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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Tucson Meet Yourself 2022 brings new additions to the popular folklife festival

The Tucson Meet Yourself folklife festival is fondly referred to as Tucson Eat Yourself because of its emphasis on food. (Photo Credit/Steven Meckler)

The Tucson Meet Yourself folklife festival is fondly referred to as Tucson Eat Yourself because of its emphasis on food. (Photo Credit/Steven Meckler)

This weekend, the 49th annual Tucson Meet Yourself festival comes back to downtown. 

From Friday, Oct. 7, through Sunday, Oct. 9, Tucsonans and University of Arizona students will be able to explore the cultures of Tucson through food, music, visual artists and many other aspects of life that make this event like none other.

“It’s a good time to just relax, enjoy and forget about the problems of the world for a while and get lost in the music and the events,” said Trevor Thornburg, owner of BBQ & Beats and a first-time participant of Tucson Meet Yourself. 

“It’s kind of a therapeutic thing, I believe. It’s all around something that we’re very much about and like to participate in when we can get the chance,” Thornburg said.

Founded in 1974 by James “Big Jim” Griffith and Loma Griffith, Tucson Meet Yourself is a free three-day event aimed to highlight local artists, small businesses, performers and everything that makes Tucson, Tucson. 

Instead of celebrating specifics in our community, the event takes all the different aspects and cultures that make up Tucson’s diverse melting pot, creating a mirror disguised as a festival in front of attendees.

While Tucson Meet Yourself is a staple of the food and folklife community, organizers have still found ways to improve the event year after year, while still keeping its core principles at heart. 

Here are five new additions at this year’s Tucson Meet Yourself that you won’t want to miss.

TMY gets even greener

For the first time in its long history, Tucson Meet Yourself will no longer allow the sale of plastic water bottles. 

While single-use water bottles have been a longtime income stream for just about any event in Arizona, Tucson Meet Yourself has decided going green is more important than turning a profit.

 The special-edition TMY water bottle from Klean Kanteen. (Photo Credit/Tucson Meet Yourself) 
 The special-edition TMY water bottle from Klean Kanteen. (Photo Credit/Tucson Meet Yourself) 

Festival attendees are encouraged to bring their own reusable water bottles and refill them at free water stations throughout the festival. The festival is also selling its own Klean Kanteen bottle for $20.

The festival is partnering with the UA’s Compost Cats once again to collect food waste for composting and with Grecycle to recycle cooking oil from the festival into biofuel.

All-new memory tent

Following up last year’s positive reaction to the Loss and Remembrance Tent, this year’s event will introduce Memory Tent to honor how music and music-making keeps people connected throughout time.

In partnership with UA ethnomusicologist Jennie Gubner, the exhibit and its activities will explore how music is used to express love, loss, remembrance and admiration. 

The tent will be active all weekend and will be featuring performances, sing-alongs and discussions surrounding memory.

A more accessible festival  

Tucson Meet Yourself is offering wheelchair rentals through the Southern Arizona Adaptive Sports tent and all stages will have wheelchair-only spaces. Tucson Meet Yourself organizers have put down mats for gravel pathways and installed accessibility ramps over electrical boxes and wires to make them more accessible to wheelchairs and strollers.  

Fresh new flavors abound 

 Ceviche from Inca’s Peruvian Cuisine. (Photo Credit/Steven Meckler) 
 Ceviche from Inca’s Peruvian Cuisine. (Photo Credit/Steven Meckler) 

Tucson  ‘Eat’ Yourself is the food portion of the folklife festival, and it is a melting pot in the truest sense. With over 40 participating vendors representing flavors and traditions from all over the world, this weekend is sure to be a dream for Tucson’s foodies.

This year, six vendors will be making their Tucson Meet Yourself debut. Ranging from classic fish-fry seafood, all the way to Afghan cuisine and Taiwanese-style fried chicken.  

“I always had a vision of doing [events like Tucson Meet Yourself],” Matthew Kearney said, owner of Off the Hook Seafood. “These events bring people to town, and I think it just brings everybody together.” 

This will be the first time Off the Hook Seafood is participating in Tucson Meet Yourself. After buying a food truck in 2020, Kearney has begun growing his following one fish-fry at a time.

“People that may not usually come to your pop-up or smaller events have a chance to see you at this type of larger-event,” said Alberta Chu, owner of first-time participant Herculean Taiwanese Style Chicken.

“[Tucson Meet Yourself] definitely increases our visibility and introduces people to what we have to serve that is not as common in Tucson,” Chu said. 

In total, six new vendors are available to Tucson Meet Yourself attendees this weekend. For a full list of all vendors, visit the Tucson Meet Yourself website.

“Big Jim” Griffith altar 

 James “Big Jim Griffith at the 2011 Tucson Meet Yourself festival. (Photo Credit/Steven Meckler) 
 James “Big Jim Griffith at the 2011 Tucson Meet Yourself festival. (Photo Credit/Steven Meckler) 

James “Big Jim” Griffith co-founded Tucson Meet Yourself with his wife, Loma, in 1974. Big Jim attended the festival every year. He died last December at the age of 86.

This will be the first year Tucson Meet Yourself will be held without its co-founder.

Jim earned a Ph.D. from the University of Arizona in cultural anthropology and art history. He also was the former director of the Southwest Folklore Center at the University of Arizona until 1998, and even though he stepped down from the position, Jim still educated students throughout the region on Southern Arizona folk arts.

Jim and Loma Griffith’s “vision was to bring visibility to the many artists and culture-bearers that live in our region,” said Kimi Eisele, the festival’s communications manager and co-curator of this year’s Memory Tent. 

“The festival has grown considerably, but is has maintained that core value of acknowledging the beauty and cultural continuity that exists here,” Eisele said. 

To honor their founder and all Jim did to make Tucson Meet Yourself what it is today, a special shrine will be on display throughout the weekend.

Built by José Duran and Vanda Pollard, attendees will be able to add to the altar in remembrance of TMY’s co-founder or be able to take home one of his many books that have been donated.

Tucson Meet Yourself will be held at Jácome Plaza and the surrounding downtown area. Admission to the festival is free. Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 7-9 p.m.

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