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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Mermaids return to downtown Tucson

Courtesy of Return of the Mermaids

Courtesy of Return of the Mermaids

The elusive life forms that exist in the small sanctions of water in the desert, Sonoran Desert toads, hibernate in the soil and return for a brief period during the rainy months of the monsoon season. Just like the toads, as we approach the depths of monsoon season, the mermaids will come to play and celebrate what makes Tucson unique. The Return of the Mermaids parade is making its second annual appearance along Fourth Avenue and downtown Tucson on Saturday, Aug. 8.

Water is a rarity in the dry desert of the Southwest, so David Aguirre decided to bring a taste of the ocean to Tucson with the Return of the Mermaids celebration.

“Every monsoon season the clouds open up and the mermaids return,” Aguirre said.

Lizzy Mead, one of the parade organizers and owner of Silver Sea Jewelry, encourages attendees to get into the spirit and adorn themselves in ocean garb.

“The star of the show is the community of Tucson,” Mead said. “It’s really the people that dress up that make [the Return of the Mermaids Parade] amazing.”

Whether you’re a mermaid, a pirate, a fish or even a surfer, everyone is welcome to enjoy the event’s live music, dancing, ice-dunk games, face painting, artists’ booths and food trucks. As the sun goes down, belly dancers, stilt walkers and fire throwers will emerge before the sidewalk parade begins at 8:30 p.m.

Many Tucsonans have inspired the event, such as Melodee Stumpf, also known as Desert Mermaid Melodee.

“I feel so fortunate to be a part of such a creative community of people who love mermaids just as much as me,” Stumpf said.

Stumpf has always had an appreciation for water and sea life, but as an aquatic masseuse she has found many healing powers from water.

Stumpf works with people to harness their inner mermaid within an aquatic space. She explains that using a mermaid tail while swimming allows people to connect to their bodies and is a great form of exercise in the warm desert months.

“The [Return of the Mermaids] event will be a fun and light-hearted day offering healing on a physical and emotional level,” Stumpf said, adding that creative expression is a key part of a happy community. Stumpf hopes the parade will open people to experience the magic and magnificence of the water in the desert.

At this year’s event, a wide range of artists will exhibit their work. Aguirre hopes to kick-start “a new way for artists to show their work.”

According to Aquirre, as downtown has developed with the construction of the Sun Link Tucson Modern Streetcar and new restaurants and bars, development brought an “inevitable change for the art scene.”

The transformation seen in Tucson is a natural process of a developing city, and what was originally considered the art district has developed into an entertainment district.

“But I knew we would come back,” Aguirre said.

The Return of the Mermaids event is bringing art back into the downtown area in a different way, while integrating the merchant districts.

“It is important that as artists and a community we stay ahead of the wave, and surf it,” said Aguirre.

Return of the Mermaids brings to focus just how important a connected community is, especially during the summer months when the city’s population becomes sparse.

Mead has been amazed by the outpouring of support from the community.

“The Fourth Avenue Merchant Association has helped to really make this under-sea world come to life,” she said.

The event aims to unite the Fourth Avenue and downtown communities.

“Each district used to be very separate, and now the streetcar really links everybody together,” Mead said. She hopes that through Return of the Mermaids, “we can unite everyone together and bring about a new energy.”

Sally Kane, owner of The Coronet Café, which is positioned at the conjunction of the two merchant districts, explained, ”it’s a really fun event for kids and adults and I’m really excited to be a part of the community.”

The Coronet will act as the observation deck during the parade and will be serving a special drink called Neptune’s Mistress Seafoam Punch. Kane explained that the cocktail will consist of a rum punch with floating sherbet.

The eatery will also serve fish tacos to celebrate the aquatic theme. But everyone can rest assured, “there will be no mermaids harmed in the making of the dish,” Kane said.

Just down the street, Ermano’s Craft Beer & Wine Bar will also join in on the fun.

Owner Mark Erman said they will be serving a specially made mermaid sangria throughout the night. The restaurant will also serve as a mermaid speakeasy before the parade, as well as an afterparty once the event has culminated.

“We have more people that are willing to [contribute] their time and talents for the community at this year’s event,” Stumpf said. Many people have come together to contribute to the event, sharing new perspectives.

Jocelynne Simone, board member of Tucson’s Steampunk Society, is excited to introduce her interpretation of the aquatic world at the Return of the Mermaid parade.

Simone explains TSS offers the community with a place to celebrate 19th century science fiction aesthetics through costume. She is excited to take inspiration from “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” by Jules Verne.

The society will be presenting a variation of mermaid hunters, mariners and giant squid to contribute to the scenery. “That is steampunk in a nutshell: we take something and put a little bit of a spin on it,” Simone said.

She is excited to see the outcome after hearing the tales of the first annual parade.

“The type of creativity that came from the community of Tucson as a whole was absolutely phenomenal at last year’s event,” Simone said.

With the help of the people of Tucson and the masterminds behind the event, the Return of the Mermaids event will continue to spread positivity and energy through the streets.

Aguirre hopes the community will “take a peak behind the curtain, and experience what Tucson really has to offer.”

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