Tucson Meet Yourself
It's a small world of gastronomy (plus music, dance, and arts) after all. Join us October 2020!
A Downtown Block Party!
Ready for a downtown block party? Welcome to Tucson Meet Yourself. This grassroots event celebrates food and culture in the Southern Arizona borderland. The festivities -- vendor booths, entertainment stages, culinary and cultural activities, and a lowrider car show -- is clustered around Jácome Plaza and surrounding streets in the heart of downtown Tucson.
Locals call it "Tucson Eat Yourself" because of the staggering amount and variety of food: Normally, over 50 food vendors participate. Half of them nonprofit cultural clubs, churches and temples. The other half are small ethnic businesses and sole proprietors. No commercial chains or national food operators are allowed -- only local Tucson-based food entrepreneurs.
Tucson Meet Yourself began in 1974, before words like “multicultural” and “diversity” entered the mainstream American vocabulary. It was started by some forward-thinking Tucsonans led by a young University of Arizona anthropologist named Jim Griffith, who went on to win a National Heritage Fellowship. The annual event has grown into a three-day block party with hundreds of home cooks, artisans, dancers, musicians, and exhibitors participating. It is still dedicated to honoring and sharing the living traditional arts of local ethnic and folk communities. It is still admission-free and alcohol-free and staged in the downtown heart of Tucson.
Lowrider cars in mint condition shine at a street exhibit.
Video: Arizona Profile: Tucson Meet Yourself
7 Tips for Enjoying Tucson Meet Yourself
1. Check the website (TucsonMeetYourself.org). The three-day program and an event map can be downloaded in advance.
2. Use public transportation; the Sun Link Tucson Streetcar exits at Congress Street and Stone Avenue, both are short distances from the festival.
3. Don’t stay only in one area. Besides trying the food, roam and explore as many areas of the festival as you can. There are three stages of music and dance, one stage of food stories and demonstrations, a large interpretative exhibit, several Folk Arts Pavilions, a Culture Kitchen, a Car Show, a Ten West Pavilion and dozens of nonprofits and local businesses sharing information in the Community Matters area.
4. Friday and Saturday nights are the most crowded: The atmosphere is festive and social dancing on the street is common. Friday is the least busy day.
5. Make a donation at one of the many entry ways. Donations boxes or pass-the-bucket appeals at the stages. The festival is free, but production expenses are high.
6. Pace yourself. Try many different types of food. Ask the cooks for information about the dish you are buying. The majority of the food booths are run by home-cooks and non-profit clubs; they welcome your interest. Many stage the cook preparation as an educational opportunity (for example, the Spanish Club cooks a large “paella” on site). Most dishes are priced under $10, many are small and inexpensive.
7. Bring cash. There are ATMs, but why not come prepared?
Think of a festival as a ritual, a time when things shift their normal order–people transgress their comfort zones by eating different foods, dancing on the streets, talking to strangers, seeing what is familiar in a new light. In this way, we are able to imagine what a more democratic, equitable, and just world might look like.
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