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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Tucson Meet Yourself returns for 40th year

    Tucson resident Katie Naveunxay remembers the days she spent performing as a child at El Presidio Park as free, wild and full of tradition. Naveunxay began as a young dancer in the festival in 1990, and will return as a food vendor this weekend with the 40th annual Tucson Meet Yourself, passing the traditions she learned as a child on to her own family.

    For her, Tucson Meet Yourself is more than a festival — it’s a way of life.

    “It brings us together,” Naveunxay said. “All of our family and extended family, we are there together and we come back because we love this event. We want other people to learn about it.”

    Tucson Meet Yourself, according to its website, is a folklife festival that focuses on traditions rooted in a group’s identity, customs and cultural impact. The festival gives cultural groups throughout Tucson an opportunity to showcase their heritage and share their food, dance and artistry with the entire community.

    “It’s not like all other festivals,” said Maribel Alvarez, program director. “It’s actually an educational event about cultural diversity, and of course, it’s in a festive mode.

    “The real core of it is an educational mission to bring awareness about the richness of cultural diversity and dignity that these cultures have in their expressive artistic forms,” Alvarez added.

    Each year, the three-day festival draws more than 100,000 people, attracting guests with its various food vendors and performers. This year, the festival is set to celebrate 40 years with 143 performing groups and about 55 food vendors, Alvarez said.

    The performing artists will showcase their traditions and customs in segmented sections. The festival will feature music from all over the world as well, including European, Country and Western, Latin, Middle Eastern, Pan African, Caribbean, South American, Mariachi and Asian Pacific Rim styles of music, said Musical and Performance Director Richard Noel.

    “A lot of times I meet individuals who don’t have any knowledge about people’s cultures or people’s traditions,” Noel said. “Sometimes we take it for granted and we view these people wrong, but when I can appreciate some of the folklife tradition in the neighborhood I live in, it’s a boost for the economy and you truly appreciate what people do and you can support it more.”

    Food served by this year’s food vendors includes Colombian, Filipino, Danish, Jamaican, Turkish and Russian selections, among others. The wide variety of food allows the community to experience different cultural traditions without leaving Tucson, said Food Vendor Coordinator Alma Kennedy.

    “We are a melting pot of different cultures from different countries; everybody’s represented,” Kennedy said. “We share all of our traditions; we pass it on to our kids. We share our culture and our traditions so we can … share our history.”

    For some, the event’s significance lies in the opportunity to showcase one’s culture the way they want it to be presented.

    “It’s an affirmation of the dignity of every culture,” Alvarez said. “Every culture has their own ways. … This event is important because it gives everybody a platform to be in civic society as who they are.”

    Tucson Meet Yourself will take over El Presidio Park, Jacome Plaza, Pennington Street and the Pima County government building at 100 W. Congress St., beginning Friday at 11 a.m. and running through Sunday. The festival is free to the public, though a donation of $1 per person is suggested. For more information, visit www.tucsonmeetyourself.org.

    Follow Jessica Schrecker @jkschrecker

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