Category: TLM

The Light Stuff

Here are a few restaurants that offer small plates and tapas.

BY Sarah Burton
PHOTOGRAPHY BY Thomas Veneklasen

It’s a fresh, new year ahead. We spent the holidays saying yes to rich seasonal flavors, family recipes, and savoring those decadent treats. We’re ready to get serious, buckle down, and clean up our acts a bit. But the food-lovers out there can still enjoy a perfect bite out in local eateries — maybe just scaled down a bit. Here are five local spots where you can enjoy a smaller plate, or lighter fare.

Ginza Sushi

The popular style of dining in Japan known as Izakaya has something in common with Irish pubs and tapas bars. It’s all about gathering with friends and family after a long day to relax and catch up while sharing several smaller dishes. Ginza Sushi offers an Izakaya-style dining experience, with both sushi and classic Izakaya menus.

You can order any of their signature sushi rolls, sashimi, or really go for the full experience and incorporate a few orders from the Izakaya offerings like fried baby octopus, green mussels, pork gyoza, fried Japanese eggplant, broiled mackerel, or even some yamaimo (Japanese mountain potato).

5425 N. Kolb Road, Ste. 115, (520) 529-8877,

The Kimizu (sea bass) at Ginza Sushi is a light entrée.
The Kimizu (sea bass) at Ginza Sushi is a light entrée.
Contigo Latin Kitchen’s Tapas include Pimientos Rellenos, Jamon Serrano, Catalan toast , Gambas al ajillo and Albondigas.
Contigo Latin Kitchen’s Tapas include Pimientos Rellenos, Jamon Serrano, Catalan toast , Gambas al ajillo and Albondigas.

Contigo Latin Kitchen

Contigo Latin Kitchen

You really can’t go wrong with the fresh, bright flavors found throughout Contigo’s menu. Inspired by recipes from South America and Spain, the made-from-scratch offerings span everything from gazpacho and jicama salad to short rib tacos and a beef-and-chorizo burger to die for. But you also can select smaller plates from their tapas menu.

Come with friends and order several to share — as is the traditional way to enjoy a tapas menu. First and foremost, you must start with Contigo’s house-cured olives. Another small plate you’d be remiss to leave out, and one of their most popular, is the one featuring Spanish chorizo-stuffed dates. Go for the carpaccio with a juniper-tarragon vinaigrette, the empanada of the day, or an ever-changing cured meat and cheese platter.

Take special note, with Contigo’s prime real estate on site at The Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa, the view and food go hand in hand. If it is warm enough, aim for a spot on the patio, where weeknights during happy hour you can save money while you sample many of their tapas and other small-plate versions of their regular menu.

3770 E. Sunrise Drive, (520) 299-1540,

Commoner & Co.

On Tucson’s northeast side, Commoner & Co. offers a new take on American cuisine. And although some of their fan favorites could be considered more on the hearty side (think chorizo mac and cheese or flat iron pork), many of their inventive entrées will give you all of the flavor in just a few right-sized bites.

Starters such as plump empanadas, roasted beets with goat cheese, or the goat cheese tart promise all of the flavor and none of the uncomfortably stuffed feelings. Of course, there’s also the classic mussels and fries (here cooked in a Thai curry). Or if you can’t make up your mind, simply let the chef decide for you: The chef’s tile always promises a delectable assortment of meat and cheese.

“We have several great options for smaller plates or tapas, our most popular being the house-made pork carnitas empanadas and brûléed goat cheese tart,” points out Chef Kyle Nottingham. “Sharing small dishes family style is our favorite way to dine, and the best way to get the full Commoner experience.”

6960 E. Sunrise Drive, (520) 257-1177,

The Tasteful Kitchen

Another no-brainer for locales where you can dig in and not feel overloaded, is an eatery dedicated to plant-based foods: The Tasteful Kitchen. Most of the dishes in this modern vegetarian restaurant are vegan and gluten-free, and change seasonally. Fresh vegetable dishes abound here, and many are prepared with little oil or salt.

“After indulging in heavy calorie-laden holiday foods, people are looking for lighter, healthier fare, which they’ll definitely find here,” says Chef Laura Clawson. “Our favorite light appetizer is our spring rolls, which are virtually fat free and very refreshing.”

