A word or two about a curious word…
A long time ago in Europe, people began referring to the stories passed on from generation to generation as the “lore” of the community. Since the best stories, tales and legends seemed to live and thrive among the poor, farmers and other manual workers (people who were not the elite of society), those with academic credentials starting referring to them as “folks” (everyday people). In this way, the term “folk-lore” or “folklore” was born: it referred to the stories that came from below, from everyday life.
In the United States, the term “folklore” came to be perceived as limiting. In a nation of immigrants, it became clear that when people “carried with them” their cultural traditions they did more than just “talk” or share stories: they also cooked certain foods, celebrated certain special days, decorated their houses in certain styles, danced to certain kinds of songs, played certain musical instruments….and so forth. The farming German communities of Pennsylvania – also known as Pennsylvania Dutch – were among the first to organize themselves in the United States into cultural associations interested in the study and preservation of something they called “folk-life” or “folklife.”
Nowadays, the term folklife refers to:
- Things people say
- Things people make
- Things people do
in their ordinary lives…. 365 days of the year (not only when they are in costume on stage) that gives them a sense of belonging in a community and connects them with others like themselves in a group (as small as a family or as large as an ethnicity or a nation).
Folklife at Oro Valley Meet Yourself
The event that we have planned under the name “Oro Valley Meet Yourself” is, primarily, an educational event. Oh, we hope it will be a lot of fun as well; maybe even so much fun that we can call it an annual “festival,” but it is important to note that it would be just a different kind of event than all the other multicultural fairs and public events that take place in the community at large.
You will notice that almost all the stage performances and demonstrations will include someone asking questions, offering context, suggesting ways by which the non-insiders to that group may interpret what they are seeing.
This is important for one very simple reason: what we see is only the tip of an iceberg as far as culture is concerned. The deep and heavy anchors that make each culture be what it is (the beliefs, ways of being, ways of relating, etc.) are largely not visible in a public presentation (although we get glimpses of it). It is because those cultural anchors usually take place among friends, families and in-members of a group.
The public event becomes our common zone of contact with others unlike ourselves (and at the same time reminds us how alike we are as well).
At Oro Valley Meet Yourself there will be a music/dance and performance stage. In addition there will be a pavilion called “Oro Valley Folklife” where demonstrations and conversations about the rich, yet often unrecognized cultural, religious and occupational diversity of the Town will take place for 2 days.
In the Folklife pavilion and surroundings, the public will be able to find:
- Demonstrations of Tai Chi/ChiKong
- Presentation of objects used in Jewish rituals
- Demonstration of Sari wrapping (India)
- Presentation of quilt-making to comfort the sick
- Learn about the “lore” of being a firefighter (what songs, foods, superstitions do firefighters share among themselves as part of the folklore of their occupation?) Firefighters and an engine from Golder Ranch Fire District will be on hand to answer questions about the meaningful folklife that firefighters share privately among themselves.
Also featured: pre-1960 cars by Dukes Car Club and Precious Memory Car Club (club members will be present to talk to the public about how their clubs are a kind of folk community/family and how cars express their unique sense of beauty, pride and identity)
Food will also be featured as an element of Folklife —- especially what are called “heritage” foods. Many Oro Valley residents see mesquite trees in their backyards, cholla cacti in their walks in the desert, and many other regional varieties of plants and fruits that may be unfamiliar to newcomers to a desert landscape. At the Heritage Food Wagon (a mobile exhibit and demonstration platform) the public will be treated to experts on different kinds of heritage foods of our area demonstrating and selling. The Heritage Food Wagon is presented in partnership with Sabores Sin Frontiers (Flavors Without Borders), a research and educational program at the University of Arizona’s Southwest Center.