Sunday, February 23, 2014

Southwest Indian Art Fair 2014

It was another pleasant sunny day in Arizona and my wife and I headed downtown to attend the Southwest Indian Art Fair on the grounds of the Arizona State Museum. 

Tent after tent sported Native American art from carvings and jewelry to paintings and golf ball markers.

One booth featured a demonstration by a mask carver and another by a flint chipper..

Weavers of all ages showed off their skills.

In another corner of the grounds was a stage for hourly performances of native dances.

 The singers were joyful.


The rhythm section jammed.
Young and old performed together and
the balance in the basket dance was impeccable.

  Thanks again to all the artists and performers who made our day a delight.  With a little bit of luck we will be able to return again next year.


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Sabino Canyon Stroll

We have visited Sabino Canyon a number of times during the last ten years. It is always a pleasure.  We arrived around 10:30 last week.  It was a cloudy late winter day. The light was soft and diffuse producing photo images with minimal contrast but still interesting. 

The drill at Sabino, in case you have not been there, is planned to be great for families with kids and seniors.  A shuttle runs up and down a 3.7 mile road approximately every half hour. 

There are nine stops along the way.  You can ride both directions into and out of the canyon or you can get out at any of the stops and walk.

 You can re-board the shuttle at any stop and ride back down to the visitor center.  The most often used option is to ride to the top and then walk back all the way or as far as you wish.  Enthusiasts can of course run both directions.

There weren't many flowers blooming yet, but we did catch this one.

Otherwise it is the rock formations and the occasional areas where some water remains in the stream.

 Some green still appears against the gray canyon walls.



Parking is $5.00 for day visitors.  The shuttle is currently $8.00 for adults.   There are lots of special rates and passes for frequent visitors.


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Tucson Jazz Institute Rocks

Our musical tastes these days runs to Classical, but a recommendation from my cousin and a longtime fondness for Big Band Jazz took us to a concert by the fantastic young players of the Tucson Jazz Institute last week and boy do they rock. 

The venue was the Episcopal Church of the Apostles and while they set up we had a chance to soak up the view of the Santa Catalina mountains afforded by their large windows.

The institute has a number of bands for the multiple ages and skill levels in their programs. Many of the players overlap and can interchange in more than one group. Sometimes you have  students as young as 4th grade playing right along with high school students. All the ensembles are led by Doug Tidabeck who is clearly the glue that holds the enterprise together.  He makes sure that each player is recognized and fills in the gaps between numbers with convivial humor and lots of information about the institute. 

The players are drawn from a wide area around Tucson with some coming from as far away as Phoenix.  They are all participating in addition to fulfilling all of their normal studies and school activities. The only commonality was dedication and dynamite talent.

We even had Robbie Lee who plays a mean piano and croons with the best of them.

Unfortunately you can't hear any of them here, but the bands do have CD's of some of their award winning performances.  You can get all the details on their web site.  Just click.

They are also looking for more support for their upcoming European trip.  Again the web site is the place to go.








Thursday, February 13, 2014

Chihuly Lights Up the Desert Again

 We visited Phoenix's Desert Botanical Garden's  Chihuli extravaganza in 2009 and loved it.  It was a no-brainer to return this year when we saw that his high powered glass creations were going to be planted among the cacti once again.

The garden has plenty to offer without Chihuli, but addition of his brightly colored forms adds a dimension of contrast that is hard to beat--especially at the time of year when the spring blooms have not yet opened.


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Casa Grande Grand

Anyone who travels knows that there are sites that simply overwhelm you like the Grand Canyon or The Louvre.  Then there are the gems that you can see and get  your head  around in a couple of hours.  Casa Grande Ruins National Monument is one of those nuggets. 

It is easily reachable from Tucson or Phoenix and a perfect stop if you are going either direction. 

There is a small museum in the visitor center. Below is a reconstruction of what the "grand house
might have looked like in its heyday. A fine film on the history of the site also runs hourly.

The real thing can be seen on a guided tour,

but the site is so small that as long as you have some explanation you can easily go it alone.

 Without the guide though you will probably miss the owl roosting in the corner high up in the covering shed.

All of this can be accomplished in a couple of hours. Along the way you will have picked up a nice introduction to the long history of the Ancestral Peoples of the Sonoran Desert and seen  a striking architectural monument that has created wonder in the eyes of its beholders since the 1300's. 

 For an added treat pack a picnic or stock up on edibles in Coolidge and have a lunch under one of the park's shady ramadas. 






Sunday, February 09, 2014

Tucson's Fort Lowell Day Celebration

We have driven past Fort Lowell Park on Craycroft a number of times in the past month. It didn't look like much--some burned out grass and a few old structures.

Silly us.  This past Saturday we shortly discovered that the Fort Lowell neighborhood contains a fascinating "microcosm of  Southwest history." Located along what used to be a real running river, it has been inhabited for over a thousand years.  Recent archaeological excavations have discovered Hohokam pit houses and pottery as well as military items from the Fort Lowell era. A nicely decked out gentleman told that story.

Here he explains photos of pit house remains in the area.

Here he notes both Hohokam and Fort Lowell relics found during recent digs on sites in the area.
But back to the Fort proper.  It was moved to this site from downtown Tucson in 1873 primarily to serve as a staging area for fighters in the Apache Wars.  At its peak it included a hospital, stables, a school, officers and enlisted men's quarters, mess facilities, stores, etc.

Some buildings like the Camp Commander's home and now museum have been restored.

Some, like the old Post Trader's Store have been extensively re-constructed over time and are now still inhabited. 

This Officer's Billet is  in process of major restoration.
The walls of the old Hospital are now protected by a roofed shed, while some sites, like the old Commissary or the school, await further work.

But the story does not end here.  With the Apache campaigns successfully completed, Fort Lowell was decommissioned in 1891.  Mexican immigrants began to settle in the area and soon a little village called El Fuerte (The Fort) was established.  As the official pamphlet says, "Anglo settlers also took the opportunity to inhabit and restore the old buildings" over time. That village, long since integrated into the sprawl of today's Tucson, still exists as the Old Fort Lowell Historic Neighborhood.

Once a year the neighborhood association encourages visitors to traipse along the old byways and stations docents along the route down tiny El Callejon Way.  There you will find restored and still occupied homes of both new residents and families who have lived here for generations.


The Garcia family is one of the most important residents. Juan, seen here,  has occupied, enlarged, and rebuilt this home for sixty years.  He also fashioned the pews in the nearby San Pedro Chapel out of the crates that covered old missile part shipments.


Below is the chapel and the interior showing those pews.

On our way back to our car we stopped to listen to the Mariachi Tesoro and the 4th Cavalry Band


And that is what enchanted us for not one but over three hours on this fine sunny Saturday.
Take a tip from this wise old owl.  Put Fort Lowell on your Tucson tourist schedule.