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Tucson Meet Yourself Folklife Festival in Downtown Tucson

October 14, 2018 @ 11:00 am - 6:00 pm

|Recurring Event (See all)

One event on October 13, 2018 at 11:00am

One event on October 14, 2018 at 11:00am


Tucson Meet Yourself Folklife Festival brings its colorful display of local tradition back to downtown Tucson this year, but in a slightly new location—one that will animate city blocks with food, music, and folk arts.

The three-day free festival happens October 12, 13, and 14 in Pima County Library’s Jácome Plaza and adjacent blocks of Church Ave., Stone Ave., and Pennington Street. The Festival moved from its original location in El Presidio Park because it grew too heavy for the parking area beneath the park grounds.

While food is often what draws public to the festival, it’s the music, dance, and folk arts that keep them there, say festival organizers.

This year TMY welcomes 56 food booths, representing Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Egypt, France, Greece, India, Jamaica, Japan, Laos, Mexico, Philippines, Poland, Peru, Russia, Somalia, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, Venezuela, Vietnam, Virgin Islands, Laos, as well as Hawaii, New England, the U.S. South, and the Tohono O’odham and Pascua Yaqui people, indigenous to the Sonoran Desert region. Festival attendees can find dishes for $12 and under.

Many of our vendors come from churches, clubs, and community groups. They cook and sell food that represents their culture and tradition and absolutely love to share that with the public. The money they make they keep. We keep their costs low and assist them with the logistic and organization to be successful. TMY is the largest grassroots entrepreneurial event in Tucson,” said Maribel Alvarez, Program Director of TMY and Associate Dean of Community Engagement at the University of Arizona’s College of Social and Behavioral Sciences.

TMY is presented by Casino del Sol Resort and produced by the Southwest Folklife Alliance.

Additional Festival Highlights for 2018

1) This year the Loft Cinema offers free films on Friday & Saturday nights of the festival in the Pima County Pavilion on Jácome Plaza. Films include Selena: a sing-along to the 1997 biopic, staring Jennifer Lopez as the late Tejano star Selena Quintanilla-Perez (127 min.), and RUMBLE: The Indians who Rocked the World, the 2017 feature documentary highlighting the role of Native Americans in popular music history (103 min.).

2) The Festival’s live food demo stage, the Culture Kitchen, returns this year celebrating culinary traditions and how they are passed along families and community. Demonstrations will showcase the transfer of food knowledge via multigenerational cooking demonstrations. TMY also teams up with the UNESCO Tucson City of Gastronomy for a Food Justice Expo in this area, sharing information by organizations representing southern Arizona’s food system.

3) New Food Vendors

  • San Xavier Cooperative Farm, Tohono O’odham Native Foods The San Xavier Cooperative Farm represents the farming traditions of Tohono O’odham people, agriculturalists in the region for over 4,000 years. Food offerings include cholla bud salsa, tepary beans, “kaiwusa” (ground roasted corn soup), mesquite cookie sand more.
  • Holy Toledo Catering: Cuisine from the central Mexican state of Oaxaca, featuring rich sauces called mole (MOH-lay) made from blended many chiles, nuts, and spices.
  • La Fondita Chilena: Yamila El-Khayat spent Octobers during her childhood in a Tucson Meet Yourself food booth watching her mother and friends cook traditional Empanadas and sell them to hungry customers. “Being a part of Tucson Meet Yourself again as a vendor is a dream- come-true and a way for our family to continue the Tucson Meet Yourself legacy and tradition my family left behind years ago,” she says. Her booth features empanadas, humitas (similar to corn tamales), and Chilean salad.
  • BK’s Tacos: The well-known South Tucson restaurant brings its award-winning Sonoran hotdog to the festival, along with carne asada tacos, and caramelos.
  • Solid Grindz Hawaiian Food Restaurant & Food Truck, Hawaiian BBQ Island Style cooking. This booth began as a food truck at Davis Monthan Air Force Base, where it generated a strong military following. Within two years, the owners opened a restaurant offering authentic Hawaiian and Polynesian food. One of the owners is Somaon, a culture in which primarily the men do the cooking.
  • Off-the-Hook Seafood (New England/American South) “My self-care is cooking for others and watching them enjoy something I have prepared,” says Matthew Kearney, who started Off-the-Hood Seafood to remember the taste of home in New England, along with a “Southern zest.” He’ll be offering fried catfish, shrimp and oysters along with fries, hushpuppies, and slaw.
  • Nur Market and Restaurant (East Africa/Somali), a family-owned business started by the three eldest brothers of the Osman family, who came to Tucson as refugees from Mogadishu, Somalia, just before the civil war there began in 1990. They opened Nur Market in 2008 and added a restaurant in 2010. Offering lamb, goat, chicken, and fish dishes; shawerma; and sambusa (ground beef with spices and vegetables)
  • Masri (Egyptian) Offering Koshary, considered to be the national dish of Egypt. A vegan dish blending rice, legumes, pasta, sauces and caramelized crispy onions, along with shatta, a spicy Middle Eastern, adapted here with the Sonoran chiltepin pepper. “This dish cannot be found served in any restaurant in Tucson,” says Jeremy Martin, whose recipe comes from years of research at various Koshary outlets throughout Egypt and a secret family recipe from his mother-in-law.

