When Susan Alexander moved to Tucson 12 years ago, she instantly fell in love with the Miracle Mile neighborhood's old motel signs and architecture. Alexander's business with her husband, Maggie Maye's Tucson Tattoo Studio, is just east of Oracle Road at Grant Road and Castro Avenue. She's a member of the Gateway Business Alliance, and she's now coordinating the 2010 Miracle Mile Festival on Saturday, April 24. For more information on the festival, visit www.celebratehistorictucson.com. For more information on the GBA, visit www.gbatucson.com.
How did you get into the tattoo business?
Through my husband. He's tattooed for 30 years, and I've done a lot of things. I've been a school teacher and a mental-health worker ... but when I met him, our lives just merged. He started apprenticing me. And we moved here from Texas 12 years ago.
How did this idea for a festival start?
I started volunteering to serve on the Grant Road committee for the widening. I was told to meet these Gateway Business Alliance people in my neighborhood. Through them, I was introduced to volunteers with the Oracle Area Revitalization (Plan) committee. They've done the festival through tours the past two years. OARP is a public initiative, and GBA is a private initiative with the business community. This year, the OARP felt it was appropriate for them to step back and have the private business community step in and head up the tour. It's really the baby of Ken Scoville and Rebecca Ruopp. So as a business community, when we looked into taking it and running with it, we decided to keep the tour, because the history is really the root of our community here.
So the tours are still on?
Yes. There's a shuttle bus that takes participants along the Miracle Mile route, and Ken talks about historic events and stories, and stops at some of the places where you can get out and participate in the activities the motor courts may have going on.
Why is it important to have the business community involved?
We want to remind everyone about the history, but also remind everyone about the businesses and highlight this area. Basically, we're putting on a party, and hope that when people come over, they will say, "This isn't a scary part of town. These people are friendly."
What else will happen besides the tour?
We see it as a unique street fair—a street fair with a purpose, to help us build on our identity and sense of place. And we see it as something that will continue to grow.
Since the fair isn't until April 24, how can people help out or get involved now?
We're definitely looking for sponsors and vendors. We want the focus to be on local vendors. When we say local, we're not saying exclusively Grant and Oracle businesses, but we want vendors from Tucson and Pima County.
People are taking more notice of the area, especially the activities at the Flamingo Motel, and now the new 30-foot-high neon saguaro sculpture by Dirk Arnold.
Yes, it's really coming together. I understand that Dirk Arnold's sculpture (www.endangeredarchitecture.com) is going to be lit soon. The volunteers with OARP have put together a new plan for the area. ... It represents four years of hard work by citizens who have met to come up with a vision for this neighborhood that focuses on protecting its history.
What kind of entertainment will you have at the street fair?
The Arizona Voodoo Kittens are going to do a period fashion show. ... There's going to be a band playing rockabilly, and there will be a high school choir and folklorico dancers. Also, we'll have David Valenzuela, who does Yaqui mask-carving, doing demonstrations. Marcelino Flores is also going to come and set up for his artwork with a group of artists who are part of a Pascua Yaqui organization dedicated to helping Yaqui artists become professionals. We'll also have a plein-air event, with artists painting along the strip. We have a tour map that we're distributing, and the purpose of the plein-air event is to celebrate those structures—so artists will be placed along the route and depicting those buildings in any medium they choose. It's usually oil, but sometimes pastels and watercolor. Later, there will be a sale, and a competition with prizes and a show. The goal is to call attention to the history and what makes this Tucson neighborhood so unique.