Tucson Meet Yourself celebrates 50 years of Tucson folklife

Tucson Meet Yourself returns to Downtown this weekend to honor and enjoy the living traditions and diverse cultures that make up our community.

Kimi Eisele, a folklorist and communications manager with the Southwest Folklife Alliance, said there is “a lot of celebration” around the festival as it has been part of the Tucson tapestry for five decades. 

There will be folk art, food and more than 80 performances, including music and dance, happening over the course of the three-day event.

Dukes Car Club’s annual Low and Shine Car Show, which has been partnering with the festival for more than 30 years, is back featuring some 60 modified cars from classic 1940s Chevrolets to Impalas, DeSotos, and Cadillacs.

A new addition to this year’s Tucson Meet Yourself is the Heritage Beer Garden. Eisele said it is the first time alcohol has been served at the event. The Heritage Beer Garden is result of a partnership with Borderlands Brewing Company.

“They’ve made the Tucson Wheat Yourself, which is a wheat beer,” Eisele said. “And they’re carrying on the tradition of female brewers — I believe, historically, beer brewing was done by women — and Borderlands uses many local ingredients for their beers. So, that’s one of our highlights.”

People who go to the Heritage Beer Garden will be able to taste test “heritage brews” and watch brewing demonstrations.

There will also be more than 60 food booths including Nepalese
food from Maya Gracia, Puerto Rican food from The Sweet Coqui, Greek
food from Order of Ahepa and much more, Eisele said.

Tucson Meet Yourself’s famous corridos contest — which began in 1982 — will be replaced by a celebration of the traditional Mexican ballads and corridos-scholar Celestino Fernandez, who used to emcee the contests. There will be performances of Fernandez’ original corridos by local singers.

“Something I’m excited about – I’m curating the Memory Tent: The Way We Were in 1974,” Eisele said. “It will be like a look back in time to the first year of Tucson Meet Yourself in the 70’s.”

There will be “groovy albums” at the tent for attendees to listen to as well as stories told by people who were present at the earliest incarnation of the event. The tent will have a nostalgic feel complete with retro decorations. 

Eisele said another new feature they’ve included to the festival is a “tranquility tent” as well as accessibility efforts, which include wheelchair loans, assisted listening devices, ramps, designated sections near the stage for performances along with an accessibility coordinator. 

On Sunday, Oct. 15, the 35th annual AIDSWALK will take place along with educational opportunities about HIV and a remembrance for people who have died from AIDS.

“It feels like an important time to hold this festival,” Eisele said. “I have been doing some reflecting and this is a time where there is so much violence in the world. And, you know, a festival is a festival, but what’s special about Tucson Meet Yourself is that you have in one public space, you have people of over 50 different nationalities, ethnicities, backgrounds, cultural traditions.”

“The founders of Tucson Meet Yourself had this vision of bringing the more intimate traditions that maybe take place in backyards and synagogues and living rooms — hidden — out into a public space and allow others to observe and experience them. It’s really powerful because there’s this thing that happens where you begin to notice the similarities we have with other people,” she said.

Tucson Meet Yourself will take place from Oct. 13 to Oct. 15. Hours are 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. on Sunday. The event is free to attend and all ages are welcome. More information can be found in Tucson Meet Yourself’s website.