Pictured is a South Tucson sign near the City of South Tucson John A. Valenzuela Youth Center.

Update from Sept. 23, 2022: South Tucson Family Festival has been postponed. Organizers said, "While we were looking forward to seeing everyone at the event, your personal safety is our greatest concern. We will still look forward to hosting the event in the near future." 

A large family festival is making its upscaled debut in South Tucson this weekend with a jam-packed concert lineup, car show, family activities and eating contests.

The South Tucson Family Festival returns 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday-Sunday, Sept. 24-25 at the Tucson Greyhound Park located at 2601 S. Third Ave.

The festival is a “cross-border, cross-cultural” community collaboration event, according to Akanni Oyegbola, the festival’s curator and former acting mayor of South Tucson. 

“It’s a collaboration between government, nonprofits and small businesses,” Oyegbola said. “Just being able to connect all the dots, not only for the residents but also at the governmental level, for providing (resources) for the community and letting people have a good time.”

The headliners for the South Tucson Family Festival include Baby Bash and Tito Puente Jr. Over the two-day festival, there will be over 35 performances from musicians, DJs and dancers. For a full list of performances, check out the festival’s set times on their website.

Other special guests include Arizona State Senator Rosanna Gabaldón and government representatives from Sonora, Mexico. 

On top of the all-day performances, there will be plenty of family-friendly activities to check out. 

“We're gonna have an arcade, we're gonna have (a) petting zoo and then we're gonna have a lot of arts and crafts for the residents to do,” Oyegbola said. “We're gonna have different types of activities for the kids like balloon stomping and just different little things for them to enjoy themselves.”

If you build up an appetite while participating in the festival’s activities or when checking out the car show and performances, the South Tucson Family Festival will have several food options to choose from.

If you need something a little more filling, there will be taco and menudo (yep, you read that right, menudo) eating contests with trophies and cash prizes. To participate in one of these contests, fill out one of the application forms here.

Festival admission is currently free, but due to a last-minute sponsorship change, tickets may cost $8 per adult and $4 per child each day at the door to help offset the unexpected costs, according to an announcement by the festival's organizer.

You can reserve your free ticket through Eventbrite or by purchasing something from one of South Tucson’s 300+ businesses and showing your receipt at the festival doors.

Of course, this large-scale festival wouldn’t have been possible without the support of the event’s sponsors, according to Oyegbola.

Some of the sponsors of the South Tucson Family Festival are Visit Tucson, City of Tucson, City of South Tucson, the University of Arizona, Pima County Health Department, Desert Diamond Casinos and the Pasqua Yaqui Tribe, according to the festival's website.

“We scaled it (the event) up quite a bit,” Oyegbola said. “And we definitely have to thank all the sponsors, because if it wasn't for them, you know, believing in the vision that was put together, we couldn't scale it up at this rate.”

'We're gonna have an even better time this year'

What started out as a small resource event at a local baptist church and grew into a mid-sized neighborhood festival held between 12 businesses on South Sixth Avenue has transformed into this year's full-size family festival with more activities, special guests and a full concert lineup.

Finally getting to this scaled-up event has taken years of notetaking and listening to feedback from community members.

“Listening to them, getting the feedback, watching the smiles, that's the biggest thing for me,” Oyegbola said. “This year, my whole focus is just watch and walk around and just see how people are enjoying themselves. What they like, what they don't like, I take it all in and I take notes and it actually makes me better for the next year.”

But regardless of its size, it was always intended to be a diverse “camaraderie collaboration” among local government, small businesses, nonprofits and the community, according to Oyegbola.

“When it comes to the south side and having an event, it's always a negative stigma,” he said. “So I definitely wanted to show though, we had a good time last year, we're gonna have an even better time this year with top-notch artists. And it's not gonna be the stigma of crossing 22nd Street and ‘It's so bad over there.’ No, it's amazing. We've got a lot of lovely families who enjoy themselves. So people are just gonna have a good time and we're gonna show that.”

If you go

What: South Tucson Family Festival.

When: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 24 and Sunday, Sept. 25.

Where: Tucson Greyhound Park, 2601 S. Third Ave.

Tickets: Admission is currently free, but the price may be $8 per adult and $4 per child per day at the door.

Parking: Limited, so the festival organizer recommends ride-share services.

Security: A clear bag policy will be implemented. For a full list of items you can and cannot bring, check out their website.

More info: Visit South Tucson Family Festival's website for more information. 

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Digital Features Reporter

Elvia is a journalism and history graduate from the University of Arizona. She hopes to create stories that show what makes Tucson and its community special. 🌵