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Mush! Mush!

The Great Tucson Iditarod Race

Noon to 3 p.m., Sunday, April 1; awards announced at 5:30 p.m.

Starts at Bentley's House of Coffee and Tea

1730 E. Speedway Blvd.

The Great Tucson Iditarod Race—in which contestants tethered to shopping carts pull them through central Tucson's urban wilderness—seems like an experiment in controlled chaos.

The race isn't timed, and there are no winners crossing the finish line.

Teams of two to five people must register and begin the race at Bentley's House of Coffee and Tea (1730 E. Speedway Blvd.) between noon and 3 p.m. Then they mush onward to their prescribed stops, and collect stamps in a "passport" at each one. If they happen to buy a little something for themselves and their crew in the process, well, so much the better, said organizer David Aguirre, of Dinnerware Artspace.

"It's a way of spending an afternoon with your group and hanging out at a place like Sky Bar (one of the stops)," said Aguirre, who is also the organizer of some of Tucson's food-truck roundups. "It's like stopping and taking the dogs around the watering hole."

The course spans the university, Fourth Avenue and downtown, and ends at—what else?—a food-truck roundup.

"I realized when I was putting it together that it was sort of a thinly disguised 'buy local' event," Aguirre said.

Although there is no reward for coming in first, five $100 cash prizes will be awarded to teams with the best costumes and the most creatively decorated shopping carts.

One more thing, Aguirre said: Shopping carts aren't provided, so "be safe and legal" when obtaining one, he said.

The cost to register for the race is $30, which can be paid in advance via Paypal), or with cash or a check on the day of the event. —D.M.


A Performers' Party

Moctoberfest

Noon to midnight, Saturday, March 31

Mercado San Augustín

100 S. Avenida del Convento

203-1043

Organized by the folks who oversee the All Souls Procession, Moctoberfest is intended to bring together Tucsonans in a celebration of beer, music, dance and play.

Ruben Palma, a performer with Flam Chen and the organizer of Moctoberfest, came up with the idea for a festival to complement the growth at Mercado San Agustín, just west of Interstate 10 downtown.

"I think that the opportunity to build a little stake in this neighborhood would really set it off as a nice, vital place to be," Palma said. "They want to get people in their place, and we have a party we want to throw, so it seems we've got a good partnership."

Moctoberfest is scheduled to have more than 15 acts, ranging from the pyrotechnics-circus act of Flam Chen to musicians like Marianne Dissard to the clown antics of The WonderFools. At least 10 food vendors will be on hand, and a number of workshops will give Tucsonans insight into everything from yoga and salsa-dancing to fire-spinning. The festival also includes demonstrations on brewing beer—it's (m)octoberfest, after all—and making wine.

Palma said he sees Moctoberfest as a golden opportunity to get the city's performers together for a party.

"Performers kinda get trapped in their bubbles, and it seems like a good window between seasons to get everybody to come together," he said.

Palma encourages Tucsonans to come out in costume.

"We want people to be able to shine and show what they feel their Tucson really is," Palma said.

All-day passes—with re-entry permitted—are $14 if bought before noon on the day of the event, and $20 afterward. Children 16 and younger are admitted for free with a paying adult until sunset, when Moctoberfest becomes a 21-and-older event. —D.M.


A Long-Overdue Thank-You

Tucson's Welcome Home Veterans Parade

10:30 a.m., Saturday, March 31

Starts at Pennington Street and Stone Avenue

When veteran Alan Toppel heard about a welcome-home parade held in St. Louis two months ago for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he knew Tucson should have a similar event.

"I really felt that this would be very important, not only for the returning veterans, but for the community ... to welcome them home, which is long overdue," Toppel said.

The mission of Tucson's Welcome Home Veterans Parade is to thank veterans for "their bravery and everything they did on our behalf," Toppel said.

He said giving thanks is long overdue, because some of these veterans have been home for more than five years. The parade in St. Louis was the first of its kind since the wars began, Toppel claimed; Tucson will host the nation's second.

Veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces from any era are invited to participate as "comrades in arms," Toppel said, though the focus is on post-Sept. 11 veterans.

Toppel encouraged veterans to include family members in the parade, because they have had to exhibit strength and courage while their loved ones were deployed. He invites people to bring American flags to wave, and to make signs containing kind words and thanks for the veterans.

"The connection is very strong between veterans and flags and patriotism and country," he said. "It just all fits together."

Also: Starting at 7 a.m., Friday, March 30, at the Pima Community College downtown campus (Speedway Boulevard and Stone Avenue), a remembrance ceremony will include the reading of the names of more than 6,800 service members who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. Toppel said a bell will be rung after each name is read; he estimated that it will take 10 to 12 hours to read all of them. —A.N.


Take a Step Into 1886

Wild West Days

10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Friday, March 30, through Sunday, April 1

Old Tucson Studios

201 S. Kinney Road

883-0100

Was the Tucson of the Old West really full of rowdy bar fights and cowboys cruising the city's dusty streets? Find out for yourself as the Tucson of 1886 is re-created at Old Tucson's third annual Wild West Days.

"A few years ago, we decided to put together a kind of cultural-heritage event that was based on Southern Arizona ... and what people believe is the Wild West," said Pete Mangelsdorf, general manager and CEO of the Old West theme park.

"When people come, they'll get a feel in some cases of what it was like in 1886 in Tucson. We've got a lot of history presentations that talk about that, but we also have the fun stuff, like cowboy music and trick-ropers."

This year, "living-history" presentations have been added, and Mangelsdorf said the focus is now as much on educating people about what the Wild West was really like as it is on entertaining them.

"There'll be a guy, and he'll explain to the guests what it was like to take a stagecoach ride from Prescott to Tucson in 1886, and the do's and don'ts," he said. "If there were women in the stage, you didn't cuss; you didn't spit."

The entertainment will include stunt demonstrations, cancan dancers, buffalo soldiers and even Chinese dragon dancers.

"People don't know that the Chinese have been in Tucson for an awfully long time," Mangelsdorf said.

Mangelsdorf compared the atmosphere at the three-day event to a Renaissance fair—except that visitors are encouraged to wear Western garb.

"When people come to Old Tucson, the whole idea we want them to have is they've taken a step back in time," he said.

Admission is $16.95 for adults, and $10.95 for children ages 4 to 11. —A.N.

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