Greek Yogurt with chai-poached figs (front) and the Café salad are two options for small plates at Café à la C’art
Greek Yogurt with chai-poached figs (front) and the Café salad are two options for small plates at Café à la C’art

Another approach is to follow suit with regular customers, and go for The Tasteful Kitchen’s most popular year-round dish: Miso eggplant. Here, glazed eggplant is paired with coconut black rice and bok choy — rich enough to satisfy during cold months but not make diners feel weighed down when ordered in the summer.

722 N. Stone Ave., (520) 250-9600,

Café à la C’art

Café à la C’art steps up to the smaller plate or lighter fare challenge with their own well-curated style of New American cuisine. Dine inside this historic adobe building, or choose the patio, where you can nosh beneath a shade canopy and twisting vines. You’ll have fun trying to choose from the likes of pork belly sitting atop a bed of roasted Brussels sprouts or a carefully balanced avocado and peach salad, with cotija cheese and fresno chiles.

“For those craving something hearty but light and satisfying, our most popular salad is the grilled flank steak with mixed greens and arugula,” says Owner Mark Jorbin. “It has all the right stuff: heirloom tomatoes, feta, grilled red onions, olives, roasted sweet peppers and crispy onions with a citrus balsamic vinaigrette.” Lighter still, the house salad is another tempting option, a bed of organic greens with fennel, pepitas, roasted peppers, and an herb vinaigrette.

There are plenty of other less-filling choices on the menu of this unique spot, like the grilled salmon served alongside perfect flavor matches of oranges, red onion, greens, fennel and kalamata olives. Whatever you choose, make sure to allow plenty of time to stroll around the grounds, which the café just so happens to share with the Tucson Museum of Art and Historic Block.

150 N. Main Ave., (520) 628-8533, TL

Jazzin’ It Up

Pink Martini. Photo by Thomas Hornbecker

Jazzin’ It Up

Trombone Shorty. Photo courtesy of UA Presents.
Trombone Shorty. Photo courtesy of UA Presents.
Eric Marienthal. Photo courtesy of Eric Marienthal
Eric Marienthal. Photo courtesy of Eric Marienthal

Cool nights … hot jazz!

With a lineup that includes Pink Martini, Trombone Shorty and Bobby McFerrin, the 5th Annual Tucson Jazz Festival offers something for every music fan, including those who don’t think they like jazz.

For the festival’s Artistic Director Yvonne Ervin, the diverse groups who will be performing in the Old Pueblo Jan. 11-21 represent both some of her long-time favorites and newer discoveries. The lineup also demonstrates how seamlessly this 10-day celebration combines the programs offered by multiple arts organizations to create a wonderful experience for concertgoers.

One of the biggest shows of the festival is Asleep at the Wheel, coming to the Fox Tucson Theatre on Jan. 17. For those who think of this Austin-based group as more of a country act, consider the fact that three of the band’s albums are centered around the music of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys. Wills gets the credit for being the pioneer of country swing, infusing jazz instrumentation (including a horn section) and the soulfulness of performers like Blues legend Bessie Smith, into his toe-tapping sound. Asked about the decision to book that band, Ervin notes, “The Tucson Desert Song Festival and the TSO are bringing in Kristin Chenoweth on that day, so I was scratching my head thinking, ‘What am I going to put up against her that won’t take away audiences from either side?’ I had a little party the last time I was visiting New York City. One of my friends who attended is a journalist and into Dixieland and straight-ahead jazz. He told me that he had seen Asleep at the Wheel at the Rochester Jazz Festival and thought they were awesome. I’m like, ‘Ah! What a great idea.’”

And another awesome concert — on Jan. 16 at the Fox — is the Magos Herrera Quartet, joining forces with Jane Bunnett and Maqueque. Herrera is a singer/songwriter from Mexico City, and Maqueque is a group of Cuban all-star female jazz musicians assembled by award-winning sax/ flute/piano player Bunnett. With a decidedly Latin-influence to the music, the concert is the perfect choice to kick off this year’s Tucson Desert Song Festival.

