With 2019 wrapping up, we're taking a moment to reflect on the hundreds (yes, hundreds!) of stories we wrote this year.
We gave you ideas about how to get the most out of Tucson traditions like the gem show, the book festival and the All Souls Procession. And we shared our excitement with you as we learned about new-to-Tucson experiences: Round 1, Defy Tucson, the ice rink and several playgrounds, just to name a few. We met people with inspiring stories and ate sandwiches, tacos and noodles. So many noodles.
With the approach of 2020, our writers took a few minutes to pick some of their favorite stories of 2019 to share with you again, along with their thoughts on why these stories stuck with them.
Btw, if you couldn't tell, we are so grateful to live in this community. That's why we do what we do: We want you, our amazing readers, to love Tucson as much as we do. Thanks for going on the journey with us. 💗
Irene McKisson, editor
Dear readers, my favorite part of this job is thinking up ways to surprise and delight you with stories that are helpful — and hopefully relevant to your lives.
Email me with story ideas at email@example.com
Things you should know: 1. Our staff is all women. 2. We talk about you ALL the time. 3. Doing an Andi Eats Instagram Story with Andi is more work than it looks. 4. #ThisIsTucson is actually a small startup-style experiment to prove that local journalism can be financially sustainable. 5. And fun.
Below, our writers have created a beautiful look back at the best of what they created in 2019. Here's to another delightful year 🥂
Andi Berlin, food writer
Thank you for being such a dedicated reader and supporting our little project #ThisIsTucson. As this year comes to a close, I'm taking the chance to look back at my work and think, wow, what a miracle this silly little life is sometimes. After all this time, it's still weird that this is my job. But I guess "weird" was always my shtick, and I really dove into it this year.
Samantha Munsey and I have been doing these monthly Arizona Road Trip videos for a couple of years now, but 2019 is when we really hit our stride. I like to think of each trip I take as a strange kinda story. Our videos were an attempt to capture that feeling and crystallize it. My favorite adventures are often the unexpected ones, and this year we embraced that full-on by taking a foodie tour of Sierra Vista and wandering around the Civil War site/junkyard playground that is Picacho Peak.
But I'm most proud of our feature on Nogales, Sonora, which was produced at a time when the border was becoming more militarized than ever. We found a local food blogger Carolina Ruiz to show us this city's eclectic food scene from her perspective. The similarities here are striking, and it's clear that our sister cities are deep in conversation. We have so much in common, yet so much to learn.
Over the summer when things typically slow down, I was able to concentrate on a couple of larger projects, including a Taco Tour of five iconic Tucson neighborhoods. My favorite memories of this involved conducting the "research" with Samantha, driving up Oracle Road and stopping for birria and Diet Cokes while her sister was expecting her for dinner. (Sorry Kimber!)
I also spent a week fishing for Mexican sushi on the south side. That resulted in a colorful article that includes what may be the best opening line I've ever written:
"Down at the Battery Outlet auto shop on Ajo Way, the line for sushi got so long that the man behind the window was quoting an hour wait."
Lastly, I can't duck out of here without mentioning the year of Chinese food. Tucson delighted and surprised me in 2019 by unleashing a cyclone of regional new restaurants. I got to eat Northern Chinese pork stews, spicy cumin lamb and noodles plus more noodles and then some more noodles. And that is why, folks, you'll find me at Choice Greens until the New Year.
Jen Bond, events coordinator
Hey #ThisIsTucson readers and followers! I've been with this wonderful team for the past two years and still love every minute of it.
Anyway, It's been a task expanding the weekend events in town that not only focus on in central Tucson, but also include other areas such as Marana and Oro Valley. So I know for sure that it's not true when I hear, "there is nothing to do in Tucson."
I look forward to bringing you more fun event listings like the monthly "free things to do," "Tucson events that glow" and "things to do this weekend." I'm excited for all the new and quirky things happening in 2020.
(Editor's note: If you want to make sure you get Jen's list every week, sign up for our Weekend Planner email newsletter here.)
Veronica M. Cruz, features writer
I'm the newbie on the #ThisIsTucson team and just came aboard in early October. But, it's my second time working as reporter having spent my first few years out of college writing for the Arizona Daily Star. I've worked with most of the team before (though not as closely as now) so these last few months have felt less like I've started a scary new job and more like I just took a really long lunch break and am now back to work.
I've previously described this new journey as a "homecoming" and I'm so grateful to be able to share the people, places and things that make our home, Tucson, so special with you all.
In the short time since I've started I've been as far north as the Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain to learn about a new pup that's on staff, written about a young entrepreneur who I know is going to do big things one day and met two other "business soul mates" who are living their dream.
I've gone on the longest hike of my life (so far) with Johanna, talked to Tucson moms about the significance of seeing the first woman and Latina mayor elected in Tucson with their children, experimented with some creative, alternative storytelling with our 12 days of This is Tucson list, experienced Tucson's newest entertainment spot with Samantha and discovered just how much y'all really like trains with this story about a steam locomotive that was the most read story on our site in 2019.
Joining this team of amazing women and having the opportunity to experience so many interesting parts of our community and meet so many wonderful people and share those stories with you has been one of the best things to happen to me this year and I can't wait to continue the discovery in 2020.
Johanna Willett, features writer
My favorite stories of 2019 took me to some unexpected places and introduced me to some incredible people. I explored several desert trails as part of our Helpful Hiker series and listened to the story of a mother-daughter duo who have spent the last 20 years rescuing unwanted farm animals — mind you, that interview happened on a bale of hay while I swatted at Annabel, a young goat determined to eat my notes, my jeans and my bag.
I wrote about a secret park where the Queen of the Night reigns one night each year and a library of global children's books hidden on the University of Arizona campus. We also crafted our second Summer Reading Challenge for Grown-Ups and marveled at all of the Arizona-adjacent books out there.
Oh, and then there was NipLips, the woman-owned, Tucson business helping women find their perfect lipstick shade by matching it to their nipple color. How can I talk about unexpected stories without mentioning that?
For me, this has been the best part of writing for #ThisIsTucson in 2019: Finding stories that delight and surprise me and sharing them with you.
Perhaps my favorite story I wrote this year is a profile about Charlotte MacInnis, a UA employee who is super famous in China. Charlotte grew up in China and cultivated a successful career as a television personality there, navigating both western and Chinese cultures with grace. This story stands out to me because of Charlotte's generosity to share so much of her story with me and the surprise of finding a Chinese celebrity quietly making a home in Tucson. You can read that story here.
Then, in May, I spent a morning wandering around a dreamy lavender farm in Oracle that unfortunately is now closed to the public. Life Under the Oaks Lavender Farm, with its tidy rows of purple blossoms, enchanted me. The farm is owner Carolyn Blair's passion, and plans are in the works to open a larger farm in another location. We'll tell you more about that as plans progress, but in the meantime, you can read about the now-closed farm here.
This summer, I also wrote a giant FAQ when the Santa Cruz River began flowing again near Tucson's birthplace. Perhaps there is nothing more unexpected than a river flowing through a desert. I learned about the recycled water Tucson Water used to recreate the flow and the history of the river, which was once lined with a giant mesquite forest. I still think of that often. You can read that story here.