Old Tucson, Fox Theatre celebrate Bob Shelton


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23rd Waila Festival to Be Held at Old Tucson!

Imagine being under a star-studded, jet black Southern Arizona sky with only a single light bulb hanging on a pole in the dance floor center pushing back the darkness. The crisp evening air accentuates the mouth-watering aroma of food cooking over sweet-smelling mesquite fires. You are surrounded other community members—coyotes, rattlesnakes, majestic 40-foot saguaros, and cholla cacti—making the tohono (desert) feel so alive and exhilarating. Seated on benches surrounding the dance floor are anxious O’odham of all ages. The first tune begins and the dancers circle the dirt floor in a counter-clockwise motion. Throughout the night until sunrise, the band will provide polkas, schottisches, and mazurkas for The People’s dancing and listening enjoyment. The piest (fiesta) has begun!

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The 23rd Waila Festival takes place on Saturday, November 26, 2016 at Old Tucson from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. In addition to music by the Waila Festival Band, booths offering dishes featuring popular desert foods and barbeque will be on the festival grounds. Admission is $10 per person.

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Old Tucson and the Arizona Sonora Western Heritage Foundation have partnered to present what has become a Tucson tradition–the one night of the year dedicated to honoring the O’odham social dance music, its performers, and its dancers. The sharing of this musical genre brings the Tohono O’odham and their Tucson and Southern Arizona neighbors together for a vital community-building occasion. Everyone leaves with a greater appreciation for the unique richness of life in the desert and for their fellow residents.

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This is also the 30-year anniversary of the tribe’s assertion of its sovereignty by revising its name. The Spaniards referred to the residents of this area as “Papagos.” In May 1986, the tribe voted to reclaim its identity and changed the official title of “Papago Tribe of Arizona” to the “Tohono O’odham Nation.”  In celebration, The Waila Festival Band will offer polkas, schottisches, and mazurkas from that era.

Put on your dancing shoes, slip on a jacket, pack your folding chair, and join us. To be surrounded by open desert and under a starry sky, the Old Tucson setting will allow non-O’odham to undergo as close an experience to attending an all-night dance on the Tohono O’odham Nation as possible. In turn, O’odham tribal members will likely be transported to some wonderful memories of their youth. See you on Thanksgiving weekend!

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Specialty Summer Camp 2016

The Arizona Sonora Western Heritage Foundation hosted a series of specialty one and two-day summer camps at Old Tucson during the week of June 6-10, 2016.  The camp offered local youth authentic, experiential, fun and educational programs about the lives of local peoples and cultures during the southern Arizona and northern Mexico Territorial period of 1850-1912.  Campers from the Jewish Community Center, Northwest YMCA and Jacob YMCA attended this unique specialty summer camp.

Eager Faces
Campers gather for the opening ceremony
multi heritage flag ceremonyNatl Anthem

Presentation of flags representing historic Arizona Sonora cultures and the singing of the U.S. National Anthem.

Tohono O’odham traditional dance.

Working in partnership with representatives from the Tohono O’odham Nation, Mexican community, Tucson Chinese Cultural Center, Tucson Jewish Community Center and others, the Foundation has created a multi-cultural experience for the campers aged 6-12.

Chinese Culture
Chinese culture
gold panning


Workshops include discussion and hands-on activities related to the history and heritage of the cultures that have influenced the Arizona-Sonora region as well as the origins and evolution of area industries such as farming and mining and their impacts on the region’s growth.

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Recurring Programs

Our programs meet the Arizona Academic Standards for Social Studies; Customized programs for students’ age group; Western historians, re-enactments and hands-on activities; “hands on” approach to learning and experiencing the West. These programs take place at Old Tucson. Please consult the Old Tucson website for hours, cost and other information.Miner + Mule-small

Here are a few of the programs available through Old Tucson. For more information contact the staff at Old Tucson.

Life of a Miner: A look at Arizona mining and minerals. 

Mountain Men: Fur Trapping in the 1800’s. 

Adobe Brick Making: Building techniques used by the Tohono O’odham tribe. 

Behind the Scenes: Sound, Lights & Special Effects.

Old Tucson also offers visitors the opportunity to interact with regularly scheduled educational and entertaining programs, displays and interactive installations. You’ll witness re-enactments of movie gunfights, old-west saloon shows, comedy and more as you enjoy a slice of life in the Sonoran Desert as it existed when the southwest was settled. For hours and prices, visit the Old Tucson website.


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