Ervin explains that she had been trying to bring Herrera to Tucson for years. Another top act that also has long been on her wish list will be here for the festival, too, Trombone Shorty, who UA Presents is bringing to Centennial Hall on Jan. 18. Shorty (whose real name is Troy Andrews), began playing the trombone at age four, attended the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, and has performed with everyone from Lenny Kravitz to Hall & Oates.

Asleep at the Wheel. Photo courtesy of Paradigm Talent Agency.
Asleep at the Wheel. Photo courtesy of Paradigm Talent Agency.

Contemporary jazz icons Groover Quartet (made up of keyboard player Mike LeDonne, saxophonist Eric Alexander, guitarist Peter Bernstein and drummer Joe Farnsworth) play a show with Special EFX that will include sax player Eric Marienthal and violinist Regina Carter on Jan. 12 at the Fox. Enthuses Ervin, “The Groover Quartet is a band that I used to see in New York all the time. They played at a club that was two blocks from me. One of my favorite tenor sax players is in the band. We’re hoping to get a little tenor battle between the two Erics at the end of that concert. You never know … it’s jazz. Anything can happen!”

A big change this year is that the free, all-day concert known as the Downtown Fiesta (taking place Jan. 21 at various stages) will have a headliner. “We got a grant from Arizona Commission on the Arts, and Rio Nuevo increased their support, so we were able to pay Poncho Sanchez to come in for that. That’s pretty big. That’s going to bring even more people downtown.”

Indeed it will. Sanchez, a Mexican American singer and musician, is a Grammy winner who has worked with such notables as Hugh Masekela, Art Pepper and Tower of Power. But there are many other not-to-be-missed concerts that are part of the festival, including the return of trumpeter Terrell Stafford to perform with pianist Joey Alexander and the Tucson Jazz Institute Ellington Band (Jan. 11 at the Fox). On Jan. 14, singer Kathleen Grace teams up with pianist Larry Goldings for an intimate show at Club Congress.

Bobby McFerrin. Photo by Carol Friedman.
Bobby McFerrin. Photo by Carol Friedman.

Fans of Pink Martini know that this genre-spanning group mixes world music, jazz, and pop together for an irresistible concoction, and pairing them with the TSO increases the fun factor tenfold. You can hear the results at the TCC Music Hall on Jan 19 and 20. And two well-known singers will show off their distinctive styles as part of the festival. Sheila Jordan (with bassist Cameron Brown) will play the Temple of Music and Art on Jan. 19, and Bobby McFerrin, joined by a select group of a cappella singers will electrify the Fox on Jan. 20.

One show with a very strong local connection is Tucson Swings Brightly: The Music of Nelson Riddle (Jan. 13 at the Fox). The enormously talented composer and arranger, who worked with everyone from Ella Fitzgerald to Tucson native Linda Ronstadt, will be paid tribute in a show featuring Ann Hampton Callaway, Katherine Byrnes, Joe Bourne and Jeff Haskell. Riddle, who passed away in 1985, developed a special connection with Tucson while collaborating with Ronstadt, and Riddle’s family established an endowed chair and library at the UA Fred Fox School of Music.

Ervin marvels at not only the contributions of Riddle to the jazz world (he is credited by many for reviving Frank Sinatra’s career in the 1960s), but also what a huge undertaking the concert utilizing his classic arrangements will be. “It’s quite a production,” she sums up. “We have a full orchestra and a full big band on the stage. I’m still not sure how we’re going to get the singers in. I was teasing Ann that we’re going to drop her in on a swing. That concert is going to be something else.” For more information visit

Riddle Master

Ann Hampton Callaway. Photo by Tom Spitz.
Ann Hampton Callaway. Photo by Tom Spitz.

“My dad was a journalist and a writer, and my mom was a singer, pianist and a voice teacher,” reflects Ann Hampton Callaway. “I really feel that I’m such an amalgam of both of their passions.”

Passion definitely describes how Callaway approaches her many projects, which over the years have included everything for writing music for previously unreleased Cole Porter lyrics, to writing and recording the theme for the TV show The Nanny, to collaborating with such industry icons as Barbra Streisand.

