City Week

Shopping AND Fun

Mercado Holiday Bazaar

11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Dec. 18 and 19; 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 20

Mercado San Agustin

100 S. Avendia del Convento


Holiday shopping isn't always candy canes and carols. Busy parking lots and long lines can really damper the mood.

It would be nice if good food (not from food courts), live music and fun activities accompanied shopping. Good news: The second annual Mercado Holiday Bazaar downtown will encompass all of that and make shopping, well, enjoyable.

The bazaar is located in the Mercado San Agustin, which is on its way to being Tucson's first public market. Once formally opened, small businesses and vendors will be able to regularly sell products and work with the community. The Mercado Holiday Bazaar will mark the inaugural event to occur in its Mercado Hall before it's fully complete for business.

"We'll have a collection of vendors at the bazaar that offers something for everybody," says Kira Dixon-Weinstein, executive director of Mercado San Agustin.

"Something for everybody" includes jewelers, bakers, vendors offering fair-trade and eco-friendly products, and live music at 6 p.m. On Friday, local band Combo Westside will be performing.

A taqueria will be opening, too.

"El Pueblito Taqueria is making its debut here," says Dixon-Weinstein. "They're from Southern Mexico, so the cuisine is a little different and so delicious."

Dixon-Weinstein says the Mercado will also have hot chocolate available—and don't miss the s'mores bar with all the fixings, along with fire pits set up to cook them over.

"It'll be nice to take any last-minute shopping slowly," Dixon-Weinstein says, emphasizing the fact that everything offered is local, as the bazaar supports local businesses.

The event is free. —A.P.

Santa's Birthplace: Tucson!

Coca-Cola Santa Gallery

On display through Friday, Jan. 1

Westward Look Resort

245 E. Ina Road

(800) 722-2500;

Santa Claus has undergone many makeovers through the years. European legend pegged Kris Kringle as a tall, thin and serious fellow. Saint Nicholas was portrayed with a beard, a scepter and a bishop's robe.

How did today's image of a round, red-suited, rosy-cheeked Santa come about?

When Coca-Cola wanted to use Santa as the face of their product back in the 1930s, they commissioned artist Haddon H. Sundblom to reinvent Father Christmas. Sundblom chose, of all places, the Westward Look Resort in quiet little Tucson as the setting for his creative energy.

"The concept of Santa prior was sort of a gnome-like, elf-like figure," says Alan Klein, general manager of Westward Look. "Coca-Cola told him that they needed someone who is gift-bearing and jovial."

Thus, the modern-day Santa that we all know and love was, in part, born right here in Tucson through the paintings that Sundblom created as a guest at the resort. Chances are, you have seen the old-school advertisements with Santa chugging on a Coke and surrounded by wide-eyed children, presents all around. (Tidbit: Lani and Sancy Nason, daughters of the resort owner at the time, were often used as models.)

After creating the first batch of paintings in Tucson, Sundblom continued to paint for Coca-Cola into the 1950s.

The Westward Look has many of the iconic paintings on display year-round in the upstairs Tinaja Desert Gallery, and during the holiday season, they bring three larger pieces into the Vigas Room and invite the public to read about the history of Sundblom and his Christmas art.

"This is a good piece of Tucson history that most people just don't know about," says Klein.

Admission to the gallery is free. —E.N.

Tips on Picking

Bluegrass Guitar Clinic

2 to 4 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 19

17th Street Market

840 E. 17th St.


Warning: Greg Morton's bluegrass-guitar skills have a history of frustrating fellow players—up to the point of property damage.

"One guy came up and told me, 'I'm going home to burn all my guitars,'" says Frank Sanzo, manager of the World Music Store at the 17th Street Market.

Yes, Sanzo insists, Morton is that good.

As long as you're not prone to violent outbursts, you may want to take up this opportunity to learn from Morton: Bring your guitar (or borrow one at the store) for a lesson that will cover topics including how to build a solo, syncopations and cross-picking, and improvising.

"He will emphasize different techniques that he's used to build his chops," says Sanzo. "There are a lot of particular runs and licks that he is famous for."

Morton is in a band called the String Figures and has been flat-picking to the acoustic, fast-paced beat of bluegrass for 40 years. His latest album, When Pigs Fly, is aptly named for the many years it took to get released. It features collaborations with Sam Bush, Roland White and John Cowan (all of which are big names in the bluegrass biz, Sanzo says).

Not only is Morton an expert; Sanzo also puts him in the running for the "Nice Guy of Tucson" award—always an admirable quality in a guitar teacher.

Adventurous beginners, intermediate players and advanced guitarists are welcome at this Desert Bluegrass Association-coordinated event, part of a series of workshops at the market on the third Saturday of every month.

The event is free. —E.N.

Kids Collaborate

Share More Books Winter Exhibition

5:30 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 20

The 5th on 6th Studio and Gallery

439 N. Sixth Ave., No. 153


When the kids of Sam Hughes Elementary School allowed their imaginations to flow freely from their pencils, the result was many wild tales. It was then the job of students at City High School and local artists to illustrate the stories crafted by the kids.

It helped if the artists were fluent in chicken scratch.

"We get the stories in their handwriting—and sometimes, we really have to decipher the code of their spelling," says Andrea Burk, one of the visiting artists at City High.

The illustrators and young authors are collaborating as part of a program put on by nonprofit Share More Books. The high school sophomores and juniors participated as part of a curriculum that requires service-learning activities. They received stacks of stories from Sam Hughes, chose the stories that they best identified with, and then illustrated and bound them by hand.

The organization went through this process before, back in fall 2008, but this is the first time that the finished products will be on display to the general public.

Burk says that the children who wrote the stories will receive a bound copy. The school library and public libraries also often request copies for their collections.

What is the purpose of this unlikely partnership between teens and tots?

"The kids are really encouraged by seeing their stories turned into books," says Burk. "Sometimes, they don't understand the value in what they can do."

She says that the tales can range anywhere in length from a few pages of single sentences to some real sagas.

The exhibition is free. —E.N.

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