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Badgeless at the Street Fair

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Well, here's my story, but this isn't just about me—4th Avenue and the Street Fair have been sliding down the "show-us-your-papers" slope for decades, much to many people's dismay.

A skilled local artist and longtime member of the Tucson arts community, I have lately taken up face painting, as one of my income streams, to support my teenage children and myself. A single mom, and having recently lost employment, I was excited when the opportunity arose to "man" a designated face painting location at the 4th Avenue Street Fair, all day on Sunday, the 22nd. Bringing home some money for my kids sounded great.

To that end, I risked investing money in additional supplies, and spent many hours practicing new designs—hoping to charm the kiddies, and rake a little in. Instead, today I am still reeling, following harassment by 4th Avenue "security," that included taunts, threats, and my forcible ejection from the Fair. This ill treatment by the Street Fair "security" team ("goon squad?"..."yellowshirts"?) was all because a fellow painter forgot to give me the badge, which reserves a face painting "spot" on the Avenue sidewalk. We are members of a loose association of face painters who have been reserving a certain couple of spots at the Fair for years; except me — I'm the newbie. My associate tells me that, in all her prior Street Fair experience, she had never before been asked to show her badge.

The issue could have been easily resolved; but the "yellowshirts" preferred kicking me out.

Long story short, it took five hours before I was able to get clearance to return, to get the badge from the other painter, and to set back up again. I only made back a fraction of what I'd spent on supplies.

My associate, also a skilled artist and active member of the arts community, UofA Art School grad, ceramics teacher, and a mother raising the next generation of Tucsonans, is now BANNED from the Fair, because she forgot to give me the blasted badge.

So this is how the Street Fair treats the skilled, local artist community: Like "riff raff" to be chased off? Artists/artisans and "riff raff" STARTED the Street Fair!

And what exactly is wrong with "riff raff" anyway? I'm proud to have known some of 4th Avenue's finest former "riff raff". Some of that "riff raff" have even become pillars of the entire Tucson community! (translation, for those who think only in monetary terms: They bring in money.)

Case in point: the main drivers of that ever-growing, Tucson jewel, the All Souls Procession, were all, at one time, the exact kind of kids who are forcibly expelled from 4th Avenue today. Am I right? ... Busking and dancing barefoot?! Egad! Make them stop!

"Security" is sucking all of the flavor out of 4th Avenue, and the Street Fair. The baby has been thrown out with the bathwater. Blah!

 —Kristi Sonderegger

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