As a composer and singer who is very in-tune with arrangements, she is a perfect choice for headlining a show featuring Nelson Riddle’s work. She laughs about her response when Yvonne Ervin approached her to be part of it. “My reaction was, ‘What part of yes don’t you understand?’ First of all, I’m a huge fan. Every time I hear a great arrangement, I think, ‘Oh
Ann my gosh, who did that? It’s Nelson Riddle!’ Because he studied French composers such as Debussy and Ravel, and had a tremendously rich harmonic sense, along with a beautiful understanding of how to layer instruments, nobody else could do what he did. So many of my favorite records by Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Linda Ronstadt and many others feature his arrangements.”

She can point to a number of works that illustrate her point. “One of my favorite arrangements of his was for ‘I’ve Got You Under My Skin.’ I think he did it overnight. Sinatra was told he should have three more songs for his record. So Nelson said to him, ‘What do you want to have happen in I’ve Got You Under My Skin? And Frank said, ‘Just put a crescendo in there.’ And the excitement in that recording — the sense of when you’re in love with somebody and you can’t wait to be close to them — is just unbelievable to me. Every time I hear it I get excited. I just wish I could have been there at the recording because it must have been such a thrill.”

Her latest album, Jazz Goes to the Movies, features a direct connection to Riddle. “One of the songs was inspired by Peggy Lee’s gorgeous recording of Nelson Riddle’s arrangement of ‘The Folks Who Live on the Hill,’” she reveals. “For Peggy, Sinatra was in the studio conducting the recording. It’s so wistful, and I think it expresses how she felt about the song. It made such an impact on me that my emotional reading of the song is completely based on imagining what Peggy was feeling when she was in the studio.”

As a singer, Callaway marvels at Riddle’s restraint. “Another skill he had, which even some of the best arrangers don’t have a clue how to do, is knowing when to have the orchestra loud, full and rich, and when to get out of the way of the singer so that they can tell the story. So often when I’ve been doing a big band show, the arrangements overpower me, and I have a really powerful voice.”

The concert will mark a reunion of sorts. Callaway will be performing with pianist/conductor Jeff Haskell, whom she has worked with before. “He’s a wonderful pianist, and I’m really excited to be reunited with him,” she says. Another thing that generates waves of enthusiasm for her is continuing to explore Tucson, which she and her wife Kari now call home. “It’s so beautiful here. I’m so happy living in Tucson,” she observes. “Every night I look at the sunset and think, ‘Wow, I can’t wait to write songs based on what I’m seeing.’ It’s so powerful. It’s funny how a place can give you new horizons musically.” For more information on Ann Hampton Callaway visit her website: TL


A Force For Nature

OFFICED IN THE ERSTWHILE BEDROOM OF AN HISTORIC ADOBE, Christine Conte, Ph.D., isn’t dreaming … she’s living her dream. As the executive director of the wondrous Tohono Chul Gardens, Galleries and Bistro, Conte says the position is an amalgam of her favorite things. “Everything that I’ve always loved and cared about from my earliest memories is part of Tohono Chul and that is connecting nature, art and culture.”

Conte grew up as part of an extended Italian family in Hyde Park, New York; her parents took her to art museums regularly and provided art supplies and encouragement at home. “My father painted in his spare time and my mother was an amazing gardener and flower arranger. I spent most of my childhood outdoors exploring the woods, fields and streams near our house either on foot or horseback.” Conte also fondly remembers a rather tall, wellheeled neighbor lady. “My mother would nudge me to say hello to Mrs. Roosevelt in the supermarket. The elegant Eleanor pushed her own cart, recalls Conte. “I learned how to carry myself in the world by watching her.”

The petite administrator wears a crown of spiky platinum hair, and funky oval eyeglass frames, a flourish of rhinestones at the corners. Her to-be-envied olive skin often is adorned with selfdesigned jewelry. She first came to Tucson as a graduate student in the mid-’70s, pursuing a Master’s degree in Museum Studies at the University of Arizona and a Ph.D. in Anthropology — just the start of a résumé that sings with accomplishment. For four years Conte lived in the Niger Republic, West Africa, working as a cultural anthropologist for the Smithsonian, collecting women’s arts of the region. She studied in Mexico and Guatemala, speaks five languages and served as director of marketing and communications for The Nature Conservancy of Arizona and as director of The Center for Sonoran Desert Studies at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. She also worked as a production partner for the Arizona Public Media program The Desert Speaks.

