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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Meet Yourself festival celebrates local diversity through food, arts”

    Juana Casillas of the Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha Native American Church finishes cooking a piece of fry bread yesterday afternoon at the Tucson Meet Yourself festival at El Presidio Park. The three-day event was a chance for Tucsonans to taste, hear and experience local culture.
    Juana Casillas of the Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha Native American Church finishes cooking a piece of fry bread yesterday afternoon at the Tucson Meet Yourself festival at El Presidio Park. The three-day event was a chance for Tucsonans to taste, hear and experience local culture.

    Polish sausages, American Indian fry bread, square dancing and reggae were some of the tastes, sights and sounds at the Tucson Meet Yourself festival this weekend in downtown Tucson.

    The event at El Presidio Park, 115 N. Church Ave., is meant to bring different cultures in Tucson together and foster respect of the cultural diversity in Southern Arizona, said Jim Griffith, a folklorist and founder of Tucson Meet Yourself.

    “”There’s entertainment documenting and integrating the living culture and heritage of the region of Southern Arizona and Sonora,”” said Maribel Alvarez, a Southwestern studies assistant research professor.

    The UA has involved itself with the festival for years, and this year UA students ran the children’s games area and represented various cultural groups, Alvarez said.

    Mai-Ly Duong, a psychology junior and president of the UA Vietnamese Student Association, said the Vietnamese Student Association participated in the event to share Vietnamese culture with others and to expose themselves to other cultures.

    “”Our culture is important to us. We should also examine and recognize that other cultures are important,”” Duong said.

    The group sold food at the event, including meat kebabs, fruit kebabs and boba tea, flavored tea drinks with tapioca.

    “”Last year we made about $800 to go to a national convention for VSAs around America,””

    Duong said. “”Vietnam just got hit with a hurricane, so we’re also raising funds for Vietnam.””

    Cenkhan Murzioglu, a pre-computer science sophomore and treasurer of the UA Turkish Society, was also there for fundraising purposes.

    “”We want to introduce our culture to new people,”” Murzioglu said. “”We’re selling baklava. We’ll probably make about $5,000 because everyone loves baklava.””

    Food is an integral part of a good festival, Griffith said.

    “”There are different kinds of art here; music, dance, food. If you don’t think food is an art form, I don’t want to come around your door during supper,”” Griffith said.

    “”The event has come to be so well-known for the food offerings and has earned the nickname ‘Tucson Eat Yourself,'”” said Aaron Ireland, an education graduate student.

    “”It’s a feel-good event with good food,”” Ireland said. “”It’s something I did with my mom when I was 8 years old and I’ve come back ever since.””

    “”When we started this, we said ‘Let’s have a party,’ ‘Let’s have a festival.’ And after 33 years we’re still a learning community. It’s all good growth,”” said Loma Griffith, Jim Griffith’s wife.

    Loma Griffith said there was a wider range of ethnicities at the park this weekend than she’s ever seen.

    “”The audience is enjoying an unlikely type of music, people of all ages and many ethnic groups,”” Loma Griffith said.

    It’s a huge community event that grows bigger every year with little children, adults and students, Ireland said.

    “”We’re better at attracting a younger crowd,”” Jim Griffith said. “”But you’ll see a lot of different types here. Tucson is made up of smaller communities. Many of these communities have their own way of creating beauty.””

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