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Monsoons and mariachi at El Dia de San Juan Fiesta

After record-breaking heat across the state, Tucson residents are ready to welcome the monsoons with a local tradition of music, food, family and the colorful ripples of folklorico skirts.

The El Día de San Juan Fiesta will take place this Friday, June 24 at the Mercado San Agustin, 100 S. Avenida del Convento. From 5 to 10 p.m. the market will be transformed with live music, tasty aguas frescas drinks and vibrant examples of Mexican culture.

Lizette Matus is the current president of the fiesta committee and has watched the event grow during her 7 years on the team.

“This was just a community party that was started to celebrate St. John and it has really weathered the tests of time,” she said.

For Matus, the event’s ultimate purpose is to keep cultural practices of the Southwest alive.

“It's one of the few traditional fiestas left in Tucson,” she said.

The roots of El Día de San Juan reach back to 1540 and Tucson’s bone-dry Santa Cruz. A Spanish conquistador at the mercy of a horrible drought stood by the river and prayed to San Juan to let the rain fall down. The man’s prayers were fulfilled with a storm and June 24 forever became El Día de San Juan or St. John’s Day.

Tucson’s 19th celebration of the saint begins with a ceremonial procession along the Santa Cruz River. The walk will begin at the Mission Gardens located on the corner of Grande Avenue and Mission Lane. Motorcycles will escort this year’s reina, or queen, to the fiesta and the procession will move from Grande to Congress and end at the Mercado.

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Councilwoman Regina Romero of Ward 1 will give the opening speech before activities and music begin.

The lineup includes the all-female mariachi group Mariachi Bellas Musicale, folklorico dancers and Gertie and the T.O. Boyz.

This year, the Loft Cinema will join in on the event with a free outdoor screening of the kid-friendly film “Rango,” starting around 7:30 p.m.

The nonprofit movie theater reached out to San Juan Fiesta organizers in the hopes of participating and exploring their latest venture, "mobile cinema.”

Loft Program Director Jeff Yanc said the fiesta is the perfect setting for an under the stars viewing experience.

“The El Día de San Juan Fiesta is a long-time Tucson tradition and a great cultural event in our city, and we hoped they would be open to adding a film component to their festivities,” he said.

“The organizers of the fiesta were excited about the idea, and The Loft Cinema was happy to partner with them on making a free admission outdoor screening a part of the evening's activities.”

The Loft’s newest equipment will allow them to bring films to local outdoor spaces and share a love of cinema with a wider audience.

“The Loft has a new, state-of-the-art outdoor screen, projection equipment and designated vehicle, our mobile cinema and we have been looking for opportunities to take our programming out of the theater and on the road to local events like this," said Yanc.

There’s far more than the thought of monsoon rains to enjoy at the fiesta this Friday. With a respectful dedication to keeping tradition alive, the smells of fresh made food in the air and mariachi horns blasting this family-friendly party is a celebration of cultural pride.

Matus says that the warm family aspect is what make this event so special each time.

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“To see families from all across Tucson join in to celebrate this day is fantastic. It's truly a wonderful thing to be a part of,” she said.

Anything that might encourage some rain from San Juan sure doesn’t hurt either.

The fiesta takes place this Friday from 5 to 10 p.m. at the Mercado San Agustin, 100 S. Avenida del Convento. Admission to the event is free and guests planning on attending the “Rango” screening should bring outdoor seating.

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Click image to enlarge

courtesy of Dia de San Juan Fiesta Committee

Tucsonans walk in the procession of the 2015 El Dia de San Juan Fiesta.

If you go

  • El Día de San Juan Fiesta 
  • Mercado San Agustin, 100 S. Avenida del Convento
  • Procession begins at Mission Gardens at the corner of Grande Avenue and Mission Lane
  • 5-10 p.m.
  • Free
  • Screening of "Rango" 7:30 p.m.