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Best Annual Festival
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Best View From Above

Best Place To People Watch

Fourth Avenue
(between Ninth Street and University Boulevard)

READERS' PICK: On a day-to-day basis, there is no better place in town than Fourth Avenue for watching the human parade in all its sacred and profane glory. Even when the Street Fair is not happening, people of every type seem drawn to the area. We have seen, in no particular order of importance, jesters and jugglers, musicians of all sorts (including the musically challenged), old and new hippies, schemers and scam artists, tattooed and pierced and dyed mojo men and women, beautiful costumes and those who create them, movie stars, hallucinating flower children, lots of smiles and a few tears. Sometimes the color and pageantry remind us of a Renaissance fair, and sometimes it feels more like a gray scene from the Dark Ages. Yet it's within this paradox of identity that the attraction exists . Retirees, college kids, new-agers, gender-benders, and panhandlers not only cross paths here, but generally accept one another's presence. Perhaps that explains the Avenue's magnetic attraction: It's a truly cosmopolitan (if tiny) stretch of this city, where tolerance is the key word for everyone. You got something you need to see, sell, sing, sip or strut? Do it on Fourth Avenue with the rest of us, or just sit a spell and watch the parade.

READERS' POLL RUNNER-UP: Nearing the Ronstadt Center, the core of Tucson's bi-monthly Downtown Saturday Night metro center festival, it's not unusual to find yourself dodging a unicycle-riding mime or a horse-drawn carriage as your eyes remain helplessly fixated on the man unapologetically selling authentic alligator heads and claw back-scratchers for $8 to $15. Every first and third Saturday evening of every month, Tucson's downtown teems with both locals and visitors eager to participate in one of our city's few outdoor, pedestrian-friendly events. The usually quiet downtown city blocks are transformed into a Mecca of artisans, street vendors and corner musicians. The usual weekend club goers are joined by suburbanites looking for a hint of exotic night life. Nine-to-fivers meet Nine-Inch-Nailers on crowded sidewalks in front of some of the city's most vibrant art galleries, boutiques and independently owned specialty shops, all open late for the occasion. Inconspicuous moms and dads can sneak a glimpse into the downtown culture that keeps their teens out until curfew. And free tunes abound, from gospel choirs and African revues to the lone Little Buford "The Song Man," pinging away on his pre-programmed synthesizer from a golf cart/trailer on the corner of Congress Street and Sixth Avenue.

CLUE IN: On the Sunday evening of the second full weekend of every month, Tucson's Society for Creative Anachronism gathers in full regalia behind the Himmel Park Library. In a circle of tents and rugs, a "local baron" holds court over nearly a hundred subjects. Squires jest with ladies; priests and knights compare jewelry; troubadours offer advice on authentically anachronistic dress and behavior. In the midst of it all, fully-armored warriors lunge at each other with lightly padded sticks, occasionally crashing, "dead," to the ground; or if limb-struck, fighting Monty Python-style on their knees or with one hand behind the back.

Himmel Park's proximity to so many take-out joints makes it a convenient picnic spot. But don't bother with a drink. If you get thirsty, make like an Arthurian knight and yell for a water bearer. A pretty young thing will scurry over, kneel, and ask, "Water or Gatorade?"

Case History

1997 Winner: Fourth Avenue
1996 Winner: Downtown Saturday Night
1995 Winner: Fourth Avenue

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