Second Saturday spices up city center
Downtown festival offers something for all ages
If you were to walk downtown on a regular night, even on a weekend, only a handful of bars and restaurants would be open. During the day, you might see lawyers and bankers in suits walking in the business district. Other than that, downtown Tucson is relatively quiet.
Second Saturdays Downtown aims to change that.
In an attempt to bring life and business back to the area, Providence Service Corporation and a coalition of downtown boosters brought back an urban street festival.
The event, scheduled the second Saturday of each month, was held for the third time over the weekend.
The Second Saturdays Downtown festival offered a range of entertainment from street performers like living statues, breakdancing b-boys, stilt walkers and live music of many genres.
Music could be heard in the streets and in venues such as the Fox Theatre and Vaudeville Cabaret bar.
Throughout the night the Tucson Jazz Institute's Ellington Band performed big band jazz at the Fox Theatre. Nearly every seat in the auditorium was full and the crowd repeatedly clapped after every solo. A few people even got up and to dance to the swing-era songs.
Down Congress Street at the Ronstadt Transit Center, the Brazilian-inspired ensemble Batucaxe performed, drawing attention with their exuberant beats, earthy rhythms and wild dancing.
The streets were filled families, small groups of teenagers and couples, but each particular event seemed to draw a specific crowd. Tucson's Ellington band was popular with the older generations, as the b-boys were popular with the younger set.
Some bands transcended generations, like at Batucaxe's performance, where almost everyone joined in and danced - or at the very least tapped a foot.
"I have never seen a band like this before," said spectator Shirley Hampton. "I literally could not watch them without moving to the beat in some way."
Following May's inaugural event that saw an estimated crowd of 10,000, the Second Saturdays Downtown festival seems to be becoming even more popular.
"I came to the very first one and there seems to be just as many people here this time, even though it's hotter," said Pia Mogollon of Gypsy Sojourner Presents.
Mogollon, who performs as a living statue, poses completely still for minutes at a time, but said that she moves to new locations along Congress Street throughout the evening.
"I get more exposure that way," she said.
The festival is not the first attempt to bring people to downtown. Through the '90s Tucson had Downtown Saturday Nights, which were much like the new Second Saturdays event.
"I think it is so great that someone is helping to put this event on again," said Patricia Reilly who attended Downtown Saturday Nights before that event ceased. "I was so sad when they stopped because there are so many creative people that need an outlet like this and common people who just want to watch and enjoy."
While there was a lot of entertainment on Congress Street, Fourth Avenue did not see much more business than its usual Saturday night crowd.
There were two small music stands set up on the Fourth Avenue side right in front of the underpass that leads to downtown, but the music stopped there and did not continue onto Fourth.
"I understand that downtown needs more business than Fourth right now but why separate the two?" said Linda Daley, who had a booth with rustic birdhouses for sale.
"I think this is part of our problem, our downtown area is disjointed, I mean, these two areas are so close to each other."