Christine Conte, Ph.D., executive director of Tohono Chul, says her position combines her favorite things — nature, art and culture. Photo by Tom Spitz.
Christine Conte, Ph.D., executive director of Tohono Chul, says her position combines her favorite things — nature, art and culture. Photo by Tom Spitz.

For the last eight years, however, Dr. Conte has been at the helm of Tohono Chul, whose name in O’odham translates to “desert park.” It has been deemed one of the best botanical gardens in the world by Travel + Leisure magazine.

Once considered a city outlier, the gardens are just west of the intersection of Ina and Oracle Roads, hidden by tangles of all floras Sonoran. Dick and Jean Wilson created Tohono Chul by gifting their home and property in the late ’80s, and three decades later Tohono Chul is 49 acres of art, educational and performance offerings, succulents and succulent things to eat.

The Garden Bistro has been a favorite for years and features foodstuffs grown in the on-grounds ethnobotanic gardens. Breakfast for Conte may be an “amazing” fresh-made pistachio muffin. “I also love the diversity of salads, and the chile relleno is a masterpiece,” she enthuses.

Welcome is her mantra … and visitors, members and school classes are welcomed to the park at a Conte-curated entrance. One may go left or right, but each way leads to a visual delight — gardens, exhibits, shops or the heralded Bistro. Prior to her arrival, Tohono Chul’s entrance was a rather inelegant stick-straight graded pathway that left nothing to the imagination and older patrons in need of a bench.

Welcome also manifests in Conte’s mandate to build and maintain a healthy organizational culture. The voices of employees, docents and volunteers alike are heard and appreciated. “Honing talents and inspiring employees to feel a sense of ownership” is what she says is her mission.

You’ll find those inspired humans happy to educate or guide as you wander Tohono Chul’s paths, which are designed to encourage exploration and meandering. The unique designations include the Sin Agua Garden, the Desert Palm Oasis, Hummingbird and Butterfly Gardens as well as a one-of-a-kind Penstemon Garden — a nectar-rich wildflower species.

The lush grounds will accommodate a new $1.5 million pavilion by next fall. Designed by award-winning architect and Tohono Chul board member John Douglas, the facility will accommodate 420 people for presentations, or 240 at tables for dining. The pavilion will be powered by the sun, and its roof will collect rainwater for the gardens. “We simply could not accommodate all who want to attend performances and special events,” explains Conte about the reason for the new build. “It’s neither about the money, nor the building. It’s what we can do to build community.”

Rotating on a quarterly basis, the art exhibits in Tohono Chul’s galleries almost exclusively feature Arizona artists. Docents meet with exhibit curators to pass on knowledge and history to the curious. Conte admits she may have to fashion herself a pair of blinders, as the park gift shop and gallery offerings are so appealing. She sighs with pleasure identifying her latest acquisition, a photo of three butter-yellow blossoms that is so beautiful, the urge to touch must be stifled.

Conte urges membership to Tohono Chul, commenting, “No matter what’s going on in the world, you can come here and feel at peace.” — Betsy Bruce

Holiday Gift

The Sugar Plum Fairy (Megan Steffens) and her Cavalier (Vasily Boldin) in the Grand Pas De Deux.


Holiday Gift

Each year Ballet Tucson, the community’s resident, professional ballet company, presents a full-length, traditional version of The Nutcracker that is the perfect way to open your seasonal celebrations.


This is the big kick off to the holiday festive season,” says Mary-Beth Cabana, founding artistic director to Ballet Tucson. She is speaking, of course, about the company’s annual production of The Nutcracker, which is much more than just a time-honored ballet. It’s an experience, with so much to delight the senses that it’s nearly impossible to take it all in from just one performance. Immortal music? Check. Amazing classical choreography? Check. Story that appeals to all ages? Check. And Cabana points out another reason why her company’s production of this seasonal favorite is not to be missed. “Because of the dancers who are new to the company or who have just recently joined, the bar has been raised on the quality of the dancing. We have quite an extensive roster. The last time I counted it was something like 24 states and three countries represented. There are 33 people in the professional company now, 19 women, eight men and seven apprentices.”

