Tucson Weekly's Guide to New Year's Eve 2011

Keeping Tradition Alive

"Thunder in the Desert" powwow and celebration

Friday, Dec. 30, through Sunday, Jan. 8

Rillito Raceway Park

River Road and First Avenue


When we ring in the new year, many of us think about leaving the past behind for a brave new world, one in which we've conquered cravings for chocolate or cigarettes, or a world in which we can't wait to get out of bed so we can knock out 100 pushups.

But at Thunder in the Desert, participants will be focusing on the past—particularly the traditions of indigenous cultures. The massive American Indian fair and powwow has been held in Tucson every four years since 2000.

The mission statement of the event's founders says that participants should recommit to "the continuation of the strength, beauty and endurance of our traditions and cultures by providing a platform of inspiration for our Native American Indian youth, as they continue into the 21st century."

In other words, they want to keep ancient traditions alive as iPhones, Xboxes and MTV become the new gods of a globalized culture.

Thunder in the Desert will feature parades, fashion shows, birds-of-prey exhibitions, equestrian events, powwows, concerts, dance competitions, craft demonstrations, a midnight friendship dance and a lot more. Over the years, the event has included representatives from more than 180 different tribes from around the world, including from Mexico, Ecuador, Australia, Bolivia, Honduras, Panama, Canada and the United States.

One of the more interesting aspects of the event is that it is entirely run by volunteers. No single organization, church or cultural center is behind it—there's a committee that finds people places to sleep, and nothing else. All participants pay their own way.

According to volunteer organizer Fred Snyder, "Elders wanted an event to be organized so that we can show our children what indigenous people have contributed to the fabric of life for more than 10,000 years. This event is to show people a different world."

Admission is $12 per person, per day, with children younger than 8 admitted free. Multiple-day deals are available. Visit the website for the schedule.

Party Like It's 1972

The Poseidon Adventure screening and party

11 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 31

Loft Cinema

3233 E. Speedway Blvd.


The Y2K scare is long gone, but that doesn't mean some mega-disaster couldn't be lurking on the horizon. In fact, with climate change, nuclear disasters, terrorist attacks and more alarming possibilities to deal with, the future seems to get scarier with each passing year.

Think not? Just punch "2012" and "apocalypse" into Google—and then see just how positive you feel about the year ahead.

Nevertheless, on this New Year's Eve, millions of people will don party hats, get wasted, sing "Auld Lang Syne" and engage in all sorts of other New Year's traditions—either out of blissful ignorance or through a purposeful lapse of lucidity.

If you're not down with that kind of fake gaiety, but still want to have a blast this New Year's Eve, we suggest the Loft Cinema's The Poseidon Adventure party.

The cult classic, described on the Loft's website as "the campiest, most-beloved disaster flick in movie history," features Shelley Winters, Gene Hackman and Ernest Borgnine on a tottering ocean liner that capsizes at midnight on New Year's Eve—and as the clock strikes midnight on film, so, too, will it in the real world.

The screening is timed so that just as the new year dawns on the doomed S.S. Poseidon, people watching the movie right here in Tucson can drink champagne, kiss each other and do whatever else people do on New Year's—even as it's game-over for the Poseidon.

In other words, this event is the perfect way to prepare for any calamity that 2012 might bring—while still keeping your spirits high (literally, if you're raising a glass of champagne).

"This is the first specifically New Year's–themed event the Loft has offered," said Loft program director Jeff Yanc. "It's an inaugural voyage—just like in the film. ... I think people will have a blast, and I hope we can do something like this every year for people who don't like going out to the bars."

The event will include a '70s costume party, a raffle and more. Admission is $8; or $6 for Loft members (with champagne and light hors d'oeuvres provided).

Young, Professional and Ready to Party

"Resolution": Tucson Young Professionals New Year's Eve Party

8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 31

Loews Ventana Canyon Resort

7000 N. Resort Drive

Are you young? Are you professional? Then the perfect New Year's event for you is most likely the Tucson Young Professionals New Year's Eve party. This bash, called "Resolution," is designed to make you feel professional as hell, from the cigar bar to hors d'oeuvres galore to a martini bar. To top it off, the entrance will feature an actual red carpet, where you can get your picture taken by pretend paparazzi.

As for the "young" part of young professional, party organizers have gone all out to appeal to your childish sweet tooth with delicious desserts, including classic (and sexy) chocolate-covered strawberries. The event also features dueling DJs and VJs (DJ Soo and DJ M, in case those names ring a bell) on elevated platforms. And if you happen to fancy young, hot females, you won't be displeased with the silhouetted shadow dancers livening up the venue's walls, or the Moulin Rouge–style dance show.

