February 19, 2015

We are pleased to welcome the help of UA students enrolled in the Eller College of Business, course Management Information Systems (MIS)  478/578 taught by Professor Eve Cran, in the planning and coordination of the inaugural Oro Valley Meet Yourself.

The course entitled “Project Management” offers students the opportunity to get involved in a real project happening in the community while they study the intricacies of planning and executing projects with excellence.

We are grateful. You will be able to greet and meet the students during the festival.


February 10, 2015

The first step in planning OVMY consisted of a study of the community. The Southwest Folklife Alliance hired an anthropologist to conduct a study that we call an “asset mapping.” What this means is that the researcher spends a lot of time in the community, for a concentrated amount of time, meeting people, asking questions, and trying to experience the town’s diversity from within (rather than just looking facts up on Wikipedia). Anthropologists and folklorists often refer to this research approach as “ethnographic research” –because it makes people in real time and in their contexts, the center and focus of the investigation. “Ethnographic” also means that people, rather than just being “studied” as subjects, are participants with the researcher in crafting the data and the understanding that emerges from it.


For the Oro Valley study, we hired anthropologist Kathleen O’Brien. Kathleen is a Doctoral Candidate in Anthropology at the University of Illinois. She is writing her dissertation in Tucson, where her family resides and took time away from her busy writing life to conduct the study. She turned in a 62-page report full of fascinating facets of Oro Valley’s diversity.  We are using Kathleen’s study to guide the programming for the inaugural OVMY. Further “field work” in Oro Valley will go on during the next few years to understand at deeper levels the cultural strengths as well as the challenges that diversity confronts us with in a plural society.


Here’s an excerpt from her introduction that gives us a sense of the depth of her research activities.


I spent approximately seventy hours total conducting field research in Oro Valley over the course of six weeks. As a resident of central Tucson, I drove forty-five minutes each time, taking either Oracle Road (Highway 77) or La Cañada Drive north to reach the field site. Fieldwork officially commenced on 29 October 2014 when I met with William Vicens, Economic Development Specialist at the Town Manager’s Office, and Tim Escobedo, Festival Operations Director, for an orientation meeting. The bulk of the research was carried out during November, although I pursued promising leads into December.


Fieldwork methods consisted primarily of interviews in person or over the phone that lasted on average about thirty minutes. William Vicens provided an initial list of contacts that I phoned and E-mailed. I also approached friends I have in Oro Valley and found contact information by perusing Internet websites. I used the “snowball method” to gain access to further informants, meaning that I always asked interviewees if they knew of anyone else I could talk to.


When possible, I combined interviews with “participant observation,” a hallmark of anthropological field methodology involving gaining cultural insights by participating along with research subjects in their daily activities. I attended public events such as The Fall Festival and Farmer’s Market at Steam Pump Ranch (November 8) and the Oro Valley Parade (December 13). I visited Cañada del Oro Riverfront Park often. On one occasion, I watched a session of Brown’s Boot Camp held on the basketball court. On another, I participated in a Chi Kong class taught by Violet Borens. At Sun City Oro Valley retirement community, I donned a Hawaiian skirt and rehearsed alongside the Aloha Hula Sisters dancers. I also attended a ukulele performance by the Sun City Strummers. I frequented the Oro Valley Library, which serves as the Town’s de-facto community center. In addition to speaking with librarians and locating resources of interest, I attended a meeting of the newly-formed Quilts of Valor there and also stopped by to check out Mahjong, a Chinese game that residents play at the library every Saturday. I attended Sunday service at Casas Church, known for attracting thousands of believers to gather for worship.


I also attended several private parties and gatherings organized by friends who are residents of Oro Valley. For example, on Halloween, I went trick or treating in a gated community off of Calle Concordia with a Greek-American friend and her family. I missed one of Virna and Joe Fratt’s annual salsa-dancing house parties in November due to illness; however, as an insider of the Oro Valley-Tucson salsa dancing community, I draw upon my previous experience in the report.


One of the highlights of my research was joining a Filipino family- a couple and their adult daughter- for a delicious home cooked meal and lively conversation. In addition, I ate at some of Oro Valley’s many upscale ethnic restaurants including Dragon Village, San Carlos Grill, and Saffron, sipped cafe latte at Starbucks where cyclists gather, checked books out for my children at the local library, did some shopping at Fry’s, Target, and Trader Joe’s, all the while observing the people, the conversations, and the languages around me.


Because Oro Valley residents are often involved in cultural and religious groups and organizations based in Tucson, participant observation once took me outside of Oro Valley proper. I saw the Lajkonik Polish Dance Group perform at the Four Corners Festival near the foothills in Tucson. I watched the children of two of Oro Valley’s Polish families perform upbeat traditional dances from Poland’s mountain region. I admired the dancers’ hand embroidered, colorful and “authentic” costumes purchased in Poland.


I documented my observations and interviews by taking notes, which I then typed up in the form of field notes, amounting to some fifty pages of detailed, single-spaced typed notes. In this report, I draw on these fieldnotes and also feature some of them in Appendix E.


In total, I spoke with around fifty people. A “List of Participants” can be found in Appendix B. My research elicited more promising leads than I had time to pursue or the ability to reach. A list of these additional contacts can be found in Appendix C.



February 1, 2015

There are 5 Southwest Folklife Alliance staff members engaged in the planning of the inaugural OVMY. They are:


  • Dr. Maribel Alvarez, UA Associate Professor, School of Anthropology and Executive Director of Southwest Folklife Alliance.
  • Tim Escobedo, Operations Director of Tucson Meet Yourself, currently serving as Production Director of OVMY
  • Leia Maahs, UA College of Social & Behavioral Sciences, Program Manager for Southwest Folklife Alliance
  • Kimi Eisele, Programming Coordinator, assisting Dr. Alvarez with the booking of performers and folk artists for OVMY
  • Monica Surfaro-Spigelman, Folk Arts Director for Tucson Meet Yourself, assisting with the folk arts demos at OVMY


In addition, we are fortunate to have a fantastic Marketing and Public Relations team on board– DJB Group, with Daniel Benavidez, Principal, and Julie Ray of Julie Ray Creative in charge of all our web, social media and printing and design.