Among the newer faces to watch, she points out Shannon Quirk, who was the principal ballerina for Madison Ballet for seven years. “She’s a huge asset,” notes Cabana, “and I think she’s going to be lovely in some of the featured roles in Nutcracker.”

Other dancers who are making names for themselves include Vasily Boldin, originally from Russia, who has been with the company the last two seasons; Isaac Hawkersmith, who was with the Carolina Ballet for five seasons; Jake Howard from Ballet Austin; Tim Coleman from the Rochester City Ballet; and Kaitaro Kodama, most recently with the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, who Cabana says is, “young but has a lot of potential.”

Sugar Plum Fairy (Jenna Johnson)
Sugar Plum Fairy (Jenna Johnson)

With phenomenal dancers such as Jenna Johnson still leading the way, the company is benefiting greatly from this mix of seasoned pros and exciting new talent. “There’s a lot of rejuvenation with the existing dancers and excitement in the ranks because there’s some new energy there, some new blood, and I think that’s healthy for everyone. The dancers are all working super hard and at the top of their game.”

But The Nutcracker is about so much more than showcasing the talents of skilled professional dancers. It’s one of the few ballets that welcomes youngsters into its charming narrative. “In doing this full length version of the ballet, we try to keep the joy and wonder of the holiday season reflected in our production, and to highlight the fact that we have a high level of professional dancers in our company, but it’s also really a child’s story,” says Cabana. “It’s about beauty, joy and wonder being shown through the eyes of a child. We incorporate a lot of children from the community in the production. It’s really the one time of the year where it feels really appropriate to have a good number of kids in the cast.”

Some of those kids may never grace a dance stage again. For others, it’s the first step in a long, but rewarding journey. “We’ve always prided ourselves on preparing children at the level that they’re ready to dance, making the rehearsal process a really fulfilling experience for them, and teaching them to do even the most simple things in the production to the very best of their ability. We want them to take pride in that, and to understand that one day some of them who are being little mice and angels in the production can end up being the Sugar Plum Fairy. In our history, we’ve had that happen.”

Many times, the gorgeous music of Tchaikovsky and the holiday theme of the story are what lures audiences in to see the ballet. But once they’ve experienced it, they are hungry for more dance performances. In the case of Ballet Tucson, there are two crowd-pleasing concerts lined up to follow The Nutcracker. On Feb. 1-3, 2019, the company presents “Viva Piazzolla!” a tribute to the great Argentine composer that is part of the Tucson Desert Song Festival. The concert will be a collaboration with the Tucson Guitar Society and The Rogue Theatre, and will incorporate music by the Bandini Chiacchiaretta Duo, vocals by Carlos Zapien, and dances choreographed by Cabana and Chieko Imada.

Clara (Sierra Bogner)
Clara (Sierra Bogner)

In the spring (Mar. 8-10, 2019), the ever popular Dance & Dessert returns. The action-packed program will include the premiere of an adaptation of La Dame aux Camélias, which was the source for Verdi’s opera La Traviata. In this case, the music will be by Chopin, and Ballet Master Daniel Precup has created the choreography that tells the dramatic story of “the fallen woman.” A big highlight of that concert, too, will be the third ballet by George Balanchine that the company has done — Donizetti Variations. “We’re really excited because not every company in the United States is granted permission to do the works by Balanchine, so we’ve reached a certain level of achievement on a national level,” explains Cabana. “This particular ballet is a feather in our cap because there’s normally a progression of ballets that [the New York City Ballet] presents to you in a certain order, and this is one that they give you a little further down the line.” The performance also will include some little dance gems so that audiences will be able to enjoy — much like the scrumptious array of goodies that will be available after the concert — a satisfying variety. TL

Ballet Tucson
The Nutcracker

TCC Music Hall
Dec. 7, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 8, 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 9, 1 p.m.