And what's a young person's party without party favors? Because it's a New Year's Eve party, you're totally allowed to act a little less than professional and make a grab for the many free party souvenirs.

"I'm expecting the atmosphere to be a Vegas type of deal," said Ben Korn, one of the organizers of the event. "On New Year's Eve, people want to be with their friends, and this is where your friends are gonna be—so save on the flight to L.A.!"

Even if you're not a member of Tucson Young Professionals, you are more than welcome to show up. After all, it's a networking group.

"It's a place to meet new people and find new opportunities," Korn said.

General admission tickets are $100; VIP tickets are $125. Cocktail attire is recommended.

Christmas on New Year's

Christmas in the Big Apple

3, 6 and 9:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 31; 12:30 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 1

The Gaslight Theatre

7010 E. Broadway Blvd.


Ever had a post-Christmas letdown?

Yeah, it can be hard to let go of that sad feeling that comes over you when all of the presents are unwrapped; the decorations have been taken down; and all of the cookies have been eaten. But this New Year's Eve, you can do something totally different—and re-live Christmas!

The Gaslight Theatre offers an enjoyable way to do that with its holiday play Christmas in the Big Apple—a performance so silly that you can't possibly feel the post-holiday blues after seeing it.

It's the winter of 1933, and with the holidays approaching, all the New Yorkers in the play are getting into the Christmas spirit—except Scrooge-y socialite Vonda De Cringe, who wants to take over Pennypacker's Department Store. To do that, she apparently needs to hire the worst department-store Santa Claus ever. What will happen to Christmas when its core player—the fake Santa, of course—is more naughty than the naughtiest of children on his fake list?

The only way to find out is to see the play. And we promise: If you see it on New Year's Eve, you will have enjoyed your Christmas holiday more than ever by stretching it out for as long as possible.

Adult admission is $17.95; seniors get in for $15.95; and admission for kids 12 and younger is $7.95. Reservations are strongly recommended.

Around the World in One Night

Wingspan’s “NightThing: Bon Voyage: Sailing Into 2012 Together”

7 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 31

JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort and Spa

3800 W. Starr Pass Blvd.


When we first heard about Wingspan’s New Year’s Eve event, we wanted to attend just because of its weird name. Then we found out that the “NightThing” celebration also makes for an outrageously good time—for an outrageously good cause. The party at the JW Marriott will be plenty posh, including a cocktail and hors d’oeuvres reception, a four-course gourmet dinner and, of course, a champagne toast at midnight.

But don’t let those classy features make you think this event will be tame—just the opposite. The wild party will include casino entertainment, a spectacular light show and dancing all night long. The theme is “Bon Voyage: Sailing Into 2012 Together.” That means the venue will have a cruise-ship feel (and we think that might include some hot young people in sailor outfits).

The ballroom will be decorated like four different international travel destinations: France, with an Eiffel Tower; Greece, with floor-to-ceiling columns; Japan, with a giant dragon draped across the room; and Brazil, with a Rio Mardi Gras feel. The event will be hosted by Tucson’s own Bunny Fu Fu, a hilarious and beautiful drag queen with a unique concept of entertainment.

And now we come to the cause: Wingspan is Southern Arizona’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community center, providing resources and support for all local LBGT folks who need it. It’s not easy being a nonprofit these days, so anything you can do for this group financially will help—and if you have a fabulous time at an amazing New Year’s party in return for your donation, even better.

Admission to “NightThing” is $150 per person. However, since Wingspan is so totally cool and recognizes that not everyone can give a whole lot to their desired cause, late-entrance tickets are available for just $25 to anyone who cares to skip the dinner and arrive at 10 p.m. (and still get in on the champagne toast). Check out wingspan.org for tickets.

The Return of Tucson Music Legends

The Mollys for New Year’s

9:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 31

Temple of Music and Art

330 S. Scott Ave.


Every year, the Tucson Weekly’s New Year’s guides are chock-full of musical events, from orchestras to jazz to rock. Fortunately for us, this year, that list of musical events is topped by one Tucson’s most-awesome bands—and they don’t play together that often these days.

Yes, the Mollys will be at the Temple of Music and Art to play their interesting—and very danceable—version of Irish Tex-Mex music.

