At the September 2006 GLOW, their set was derailed by a gaggle of Pinal County sheriff's deputies who invaded the private property, screamed at the audience of 400 to leave and shoved Mackender from the stage. A photo of Mackender in handcuffs showed up on the cover of the Tucson Weekly on Sept. 21.
That's not going to happen again, says Sharon Holnback, the party's organizer and owner of the Triangle L Ranch.
On Saturday night, Mackender and his band will headline the evening's moonlit festivities, which include a display of three dozen lighted sculptures on the ranch's walkways and dancing to tunes under the moon in the wash. The sheriff's office will be helping out during the three-night event, instead of manhandling musicians and evicting peaceful partiers.
"They're going to assist us, directing traffic and parking," says Holnback, an artist herself. "The sheriff's posse of volunteers will be there, plus two officers will be on hand all evening." A liaison, Sgt. Luis Vargas, will coordinate the posse.
Days after the Sept. 9, 2006, fiasco, Pinal County Sheriff Chris Vasquez held a public meeting at the Oracle Community Center, where furious citizens complained about trash-talking deputies who had unlawfully shut down the party, terrified the small children in the audience and triggered a major traffic jam when they forced everyone to leave at once. Vasquez apologized to the crowd, pledging he would "make sure it doesn't happen again. ... I do believe heavily in the Constitution."
Vasquez was up for re-election in November, and Holnback says she actually campaigned for him, to ensure that the investigation he promised would take place. The months-long inquiry yielded four disciplinary actions, Holnback says; one officer was suspended for a month without pay and demoted; another was transferred; two others had written reprimands placed in their files. Mackender, who was uncuffed after 20 minutes and never charged with any crime, got a monetary settlement.
"What happened was very surreal and unfortunate," Holnback says. "We're trying to make the best of it. Everything's positive now, and we're working together."
The pretext for last year's invasion was a complaint that too many cars were parked on Oracle Ranch Road, where her ranch is located; deputies claimed the crowded road had become unsafe. This year, the road will be temporarily designated one-way during the three nights of the festival--Friday, Saturday and Sunday--allowing cars to park on both sides of the road, while still permitting vehicles to pass through the unobstructed center. Holnback has hired a 28-passenger shuttle bus and a driver to pick up party-goers from along the road.
With the police pledging peaceful cooperation and the traffic woes eased, Holnback says, "It should be really great. The artwork is top-notch. Great bands are playing. This will be the best GLOW yet."
Now in its fourth year, GLOW has "a lot more music this year. We have two stages and maybe 60 musicians all together."
Friday night, the Al Perry combo headlines on the main stage, following up sets by "blue-eyed soul" man Michael P. Nordberg and the Kevin Daly country-rock band. The Brambleberries play the Adobe Barn, and the Oracle Art Ensemble makes music somewhere on the lighted trails of the 50-acre guest ranch. DJ Kidd Squidd spins moon tunes. Gleaming guests are invited to compete in a Glow-in-the-Dark Hat and Fashion Contest.
Saturday night, The Wayback Machine precedes The Carnivaleros on the main stage. Zephyr Strings gets down in the Adobe Barn. Autumn Skyline also takes a turn, and Oracle Art Ensemble reprises its experimental music.
Sunday night, country rocker Kevin Pakulis and The Mission Creeps, a "horror surf spy music" band, rock out in the Adobe Barn. Squidd will be back, and so will Autumn Skyline. Sunday night will be kid-oriented, starting and ending earlier (5 to 9 p.m.), and featuring a "Creepy Kids Glowing Costume Contest" tied to Halloween.
As for the lighted sculptures on the winding desert paths, "We have more multimedia pieces this year," Holnback says. Composer and public artist Michael Carroll has made a "soundscape that's an animatronic ballet lasting seven minutes. Mechanical pieces will activate it. Things happen."
Joseph O'Connell's "creative machine is a large projection piece with words." And perennial GLOW artist Mary Lucking has made an "audio Etch-a-Sketch." Visitors who sing into the piece's microphones will find their voices "creating a drawing on the wall. The projection is activated by sound."
As always, the Pie Ladies will be serving up treats for purchase in the main house. Barbecue sandwiches will be available for those wanting a proper dinner; nonalcoholic beverages also will be sold.
And the big-orbed harvest moon should play its part.
"The full moon is Thursday," Holnback reports. "But it will be 99 percent full on Friday, around 7 p.m.," just when GLOW gets glowing.