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Second chance for downtown Saturdays

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2nd Saturdays Downtown

Second chance for downtown Saturdays

Formula for resurrecting downtown tradition?

  • Portland Cello Project will perform at the Fox Theatre as part of 2nd Saturdays Downtown
    Tarina WestlandPortland Cello Project will perform at the Fox Theatre as part of 2nd Saturdays Downtown

In the 90s, Downtown Saturday Night, managed by the now-defunct Tucson Arts District Partnership, was a hot ticket. But as TADPI lost steam and art galleries moved from Congress Street, the event ground to a halt at the end of the decade.

There were a few attempts to revive the tradition over the years, which brought thousands downtown for concerts, art installations, gallery openings, crafts vendors and street performers (anyone remember the Human Jukebox lady or the bagpiper in Arizona Alley?).

Each venture was met with organizational challenges, lack of infrastructure and infighting.

During the early part of the last decade, the Tucson Downtown Alliance (now the Downtown Tucson Partnership) attempted a revival, but could not sustain the event. Several years later, the Congress Street Urban Block Party was held a few times and then scrapped.

A new organization, 2nd Saturdays Downtown, has taken on the task of bringing back a monthly event in the city center. The kickoff is Saturday from 5-10 p.m., and features live music at several venues, an outdoor stage, and out on the thoroughfare.

The Fox Tucson Theatre at 17 W. Congress St. will host the Portland Cello Project, Tucson's Howe Gelb and Weinland.

Chamberlab I at The Screening Room, 127 E. Congress, features a double string quartet and contrabass playing original chamber music by Chris Black, Gabriel Sullivan, Dante Rosano, Marco Rosano, Graham Reynolds, Jimmy Carr, Carlos Lopez, and more.

Outdoors, a stage on Scott Avenue will feature Tucson rock bands The Modeens, The Mission Creeps and Greyhound Soul. The Hotel Congress at 311 E. Congress will host Stefan George on its patio. Street musicians include the Missing Parts, the Get Right Rounder, Catacoustic Groove, Hank Topless and our very own Arts & Entertainment Editor, Maggie Golston.

The first 2nd Saturday also includes a giant free Beatles “Rock Band” competition at  the vacant lot on Congress between Scott and Church Avenues, featured artists The Parasol Project, pop-up shops from KXCI, Tucson Meet Yourself, Local First Arizona, and Jim Click Automotive, as well as local artisans hawking their wares.

The primary sponsor is downtown newcomer Providence Service Corporation, and the steering committee includes Providence CEO Fletcher McCusker; Luke Cusack, operator of Sapphire, Zen Rock, and A Steak in the Neighborhood; David Slutes of Hotel Congress; John “Flano” Flanagan, owner of Flanagan’s Celtic Corner; Michael Keith and Cara Rene of the Downtown Partnership and others.

Ward 6 Councilman Steve Kozachik has lent his voice to the new event. "It will take private sector initiatives like this to really change the character of downtown. The government’s role should be to support and encourage these kinds of efforts, especially in a tight economy. Providence and the other organizers of this event are real catalysts for a new-found excitement and synergy in Downtown Tucson," he said on the 2nd Saturdays website.

Parking at the Pennington Street Garage, one block north of Congress and Scott Avenues, will be free. Street parking on weekends is normally free; no need to feed the meter. Scott will be closed between Congress and Broadway.

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