Once hailed by the Boston Herald as one of the most-exciting live acts in folk music, the Mollys are often thought of as a Celtic band, but they rely heavily on Mexican and American musical traditions—with a little bit of country and rock ’n’ roll mixed in—to create their unique sound. They started playing in 1989 and were popular across the country (and around the world) until they disbanded in 2003.

The Mollys will play two long sets of their best songs, and a huge dance floor will be at the front of the stage. The Mollys consist of Nancy McCallion on guitar, penny whistle and vocals; Danny Krieger on guitar and vocals; Kevin Schramm on accordion, bouzouki and banjo; Dan Sorenson on bass; and Gary Mackender on drums. Catherine Zavala (who co-founded the band with McCallion) will join in on vocals and mandolin during the second set.

The band will play straight past midnight, until about 12:30 a.m.—but don’t worry about missing out on New Year’s Eve traditions: The concert will include New Year’s Eve party favors galore, and the band will even play “Auld Lang Syne” at the appropriate time.

“I love that song,” McCallion says. “It makes me want to cry.” The evening could be an emotional one for McCallion and crew—and, of course, their fans—since they haven’t played in public for years.

“It’ll be a real nostalgic time for us,” McCallion says. “We have a lot of history and friends, so it’ll be nice to be with everyone on that night.”

Admission is $15 in advance (at Bookmans, Antigone Books or www.inconcerttucson.com); tickets at the door are $20.

Dance Into the New Year

La Cocina New Year’s Eve party

8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 31

La Cocina Restaurant, Cantina and Coffee Bar

201 N. Court Ave.


If you haven’t been to La Cocina yet, you’re missing out.

Located in the Old Town Artisans block in downtown’s El Presidio District, the restaurant has great food—from quinoa and curry to good ol’ hamburgers—that’s healthy and hippy-friendly. They use only grass-fed beef from cattle on a nearby ranch, have lots of gluten-free options, and strive to buy their ingredients from local farmers and ranchers whenever possible. The cantina’s cocktails are divine, and they pour many local brews. Plus, a whole section of the venue is a coffee shop that serves delicious (and often locally roasted) java.

These things alone would make the place worth checking out. But it’s really the community atmosphere and near-daily fun events—from queer dance parties to craft-making sessions to sets by local musicians—that make La Cocina a must-visit. We’ve been to the venue’s Saturday night DANCE! DANCE! DANCE! DJ parties before, and they’re amazing—so we know the one happening on New Year’s Eve will be great.

La Cocina has a beautiful courtyard and big outdoor stage, but because it may be cold outside, most of the party will take place in the cantina and lounge, where DJs Herm, Ektratek and B-Rad will spin a wide variety of hits ’til the wee hours. It’s a small space, but there will be plenty of room—to DANCE! DANCE! DANCE! of course! And the place has an excellent sound system. Naturally, there will be a New Year’s Eve countdown, party favors, champagne, ball-drop-watching and (we’re guessing) lots of friends and lovers kissing each other come midnight—because that’s just the kind of place this is. And what better way to start a new year than with dancing, drinking and love among peers?

Admission is $15 in advance, or $20 at the door.

New Year’s in the Ballroom

Sonoran Ballroom Academy dance party

8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 31

Sonoran Ballroom Academy

5536 E. Grant Road


Is your New Year’s resolution to try something new? To meet new people? To be more active? To spend more time with your partner? To find a partner?

You can do any or all of those things at the New Year’s Eve party at the Sonoran Ballroom Academy. Formerly known as the Arizona Ballroom Company, this academy offers group classes and private lessons, and also hosts dance parties. But you don’t need to know much about ballroom dancing to have fun at one of the parties, where the experience of the dancers ranges from 10 minutes to 10 years or more.

The age range is similarly diverse: Instructor Tosha Meshell says the parties draw 10-year-old kids as well as (at least once) people in their 90s, who are learning steps ranging from waltzes to the fox trot to steamy Latin dances like the tango and salsa.

The New Year’s Eve party normally consists of students and their friends, Meshell says, but new people are encouraged to show up. Anyone who likes ballroom dancing will love the party, she says. It will consist of open dancing, a midnight countdown, the singing of “Auld Lang Syne,” snacks and sparkling cider. (There may or may not be booze, so if you want to drink, do it before you show up—although it probably won’t help your dance skills.)

“Ballroom dancing is a really fun way to meet new people,” Meshell says, “because while you dance with them, you talk to them. Come on down, and start the new year with a new dance.” Dancing for the entire evening costs $35 at the door, or $25 in advance.

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