4) Circus Arts TMY honors the rich tradition of circus arts in the region with local circus troupes offering demonstrations and performances in stilt walking, juggling, and acrobatics. Circus artist will also serve as official TMY buskers, helping volunteers collect donations for the Festival.

5) TMY After Hours presents “Taconazo,” featuring live performances of traditional Flamenco and Son Jarocho, traditions that both reflect the rhythmic and vibrant art of zapateado, or the tapping of tacones, heels. Featured artists include Son Jarocho Collective and Flamenco Tucsonense with special guests Hector Vega (Hermosillo), Misael Barraza (Hermosillo), Olivia Rojas (El Paso), and Fabian & Katrina Sisneros (Albuquerque). Sunday, October 14th at EXO, 403 N 6th Ave, an intimate performance space just a few blocks from TMY festival grounds. Doors open at 6:30 pm. $10, advance tickets available.

6) AIDSWALK Tucson celebrates its 30th anniversary this year and its 8th year of unique partnership with TMY. TMY shares festival grounds with the event on Sunday morning, allowing both organizations to share resources and offer mutual support. AIDSWALK Tucson raises funds for the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation (SAAF). At TMY, SAAF also offers free HIV testing and displays the Names Quilt, honoring those who have died from HIV/AIDS.

TMY: Interesting Factoids

  • 120,000 people in attendance (triangulated based on total waste collected, police estimate, and square feet density formula every 3 hours)
  • 100 performance acts booked on 3 stages; 100 Folk Artists (50% from Tohono O’odham and Pascua Yaqui nations); 56 food vendors
  • 80 community agencies sharing information or selling products
  • Cost of the event: $330,000
  • Number of Sponsors who make FREE event possible: 27
  • Highest reported sales of a food booth over 3 days: $10,000
  • $3.5M spiraling impact of TMY in the local economy
  • $133,000 (money withdrawn in 2017 from private company ATMs placed in the event)
  • Unique visits to TMY website the week of the festival: 32,000
  • 20,000 lbs. of waste generated over 3 days
  • 5,280 lbs. of food waste generated at TMY turned into compost (2016)
  • 50% diversion rate from landfill achieved in 2017
  • 750 volunteers

If you go:

  • When: October 12, 13, & 14, 2018
  • TIMES: Friday and Saturday, 11am to 10pm; (Recess on performance stages on Friday from 2-4pm); Sunday 11am to 6pm
  • Where: Downtown Tucson – Downtown Public Library and Jacomé Plaza & Church Ave., Stone Ave., & Pennington St.
  • Cost: Free. Donations gladly accepted.


October 14, 2018
11:00 am - 6:00 pm


Jacome Plaza
101 N. Stone Ave
Tucson, AZ 85701
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