For more information visit

Holiday Gift

Happenings Abound

(no grinches allowed)

Mark your calendar for these five, fun, festive celebrations of the holiday season! From sharing tea with characters from The Nutcracker, to listening to carols in a historic church, to experiencing a procession honoring the birth of Jesus, there is a wide variety of things to do.


Winterhaven Festival of Lights

Photos by Ray Brice

The Winterhaven Festival of Lights is one of the longest running holiday celebrations of its kind in the country! Held annually since 1949, it is visited by thousands of people from all over Southern Arizona. It’s hard to believe that nearly 70 years have passed since CB Richards purchased the first set of Christmas lights and donated them to the neighborhood. He was inspired to create the festival after visiting a similar display in Beverly Hills, California, in the 1930s. He purchased theadder may have sufficed 69 years ago, putting lights up in the mature Allepos now requires the assistance of  Aleppo pines (still thriving today) from a local nursery that was going out of business. They were planted at regular intervals throughout the neighborhood with electrical hook-ups near each tree. Every year, visitors and residents delight in the magic of seeing these elder Aleppos lit up by hundreds of twinkling lights. Although a simple lCOX Cable and Tucson Electric Power, now a proud sponsor of the event. “It’s pretty amazing,” says this year’s chairmen Mariel Hall, of the massive undertaking. Contrary to popular belief, the Winterhaven HOA does not require residents to put up lights. However, Hall says it’s hard not to, “You just get the fever.” Aside from bringing a little Christmas cheer to the Tucson community, the main focus is to raise funds and food for the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, a partnership that has been flourishing since the ’80s. In fact, the Winterhaven Festival of Lights is the largest fundraiser they have, and last year $23,820 was raised, along with 49,631 pounds of food! Visitors are welcome to experience the festival on foot or, for a more whimsical experience, reserve a hayride, party bike or trolley limo. There also is a drive-through night on Dec. 26. Donation stations are set up at all four entrances to the neighborhood — open 24 hours a day.

Gold StarsDEC. 8-26

69th Annual Winterhaven Festival of Lights

6-10 p.m. every day Admission free, but donations are encouraged.

For more information visit

Winterhaven Hayrides call (520) 825-0208
Arizona Party Bikes call (844) 654-5544.
Trolley Limo call (520) 529-7400


18th Annual Sugar Plum Tea

Photo courtesy of Ballet Tucson
Taylor Noel Photography

This delightful annual tradition features live music and dance performances, shopping and scrumptious treats, all to benefit Ballet Tucson — our city’s only professional ballet company. Ballet Tucson’s Sugar Plum Tea will offer a dazzling array of delicious nibbles to accompany the tea and hot cocoa. Adult guests will have the opportunity to try to outbid one another during a silent auction for fabulous prizes, or enjoy shopping the Holiday Boutique for Christmas gifts and stocking stuffers. Live music of the season will be performed by pianist Jeff Haskell, vocalist Katherine Byrnes and harpist Christine Vivona. Characters from The Nutcracker will appear at the event, and Ballet Tucson’s dancers will perform selections from the well-know holiday classic. Proceeds benefit Ballet Tucson, which was established in 1986, and presents a full season of high-quality professional dance productions, with works ranging from historical classics through contemporary pieces, many created by the company’s own choreographers. is a media partner.

Ed Flores Photography

Gold StarsDEC. 2

18th Annual Sugar Plum Tea

1 p.m. Tucson Marriott University Park Hotel Tickets:
$75 per person

For more information call 903-1445 or visit


24th Annual Parade of Lights & Festival

Downtown Tucson’s premier holiday event — the Parade of Lights & Festival — brings together Tucsonans from all walks of life to celebrate not just the spirit of the winter season but also the unique culture of our community. Mark the date on your calendar, Saturday, Dec. 15, and make plans for a festive evening for the entire family. The grand scale procession will weave throughout an illuminated and decorated downtown, and you can expect to see a cavalcade of colorful floats, Folklórico dancers adorned with brilliant lights, marching mariachis and … parading pups! The parade is adjacent to Jacome Plaza, where a fabulous festival will be held. You’ll enjoy live entertainment as well as a smorgasbord of foods from local vendors. And … be ready for some Snow!! The parade — presented by Carondelet Health Network and Downtown Tucson Partnership — starts at the intersection of Church Avenue and Alameda Street. For additional information go to

Gold StarsDEC. 15

24th Annual Parade of Lights & Festival

Saturday Time: 6:30 p.m.

