Best Of Tucson®

Best Annual Festival

Fourth Avenue Street Fair

READERS' PICK: It's a mad, mad, mad, mad, mad, mad, mad, mad world -- and nowhere is that more evident than twice a year at the Fourth Avenue Street Fair, when all the fringe elements are on display. You've got clowns, musicians and drag queens on stilts who pour tequila down your throat. And you've got all the ceramic toothbrush holders, new age hoo-hah, and fried ethnic food you can eat. One warning: this is no place for those who suffer from agoraphobia. This fest draws a crowd, from opening on Friday through closing on Sunday.

READERS' POLL RUNNER-UP: For 14 years and running, the Tucson Folk Festival, has been a showcase for local and increasingly national acoustic talent. Held in downtown's Presidio Park on the first weekend in May, the fest is a free, grassroots affair spearheaded each year by the volunteer efforts of the Tucson Kitchen Musicians Association. As the festival's reputation has grown, competition for a place on the performance roster has sharpened; but the festival has grown as well, and this year saw the addition of a third stage. Good news for folk fans, indeed.

Along with local regulars like Ice Nine, Degrees Plato, the Determined Luddites and the Spud Rock Rangers, this year's festival boasted one Sherlin Gerhart from Dallas (once a member, along with Lyle Lovett, of the Future Farmers Of America All-Star high-school band). Visiting favorite Dede Wyland returned to wow the crowd with her soaring vocals and hot-shot back-up band; and the funk and world-beat spunk of headliner Laura Love closed both nights with spirited, high-energy, crowd shakin' sets.

In addition to two days of continuous music on three stages, the Folk Festival sponsors a number of free music workshops. Highlights included a songwriting circle hosted by Love and Wyland, and a guitar flatpicking tour-de-force by Greg Morton, backed by Aaron Stoceck.

Volunteers for the Festival are essential, and always appreciated. Try Beth at 319-8599 for details. Think of it as the last fun thing to do before summer hits!

MORE MANIA: The Tucson Zoological Society hosts one of the city's most well-attended annual festivals -- and Zoocson '99 is fast approaching on Saturday, September 25! Some 2,000 lucky locals will join more than 35 restaurateurs for an evening of food, live entertainment (including but not limited to the animal kingdom), and an auction of donated gifts under the stars on the zoo's softly lit pathways.

Last year's sold-out affair paid for a new aviary (scheduled to open in early November); and this year's event is loosely focused on pachyderms: new sleeping quarters for the zoo's two white rhinos; and upgrades to the hippo and elephant stomping grounds. The zoo also has its eye on some home improvements for the otter exhibit. Your $35 advance-ticket contribution may benefit one or all of these projects. Tickets will cost $40 at the door, if there are any left. Call 881-4753 for reservations and information. (See also, Best Environmental World News, page 18.)