City Week

The '50s Return!

"The Neon Mile: Sock Hop"

6 to 9 p.m., Friday, April 27

Pima Community College Downtown Campus

1255 N. Stone Ave.


This weekend, Tucsonans will flip the switches on four restored neon signs from the mid-20th century that once graced Miracle Mile motels and other Old Pueblo businesses.

Pima Community College's Downtown Campus and the Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation partnered up for the event, which also includes a fashion show and cars of the 1950s and '60s. There's even a sock hop, and live music from local great Salvador Duran, as well as kids' activities and food trucks.

The signs came from the Tropicana Motor Hotel, Canyon State Motor Lodge, Magic Carpet Golf and Medina's Sporting Goods.

The restorations took about four years and cost about $50,000, said Demion Clinco, of the Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation. Most of the funding was donated.

The lighting ceremony will take place at the southwest corner of Drachman Street and Stone Avenue.

"We see (the signs) as adding art to the campus," said Luba Chliwniak, president of Pima's Downtown Campus. "We just want the community to come on down and share with us."

Clinco described the signs as "bright beacons" that "really reflect the vibrancy" of midcentury Tucson.

"There's something about neon signs that really resonate with the public," Clinco said. "One of the tenets of modernity is that if you turn on the lights, people will come."

The event is tied to an open house and tour of the Miracle Mile area from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, April 28. Both events are free. For more information about the open house, call 791-4711. —M.W.

Fans of Fans!

Fan Association of North America lectures

7 to 9 p.m., Friday, April 27; 3 to 5 p.m., Saturday, April 28

Westward Look Resort

245 E. Ina Road


Sarah Sandford-Miller, an art historian and member of the Fan Association of North America, said she has about 1,000 hand-held fans dating from 1720 in her collection.

"My first fan was my grandmother's," she said. "My mother gave it to me, and I ended up carrying it in my wedding."

Sandford-Miller, who arranged the lectures on fans Friday and Saturday at the Westward Look Resort, said the mission of the association is to encourage people to look at how fans represent the past from an artistic standpoint. The lectures coincide with the association's 30th annual meeting.

The association got started in 1982, Sandford-Miller said. The idea was to bring together fan collectors from across the country.

"We're trying to popularize fans so that there will be more requests for fan exhibits, and more of us can enjoy them," Sandford-Miller said.

Attendees at the two different lectures will be encouraged to research the history of fans, and how to care for and restore them. They also will learn about the materials used for fans, such as wood, ivory and animal horn for the "stick"; and the lace, silk, satin or paper that forms the body of the fan.

"To look at a fan is to look at a little slice of life and have in your hand not only a painting, but also the material of the period and the craftsmanship of the period," Sandford-Miller said. "I think they're gorgeous."

Following Friday's lecture, an exhibit will feature from 30 to 40 fans with posters showing the types of outfits that would have been worn with them.

"I think that's fascinating that in this day and age, you can own something that probably should be in a museum," Sandford-Miller said.

Lecture tickets are $10 each. —M.W.

Fun With the Sun

2012 Solar Potluck and Exhibition

10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday, April 28

Catalina State Park

11570 N. Oracle Road

Citizens for Solar invites Southern Arizonans to harness the power of the sun—and cook up something delicious in the process.

This year marks the 30th annual Solar Potluck and Exhibition.

"It started off with a very small group of people; it was almost a cooking contest at first, but then it developed into a more community-oriented event," said Bruce Joseph, the group's chair.

From 40 to 50 solar-cookers will be used at the potluck, ranging from cardboard-and-tinfoil boxes to the commercially made "Cadillac" of solar cooking.

If you don't have a solar-cooker of your own, you're invited to try your luck at winning one. Citizens for Solar plans to raffle off three different models that day.

Joseph said to think of solar-cooking as focusing a lot of power into a small space, and keeping it there. Temperatures within solar-cookers regularly climb to as high as 400 degrees—although it can take a while. He compared them to Crock-Pots.

"I have a solar oven (in which) I can cook an entire 3-pound chicken and 2 pounds of vegetables in four to five hours, depending on how sunny the day is," he said.

The amount of sunlight available is crucial, Joseph said. "It's very easy to cook on a cold, sunny day, and very difficult to cook on a hot, cloudy day. A lot of people just assume that it just has to do with the heat."

The event includes speakers who will extol the virtues of cooking with solar energy. The potluck itself begins around 5 p.m.

Those who are not cooking are asked to bring utensils, salads, ice or other picnic items. The event is free, though admission to Catalina State Park is $7 per carload. —D.M.

A Baked-Goods Uto-pie-a

Eat More Pie Baking Contest

4 to 7 p.m., Saturday, April 28

Whistle Stop Depot

127 W. Fifth Street

If you love pie, Tucson's Eat More Pie party will be a treat for your taste buds. If you love fundraising for community organizations, the event is in your wheelhouse, too.

Started 10 years ago by Ian Fritz and Turtle Southern, the contest at first was mostly an excuse for people to hang out, make pies, and enjoy the fruits (and cream) of their labor.

"We would get together with a crew of friends and have a giant baking party over a couple of days," Fritz said. "We'd crank out about 200 pies over that time."

But the event kept growing, and the organizers decided to turn it into a bake-off, with one caveat: The baker of the pie determined Best in Show would select a charity to receive all of the profits from the day's sales. More than 100 pies are expected to be sold this year.

The nonprofits that make up the eligibility pool for pie profits include community radio station KXCI FM 91.3, No More Deaths, the Northern Jaguar Project, Nuclear Resister, Tucson CARES, the Gloo Factory and the Dunbar/Spring Neighborhood, which is the setting for this year's contest.

If you happen to have a flair for baking, you're welcome to jump in. "We'll take anything with a crust," Fritz said.

Bakers are invited to drop off pies for judging between noon and 1 p.m. The categories are Cream, Fruit, Vegan and Other, which is a catchall for nut pies, savory pies, quiches and the like.

Last year's winner was a honey pie—complete with a honeycomb and bees, made of almonds and raisins.

Attendance is free. Pie slices are $3, or $5 for two. —D.M.