When it comes to local festivals, Tucson Meet Yourself is one of our heavyweights.
The popular festival has filled El Presidio Park since it began in 1974. But this year, it's too heavy to stay there, festival organizers said.
Don't panic. It's staying downtown. The festival (October 12, 13 and 14 this year) will keep its footprint on Church Avenue and in Jácome Plaza and will now stretch up Stone Avenue between Congress and Alameda streets.
El Presidio Park (you know this as the plaza between the Pima County Courthouse and City Hall) sits above a parking garage, making excess weight a concern. When Tucson Meet Yourself started, it didn't draw more than about 2,000 people, said Maribel Alvarez, the executive program director of the Southwest Folklife Alliance, which produces Tucson Meet Yourself. The Southwest Folklife Alliance is an affiliate of the University of Arizona.
Last year, Tucson Meet Yourself attracted about 120,000 festival-goers, along with more than 200 performers and folk artists and 65 food vendors. Thirty of those food vendors parked in El Presidio Park, Alvarez said.
That's a whole lot of vehicles, refrigerators and other heavy equipment parked in the plaza above the garage.
More than 40 years as "Tucson Eat Yourself" has finally caught up to this beloved tradition. It's too big. Festival organizers said the city wouldn't issue a permit this year for El Presidio Park.
Greg Jackson, the city's management coordinator, confirmed that big crowds and heavy equipment weren't a great idea for the plaza.
The Tucson Folk Festival is also being asked to move because of the crowds it draws, Jackson said.
Alvarez said that as the festival has grown, she and other organizers have been aware of the coming change.
"It allows us to have a better sense of a footprint in more of a street or block party atmosphere," Alvarez said of the move.
She envisions the setup down Stone not unlike the Fourth Avenue Street Fair.
Alvarez estimates that the move will add about $10,000 to the festival's existing budget of around $330,000.
To offset that cost, Tucson Meet Yourself is launching an electronics recycling program. You can donate your old laptops, cell phones, televisions and beyond. Here's more information on that.
"Some of the vendors have been there (at El Presidio Park) for decades," Alvarez said. "But they took it with such positivity. Change is good."