Desert Sun Melts Midwinter Blues at Tucson Gem & Jam Festival
Holidays are over, spring feels slightly out of reach, cabin-fever has set in and all you can think about is a midwinter escape. That’s why the lure of Tucson, warm weather and the enchanted Sonoran Desert are such an irresistible temptation at this time of the year. The Gem and Jam Festival takes place February 4–6 and the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show is happening January 28 through February 13.
The Tucson Gem and Mineral Show is an international attraction drawing artisans and collectors from cultures across the globe. Simultaneously, the Gem and Jam Festival has become a mecca for the visionary art and music scene. With the city literally filled with gems, minerals, giant crystals, textiles, ancient fossils, and cultural relics Tucson is like the fabled Emerald City for two weeks each February. Instead of a journey down the Yellow-brick Road to Oz all you need to do take a short trip to the Land of Az (Arizona that is).
Gem and Jam is always a community affair that invites colorful expression from festival-goers, up-in-coming artists, and world-class performers. This years’ musical guests include Shpongle, Sound Tribe Sector 9, Melvin Seals of Jerry Garcia Band, Dirtwire, Lotus, Rising Appalachia, Random Rab, and Hot Buttered Rum just to name a few. It is always epic when the musical lineup includes electronic music as well as traditional folk, bluegrass, and jam bands because it draws a diverse, cross-generational audience.
“It is such a gift to gather with our international community in Tucson to activate the crystal-grid of consciousness while celebrating art, music, and dance. Let’s get Shpongled!” -Ishani Ishaya
The festival atmosphere is an immersive wonderland with large art installations, stilt walkers, a children’s area with Riley Rainbow Family Circus, yoga on the grass, drum circles, a visionary art-gallery, craft booths, food vendors, and multiple workshops. Local artists, Cirque Roots will have various strolling performers in fantastical costumes as well as acro-yoga performances with Big Toe Acro. My favorite is always watching the live painters throughout the weekend work on their latest masterpiece.
Jen Ingram of Tribe 13 is curating the visionary art gallery and live painters. She likes to put a spotlight local, female, marginalized and new-to-the-scene artists as well as seasoned all-stars like Chris Dyer of Positive Creations. This year I am especially excited to see local Phoenix artist, Ashley Macias whose murals beautify spaces and inspire people across the city.
“It’s not just about our international lineup. It’s about collaborating with your community and celebrating art.” -Jen Ingram, Tribe 13
The Gem and Jam Festival takes place at the Pima County Fairgrounds. I am looking forward to camping on-site so I won’t have to drive at the end of the days activities. Festival and camping tickets are still available at their website. Though the days are warm, the desert gets pretty chilly at night so be sure to come prepared!
Tucson is the oldest continually-inhabited city in North America. It has a deep and rich cultural heritage while being surrounded by an exquisite natural landscape. Be sure to come a few days before Gem and Jam to explore the city, enjoy southwest cuisine, explore the Gem and Mineral Show, while giving yourself a little time to adventure into the enchanted desert. Be sure to drink lots of water, bring your most colorful outfits, and let your midwinter blues melt in the warmth of the Tucson sun surrounded by friends and family dancing under the desert sky.