Citizen Staff Writer
Twenty years ago, the Waila Festival started as a way to showcase the musical and artistic talents of the Tohono O’odham culture to the Tucson community. Today, co-founders Angelo Joaquin Jr. and Karen Seger carry on the same mission and traditions that have been celebrated annually since 1989.
The festival has been not only a fun way to educate and entertain the community, but also a great family event. At the first Waila Festival, Joaquin’s father performed with nephews Leonard and Jerome as The Joaquin Brothers . This year Joaquin’s cousins will return with their band, Valenzuela & Company, from the heart of the Tohono O’odham Nation.
Joaquin says they are trying to bring back as many of the musicians as possible from the first festival.
“One of the things that we’re most intent on doing is honoring the musical tradition,” he says. “We’re trying to keep the culture alive.”
Returning will be Henry Juan from the Papago Band, now leading Henry Juan and Company; and the Santa Rosa Band, with leader Homer Marks, who played at the second Waila Festival.
Tucson Fiddlers will join the lineup this year with fiddles, electric bass and acoustic guitar for a more contemporary sound.
A variety of native foods will be available, ranging from $2 to $6. Visitors can feast on squash and cheese, roasted 60-day corn, tepary beans, chili and/or fry bread with honey or powdered sugar from 10 different food booths.
“We’ve asked each group to provide a unique, traditional food,” says Joaquin.
Guests have the option of choosing foods they are familiar with or ones that they may have never tried before.
For people who prefer a meal, red chili, beans, salad, a tortilla and tea or coffee will also be available for purchase.
Joaquin encourages Tucsonans to come out and enjoy the festivities, while learning about the Tohono O’odham culture in a friendly environment.
Even as the festival growsthrough the years, “the thing that is the same is the excitement that is generated from the music, food and people who come,” Joaquin says.
IF YOU GO
What: 20th annual Waila Festival
When: 5-11 p.m. Saturday
Where: University of Arizona’s Bear Down Field (corner of Fourth Street and Cherry Avenue)
Price: Free (but you may want to bring money for food and shopping)