Parade Start: Church Avenue and Alameda Street
Cost: free


Las Posadas

Students from Carrillo K-5 Magnet School invite Tucsonans to participate in Las Posadas, an event featuring music, dance, food and fun, which begins at 5 p.m. on Dec. 14. Las Posadas (translated in English as “the inns”) is a nine-day Mexican Christmas tradition based on the Biblical journey of Mary and Joseph and their search of a safe place, or “inn,” to stay before the birth of Jesus. The Carrillo event was started in 1936 by teacher Marguerite Collier, who brought the custom to the school to instill pride of culture in the children of Mexican heritage. Today, the school children join in an after-school program to practice songs, learn the meanings of the characters they play, and even help create props for the procession. From 20 to 40 children usually participate, with “roles” ranging from peasants, “the knocker boy” (who knocks on doors) and pink, blue and white angels. Las Posadas begins at the school, where music, food and folklórico dancing are enjoyed. The children then lead the procession through the streets near the school DEC. Las Posadas 14 (blocked off by TPD for safety), where several “white angels” carry a nativity scene (La Nacimiento). The “knocker boy” will approach several homes, asking “if there is room at the inn.” When they finally reach the fifth, representing the inn at Bethlehem, the nativity scene is placed, and the procession returns to the school for more multi-cultural songs and a distribution of candy. In some years, nearly 300 Tucsonans are part of the procession! This is the 82nd time Carrillo K-5 Magnet School has staged Las Posadas. No TUSD funds are used in staging. It is self-funded by teachers and parents who volunteer to help; the school also holds fundraisers specifically to defray costs. Teachers, parents and support staff members help to decorate, sell food, get ready and clean up following the visit. Proceeds from food sales will go toward next year’s procession. The children also will perform Las Posadas at Presidio San Agustín as part of their Luminaria Nights event on Dec. 8, which runs from 4 to 7:30 p.m.

Photos courtesy of Carrillo K-5 Magnet School.

Gold StarsDEC. 14

Las Posadas

5 p.m.; procession begins at 7 p.m.
Carrillo K-5 Magnet School
4405 S. Main Ave.

Admission is free, food is sold


Patronato Christmas at San Xavier

Photos courtesy of Tucson Arizona Boys Chorus

Alandmark setting, two choruses that are renowned for their talent, and a repertoire that is guaranteed to provide comfort and joy add up to a series of concerts that even angels would stop to hear. For Julian Ackerley, director of the Tucson Arizona Boys Chorus, one of the choirs that participates in this remarkable concert, it has been a more than two-decade commitment. “We’re going into our 22nd year of doing it, and it has evolved into a really good format,” he observes. “The Tucson Arizona Boys Chorus is integral in the centuries-old tradition of liturgical music using men and boys’ voices. We do a lot of shared repertoire with the Sons of Orpheus, and then both groups are highlighted with individual music.” Four works that will be performed by the boys chorus this year during these concerts at Mission San Xavier del Bac are, “He Is Born,” by Barry Talley, “Candlelight Carol” by John Rutter, “Hark The Herald/Praise His Holy Name (Gospel Style)” by Keith Hampton, and “Carol of the Bells” by Mykola Leontovich. The concert is a fundraiser for the Patronato San Xavier, which works to conserve the mission, construction of which began in 1756. “The historic nature of the building makes it an incredible environment, and the acoustics are very favorable to the music,” notes Ackerley. “But just looking around at all the icons and the statuary, and being amongst that in a packed house seven times during the week is a very special thing for an 11 or 12 year old to experience. I tell the boys about the history of the mission and we take a little tour of it so that every year they know they aren’t just going to sing in some church. I think that they really value the longevity of the building and its significance in Arizona culture.” TL

Gold StarsDEC. 11-13

Patronato Christmas at San Xavier

6 pm and 8 pm
Mission San Xavier del Bac

For tickets or more information call
407-6130 or visit

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