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Everyone's a Performer

Moctoberfest, Saturday, March 30 at Mercado San Augustine



A 12-hour-long arts festival this weekend aims to be both entertaining and educational, with live music and dancing as well as a number of workshops to encourage audience participation.

Many Mouths One Stomach, a local arts-based collective, will host its second annual MoctoberFest to promote Tucson's arts community. It includes a variety of performers plus hands-on activities geared toward people of all ages and interests.

When the sun goes down, the festival will shift to a more adult-themed atmosphere, with beer offered from Tucson's own Nimbus Brewing Co. and other local home brewers. Food truck vendors will be on hand throughout the day.

Some artists will host workshops on their craft to encourage as much participation as possible. Among them are Mamaxe, a dance troupe inspired by West African rhythms, and Saguaro Stompers, a group of American clog dancers. The event also includes acrobatic acts from Flight School Acrobatics and performances by Flam Chen, which mixes fire with acrobatics.

According to MoctoberFest co-creator Ruben Palma, audience participation is the key to a successful event.

"The idea is to blur the lines between spectator and participant," Palma said. "You're an active participant in your community, and by doing that, you're engaging each other. And so we try to seek out ways to invite the community and invite onlookers to join us."

The event is also a fundraiser, with all proceeds going to Many Mouths One Stomach. According to the organization's website, it aims to foster a "modern festival culture," which it defines as "the expression and fulfillment of core human needs through public celebration, ceremony and ritual." For the past 23 years, Many Mouths One Stomach has hosted Tucson's annual All Souls Procession, a celebration inspired by Mexican culture that honors those who have died.

Palma said MoctoberFest is an extension of the organization's mission statement, and was created as a way to bring a festival much like fall's Oktoberfest to the spring seasons.

"We wanted to make something for spring that was kind of on the opposite side of the calendar, more or less six months away," he said. "We wanted to have something that was fun but we wanted to include the same community."

The workshops give onlookers a chance to try something that they may have never thought they could do, he said.

"Instead of being constantly an onlooker and constantly a consumer, it gives you the opportunity to see that other side," he said. "It's not just a magic screen behind the mirrors—it's people; we're your neighbors."

Although MoctoberFest is largely a venue for performers, the participation aspect, Palma added, creates a more easygoing atmosphere, allowing performers to hone their craft in front of an audience with less pressure than performances elsewhere.

The 400 people who attended last year's festival kicked in about $2,000 in donations, Palma said. He's hoping for a turnout of more than 1,000 people this year.

If this year's event is anything like the last one, families will arrive when the doors open and spend much of the day there, with young adults stopping by during the later hours, Palma said.

Palma stressed that audience participation and showcasing the arts community in Tucson is at the heart of MoctoberFest.

"That's a lot of the reason why we do what we do in performance," he said. "It's a forum for people to create and build their own show and interpretation of life, and display it."

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