Tucson Meet Yourself is this weekend and, yes, it's still free, it's still packed full of culture, and organizers say this year's 38th annual festival will be huge. Some numbers: 250 performers on a dozen stages spread out over 60 acres of downtown, along with hundreds of artists and other participants and a crowd that could top 100,000 over three days. That's big. Here are some suggestions to help you navigate.
10 MUST SEES
See the world
Snag a "Passport to the World" and collect cultural "visas" from vendors along the eight blocks of folklife favorites.
"Hats off to Big Jim"
Celebrate festival founder and folklorist Jim Griffith, a 2011 NEA National Heritage Fellow, at 6 p.m. Saturday at Fox Tucson Theatre, 17 W. Congress St.
Más, bien and gracias
For the first time, the festival puts a spotlight on our Southern neighbor's culture and authentic cuisine with the Sonoran Pavilion. Nearly a dozen Sonoran towns will present their crafts and food.
Move Your Body flash workout
This year's festival theme is Health and Wellness.
On Saturday organizers say as many as 5,000 people could participate in a Move Your Body flash workout to promote fitness.
Taking a cue from first lady Michelle Obama, Meet Yourself takes aim at childhood obesity through dance, grooving along to Beyoncé's "Move Your Body." The "join the parade" boogie begins at 2 p.m. Saturday across 12 festival locations.
You can also count the day as a workout if you follow the path that winds through the festival. Markers show how far you've gone.
Rock climbing, cricket, Toka Stick ball, oh my!
Try your hand at a new totally unfamiliar sport (coconut husking anyone?) at the Sports and Games Around the World booth. After, treat yourself to a massage or a few yoga poses.
Lowest of the low riders
The Unidos Car Club presents the TMY Lowrider Show & Shine, featuring cars from the 1940s to present day Saturday and Sunday. Owners vie for 14 cash prizes.
Defending 2010 Tucson Meet Yourself "Iron Chef" champion chef Ryan Clark of Lodge on the Desert hopes to mince competing chef Albert Hall from Acacia Real Food & Cocktails. Other competitions include student chefs.
Sing your heart out
Musicians of all levels can participate in the Meet Yourself Corrido contest. Silver spoon beginners "la la la's" or professionals could go home with an award of $150.
TUSD Festival of Schools
The Tucson Unified School District shows off the talents of its diverse student body from 105 schools at 10 a.m. Saturday. Tucson Convention Center.
Tradition comes to life
Traditional dances performed by members of the Tohono O'odham and Pascua Yaqui tribes (no photos allowed).
NINE PHENOMENAL PERFORMERS
1. The Seven Pipers Scottish Society: A Scottish tradition, 8 p.m. Saturday, City Hall stage.
2. Batucaxe Brazilian Percussion: It's drumming Brazilian style, 6:30 p.m. Friday, TCC Plaza stage.
3. The Ballet Folklorico Tapatio: Students who performed nationally are back to Tucson, 8 p.m. Saturday, Leo Rich Theater Stage.
4. The 62nd Army Band of Ft Huachuca: Performs in the military tradition that has survived 200 years, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday, Meet Your Soul stage.
5. Grupo Danza Xunutzi de Rio Bravo: Neighbors return from Rio Sonora to perform a stunning dance, 1 p.m. Saturday, TCC Plaza stage.
6. A gospel explosion: Praise music and inspirational dance and song, 2 to 6 p.m. Sunday, Meet Your Soul stage.
7. The Gabriel Ayala Trio: Local classical guitarist fuses genres, 7 p.m. Friday, City Hall stage.
8. Caribbean Carnival and Sticks & Fingers Caribbean Review: Steel drummers play calypso, soca and reggae music from the islands of Trinidad and Tobago, 8 p.m. Saturday, TCC Plaza stage.
9. Key Ingredients of African Soul: Contemporary and traditional Pan African music, 8:30 p.m. Friday, Meet Your Soul stage.
FOUNDER'S FIVE REASONS TO ATTEND THE FESTIVAL
Tucson Meet Yourself will publicly celebrate its founder, James "Big Jim" Griffith, at Fox Tucson Theatre on Saturday.
While Griffith says the whole Jim Griffith Celebration is silly, he plans to be there to take his medicine as founder of the lasting and enduring folklife festival.
"As far as I'm concerned that's the least exciting thing about the festival, but I'll be polite," he joked last week. "It's embarrassing. I'd much rather do things than talk about things that I've done."
Up until last year, Griffith, a renowned folk scholar and musician who started the festival in 1974 to showcase Tucson's cultural diversity, was involved in planning all of the festivals. Today, he serves strictly as an adviser, leaving the heavy lifting to Executive Director Mia Hansen and her team.
Griffith gave us five reasons why he will be there this weekend:
Meet your neighbors
Griffith says he's met amazing artists and musicians over the years. "I'm thinking of Rose Johnson, who's a gospel piano player who brought some friends of hers from the choir at New Hope Baptist church in Casa Grande," he said. "They were just a wonderful old-fashioned singing group. … There was Dean Armstrong. I got to know Dean and his band very well over the years of the festival. Almost every year they opened the festival for us."
