to verse.
A special Loss & Remembrance Tent that acknowledges grief and offers respite and support with special songs and dances of grief and healing from several festival performers, a Wall of Losses, a community jukebox, death doulas, and more.
Festival Program Director Maribel Alvarez says, “We’ve been very careful and intentional about planning this year’s Tucson Meet Yourself. We produce a festival for the public, of course, but our allegiance is primarily to the artists and food vendors who get to share their culture. Our close conversations with these participants—many with whom we have enjoyed decades of relationship—have helped us plan a scaled-back festival that takes safety very seriously, while still allowing for celebration and enjoyment.”
Alvarez invites festival attendees to spend time on the web site prior to the weekend to select their favorite vendors and artists and plan their experience with a more limited time engagement than in past years. “We know that cultures evolve and change slowly over time, but that also new learning and revelations can happen in a single instant—when you try a new food for the first time, or hear another culture’s song, or see the dance from a part of the world you’ve never visited. At Tucson Meet Yourself we are committed to creating such instants and we’re excited to be together, safely, this year,” says Alvarez, who is also Associate Dean of Community Engagement at the University of Arizona’s College of Social and Behavioral Sciences.
Learn more at www.TucsonMeetYourself.org
Tucson Meet Yourself is produced by the Southwest Folklife Alliance (SFA), an affiliate non-profit organization of the University of Arizona, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. We are the designated Folk Arts Partner of the Arizona Commission on the Arts with the support of the National Endowment of the Arts. Its mission is to build more equitable and vibrant communities by celebrating the everyday expressions of culture, heritage, and diversity rooted in the Greater Southwest and U.S. Mexico Border Corridor. Nationally, SFA amplifies models and methods of meaningful cultural work that center traditional knowledge, social equity, and collaboration.