Summer in the City

You wouldn't know it by our outside temps, but the first day of summer doesn't actually hit until Tuesday, June 21. Throughout history, many cultures have celebrated the summer solstice, which occurs when the daytime hours are at a maximum in the Northern Hemisphere, and nighttime is at a minimum. It is also referred to as Midsummer in Europe, because it is roughly the middle of the growing season.

In the Old Pueblo, the Arizona State Museum has celebrated the summer solstice with events for the past five years. This year, the free festival, "Marking the Solstice: A Multicultural Celebration" takes place from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. Saturday, June 18, on the UA campus. Free parking is available at UA lots at the intersections of Euclid Avenue and First Street, and Fourth Street and Tyndall Avenue. For a complete schedule, visit www.statemuseum.arizona.edu. For more information, call 626-2973.

The museum's director of education, Lisa Falk, says the name of the event has significance. "Traditionally, cultures have marked the solstice in some way," she says. For example, a hole in the roof of a building would allow the sun to shine and hit a marker set on the floor.

The "multicultural" in the title reflects the variety of cultures represented in demonstrations, music and dance. Some of the offerings include Mexican mariachi music, Polish dancers, Japanese Taiko drumming, Tohono O'odham saguaro harvesting demonstrations and Yaqui dance music. Falk says the event is aimed at families and tries to reach out to diverse cultures.

ASM's celebration also offers an expansive view of the start of summer. "I define solstice broadly as the sun, the moon, the stars, the seasons, planting, harvesting, looking at our Earth and the traditions in our community," says Falk.

Turning to the stars, astronomers from Flandrau Science Center will be on hand to assist in the viewing of the sun and constellations using high-powered telescopes. Astronomy professor and Navajo tribal member Dr. David Begay will present "The Night Sky Through Navajo Eyes." The 30-minute presentation will take place five times throughout the evening. Free tickets will be given out at 4:30 p.m. on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Begay will point out eight constellations in a Star Lab dome and tell traditional Navajo stories about them. "Navajo tradition calls the night sky Upper Darkness," says Begay. He explains that the Navajo used the sky to assist with everyday living. "Planting, for example, is regulated by the constellation Di'lyehe. When Di'lyehe disappears in the western horizon around the first of May, you plant. When it reappears around the first of July, you stop."

Alex Sando of Native Seeds/SEARCH, "a nonprofit that seeks to preserve crop seeds that connect Native American cultures to their lands," will discuss traditional planting practices and native plants and seeds. Sando is concerned about the loss of native crops and the traditions surrounding them.

"Traditional farmers are a stabilizing force in many Native American communities," says Sando. "They conserve historic seeds, keep traditional agricultural and culinary practices alive, donate crops for ceremonies and feast days, and feed extended families from their fields." Without their agricultural traditions, the survival of their culture may be at risk.

The survival of our environment is another strong theme at the event. "People from the Solar Store will demonstrate solar cooking and cooling. Fourth Dimension Fuels will talk about soybean-based fuel and how to replace diesel fuels. And the Arizona Solar Racing Team will bring the UA's solar car," says Falk.

For those interested in creating something, there are plenty of hands-on activities. "They are for the child in all of us," says Falk. "They are aimed at youth, but we get adults making things, too," she says.

Handy, creative types can make Mexican paper flowers, a clay seed pot, a beaded bracelet, a calendar stick and more. "A calendar stick is a way of recording events in someone's life on a stick. People can draw pictures of things in their lives," says Falk. Many of the hands-on activities will be hosted by members from other local organizations, including Mason Audubon Center, International Wildlife Museum, Arizona Game and Fish Department, Postal History Foundation, Tucson Children's Museum and others.

Hungry types won't have to go far to munch on snacks or pick up some new recipes. Stella Tucker will demonstrate the harvesting of the saguaro fruit. Food will be available from a Tohono O'odham vendor. And Trader Joe's will supply plenty of the fruit of summer, watermelon.

Performances will round out the celebration offering a chance to enjoy the beat of summer with a multicultural flair. In order of appearance: Trio Los Amigos will perform mariachi music. Lajkonik will perform Polish dances. The Arizona Balalaika Orchestra will appear with Kalinka Russian Dancers. Clark and SiMana Tenakhongva, and Robyn and Kelsey Kayquoptewa will perform traditional Hopi music and dance. Odaiko Sonora will perform Japanese Taiko drumming. And "everyone will want to dance to the lively Yaqui music of Los Hermanos Cuatro. It's a lot of fun to end the evening dancing," says Falk.

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