Sample food from around the world
Griffith has too many favorites to narrow it down to one: "I am a pretty enthusiastic, non-discriminate eater."
Griffith's favorite memory sums up the spirit of the festival. "For years and years, there were a couple of middle-aged street people, homeless people, or travelers - whatever you wanted to call them. One was a short blond guy who looked like he might have come from Florida, and the other was a tall Indian-looking fellow. They would always show up on Friday when we were getting going. And sooner or later one would sidle up to me and say, 'Hey Jim, did you ever notice that when there's a big crowd, a lot of people shows up.' That sort of came to signal that we were ready to go."
Experience something new
This year, Griffith is looking forward to the new Sonoran Pavilion and the new storytelling area. He's also excited by the promise of a bigger lowrider show, under the auspices of the Unidos Car Club. "I hear that the new lowrider club doing the show for us thinks they are going to get a lot more cars than usual. That's always fun and exciting."
"It's going to be an exciting glimpse into one of the hidden realities of our communities, and one of the nicer hidden realities: Our tremendous diversity of our cultures and beautiful arts."
FOOD AT THE FOUNDATION OF THE FESTIVAL
The festival fondly referred to as Tucson Eat Yourself celebrates the world's cuisines - from aebleskivers made by the Danish Club of Tucson to Yaqui Indian tacos from the Yoeme Barrio Libre Community Council.
More than 60 food vendors will be located throughout the festival. There's also a farmers marketplace featuring local produce and favorites such as salsa and honey.
This will be the 10th year that the Tucson Chinese Christian Church will be taking part. On its menu - Mongolian beef, teriyaki chicken rice bowl, pork egg rolls, orange chicken rice bowl and boba tea.
"People really like the teriyaki. And the eggrolls, too. They say we have the best eggrolls," said Jane Lee, whose husband, John, a chef who helps with the cooking, is pictured on today's Caliente cover.
Taking part in the massive cultural festival is a good way to get involved in the greater Tucson community, Jane Lee said.
The congregation, which has 100-plus members, does outreach to University of Arizona students from Taiwan and Hong Kong through activities such as picking up students at the airport, taking them grocery shopping and offering a weekly English class.
MEET THE FOOD VENDORS
• Alliance Française of Tucson - French crepes and croissants.
• Ausperitea - Teas from the world, teamonades.
• Ballet Folklorico La Paloma - Pico de gallo, chicken or bean and cheese burros, nachos, horchata.
• BBQ 4 U - Santa Maria-style tri-tip barbecue sandwiches, burros.
• Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha - Native American fry bread taco, frybread with chili, beans or honey.
• CeeDee Jamaican Kitchen - Jamaican jerk chicken, curry chicken, oxtail stew, rice and peas, plantains, festivals, fruit drinks.
• CHISPA Foundation - Mexican nachos, bean burritos, aguas frescas, pastries, pico de gallo, snow cones.
• Club Colombia de Tucson - Tamales, papas chorreadas, empanadas, cocadas, jugos tropicales, coffee, hot chocolate.
• Club Costa Rica - Tamales, gallo pinto, pollo tropical, mango drink.
• Club España De Tucson - Paella, gazpacho, churros.
• Croatian Wagon - Chicken paprikash, grilled sausage, Croatian strudel, potica (pastries).
• Cuban Grill - Cuban grilled sandwiches, plantain chips.
• D's Island Grill - Jamaican / West Indian jerk chicken, curry goat, oxtail stew, fruit drinks.
• DaKine Hawaiian Shave Ice.
• Danish Club of Tucson - Aebleskivers, kringle (pastries), coffee.
• Daughters of Penelope/Order of AHEPA - Greek gyros, salad, spanakopita, baklava.
• Desert Lightning Booster Club - American barbecue burgers, brats, sauerkraut, baked beans.
• Don Pedro's Peruvian Bistro - Maracuyá, chicha morada, papa rellena, lomo saltado, anticuchos, salchipapas, cancha.
• El Guero Canelo - Sonoran hot dogs.
• Filipino American Sampaguita Club of Tucson - Pancit, chicken adobo, turon, lumpia (egg rolls), rice.
• Filipino American Student Association UA - Pancit, lumpia (egg rolls), melon juice.
• Foundation for Inter-Cultural Dialogue - Turkish/Mediterranean - Turkish doner kebab, stuffed grape leaves, kisir (bulgur salad), gozleme with cheese, baklava.
• Frost, A Gelato Shoppe - Italian gelato.
• Gethsemane Cogic Women's - Southern barbecue ribs, beans, cole slaw, sweet potato pie, peach cobbler.
• Hawaiian Shave Ice.
• Hub Ice Creamery - Super premium ice cream.
• Hungarian Gourmet - Goulash, grilled sausage, crepe Suzette.
• India Society of Southern Arizona (won Best of Fest 2010 Award: Founders Award) - Chickpeas masala, samosa, papad and chutney, rose water, mango juice.
• Isabella's Ice Cream - Hard scoop ice cream and sorbets.
