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Best Annual Festival

Fourth Avenue Street Fair

READER'S PICK: Twice a year, in the winter and spring, the lazy shopping area of Fourth Avenue is shut to traffic and transformed into a giant vortex of craft stalls, food vendors, and outdoor performance spaces. It seems like everyone in Tucson and their brother turns out for this one. Ceramic howling coyotes? The street fair's got 'em. A mailbox flag shaped like a saguaro cactus? Yep, they've got some of those, too. All this, accompanied by an ethusiastic crowd of browsers and shoppers winding their circular way around each stand of booths with the determination of a donkey turning a grindstone. It's fun!

READERS' POLL RUNNER-UP: Tucson Heritage Festival. Until last year, this cornucopia of regional music and food was known as "Tucson Meet Yourself," which collective local wags rapidly dubbed "Tucson Eat Yourself." In an effort to further identify the festival's broad-based appeal, the more descriptive "Tucson Heritage Experience" (T.H.E.) moniker was adopted in 1996. Whatever you call it, our readers love it. Last year's Experience (they're pushing it as "T.H.E. Festival") assembled a variety of African, Arabic, Native American, Mexican, Irish, Asian, Nordic and Eastern-European clubs, performance groups, merchants and restaurants. In all, 46 associations set up shop. From polka to Waila (the Tohono O'odham tribe's social dance music) and bagpipes to balalaika, the Tucson Heritage Experience will send you home satiated with the Old Pueblo's varied offerings of cuisine and community. T.H.E. Festival 1997 is slated for October 3 through 5 in El Presidio Park courtyard, between City Hall and the historic Pima County Courthouse (Pennington Street between Church and Granada avenues).

A REAL SCREAM: Any human from any time in history anywhere on Earth would immediately understand the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show. The annual affair, which packs a full week of lectures and displays into every available hotel and convention room downtown, caters to one of humanity's most basic cravings: The desire for shiny objects. Among our favorite exhibitors are the Punjabis in turbans with their cereal bowls of sapphires and rubies; the Japanese with ropes of pearls piled a foot high in every color and size; and the African market, stretching along the I-10 frontage road, which feels like the Grand Marche in Ouagadougou. The Tucson event is the world's largest gathering of its kind; if your international travel budget is tight, this is one way to see the wonders of the world.

Case History

1998 Winner: Fourth Avenue Street Fair
1996 Winner: Fourth Avenue Street Fair
1995 Winner: Fourth Avenue Street Fair

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