• KborK - Sonoran carne asada, barbacoa tacos and burritos, quesadillas, caramelos, hot dogs.
• King Corn - Roasted corn on the cob.
• La Guelaguetza - Oaxaca Mexican hurache, sopes de chicharron (gorditas), burros carne asada, carne con chile, chile rellenos, tamele, aguas frescas.
• Lajkonik Polish - Kielbasa sausage, hunter's stew, golabki, potato pancakes, pierogi and bigos.
• Lao Student Club - Chicken and beef sticks, fried rice, papaya salad, Lao tea.
• Lao-American Veterans - Rice paper vegetarian egg roll, curry chicken skewers, beef skewers, jasmine rice, Lao tea.
• Las Cazuelitas - Sonoran tacos, burros and tamales.
• Lil' Orbits - American mini cinnamon doughnuts.
• Los Chiquilines - Sonoran aguas frescas, chicken and beef tacos.
• Los Eloteros - Mexican coctel de elote, roasted corn, tostielotes.
• Mama Joy's Catfish - Southern Fried catfish, fried shrimp, chicken tenders, peach cobbler, sweet potato pie, sweet tea.
• Maranatha Church - Southern vegetarian soul food, barbecue veggie sandwich, mixed greens, quinoa, peach cobbler.
• Planet of the Crepes - French sweet and savory crepes.
• Peddler on The Path - Coffees, cappuccino, fruit smoothies.
• Pin-Up Pastries - Southern and Mexican pastries, cupcakes, whoopie pie, cake pops, paletas.
• Safe Mission Caribbean - Jerk chicken, curry chicken, rice and beans, carrot juice, lemonade.
• San Ignacio Yaqui Council - Yaqui Indian taco, fry bread with red chili, beans or honey.
• St. Patrick's Day Parade / Scottish Highland Games - Corned beef, pasties, sweet breads.
• Smoke Signal BBQ - Southern-style pulled pork sandwiches and burros, roasted corn, cheese nachos.
• Southern Arizona Korean Association - Korean barbecue beef and chicken, seaweed wrapped rice, vegetables, chapchae, kimchi, shaved ice, drinks.
• Thai Tucson - Barbecue chicken satay, fried rice, fried noodles, cheese puffs, vegetables, Thai tea.
• Thriratana Tucson Buddist Temple - Pad Thai, barbecue chicken satay, Thai yellow curry, fried banana, Thai tea.
• Tucson Chinese Association - Steamed barbecued pork and chicken buns, stir-fry vegetable lo mein, Cantonese fried rice, dim sum, pork shui mai, shrimp dumplings, Taiwanese boba milk tea.
• Tucson Chinese Christian Church - Mongolian beef, teriyaki chicken rice bowl, pork egg rolls, orange chicken rice bowl, boba tea.
• Tucson Japanese Association - Takoyaki (octopus) pancake, salmon onigiri, gyudon beef rice bowl, yakitori grilled chicken, imagawayaki pancake (sweet red bean), inari sushi in fried tofu.
• Tucson Tamale Company - Green corn, pork and cheese, blue corn, roasted plantain tamales, organic green salad.
• Tucson Lodge No. 691 Tucson Swedish VASA Club - Swedish meatball and cabbage, cucumber plate, rye bread, rhubarb cake, apple cake, spice cake, coffee.
• Vietnamese Alliance of Tucson - Vietnamese sandwich, pork skewer, spring roll, boba fruit cup, iced coffee, and boba ice tea.
• Vietnamese Students Association - Chicken and beef skewers, egg rolls, veggie fried rice, boba fruit juice and tea drinks.
• Wat Buddhametta Thai: Tucson Buddhist Meditation Center - Pad Thai, stir-fry noodles, chicken sauté skewers, Thai egg roll, fried banana, Thai ice tea.
• Western Smoke BBQ - Santa Maria/Sonoran-style barbecue tri-tip steak sandwich or burrito, organic salsa, chips.
• Yoeme Barrio Libre Community Council - Yaqui Indian taco, frybread with honey or red chile or beans.
Source: Tucson Meet Yourself. Vendors subject to change.
MEET ME AT THE MARKETPLACE
New this year is a marketplace that brings unique items and handcrafted folk art to the festival.
• Native American arts and crafts.
• Thai arts and crafts by women artists.
• Handmade soaps and balms.
• Locally made hot sauces and granola.
• Farmers market produce.
• Local artists CD selections.
• Books like Big Jim Griffith's "A Border Runs Through It: Journeys in Regional History and Folklore."
• T-shirts from festival venues and artists.
DID YOU KNOW?
Tucson Meet Yourself is a fundraiser for nonprofit organizations. All told, the groups raise about $250,000 over the three days.
Source: Mia Hansen, the festival's executive director.
IF YOU GO
• What: Tucson Meet Yourself.
• When: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday.
• Where: Downtown Tucson at El Presidio Park and La Placita Village.
• Cost: Free, donations accepted. Food and drinks for purchase.
• Details and a schedule: www.tucsonmeetyourself.org
Amber Sumpter is a University of Arizona student who is an apprentice at the Star. Contact her at 573-4117 or at email@example.com