Downtown’s Second Saturdays drawing crowds

People pound the pavement on Congress Street during Second Saturdays. The next gathering will be Oct. 9.

Story and photos by David Mendez

When people think of nightlife in Tucson, most think of Fourth Avenue and the half-mile stretch of bars and restaurants between University Boulevard and Ninth Street.

Tucson’s Second Saturdays Downtown aims to change that, bringing interest to the oft-forgotten area at least one night a month.

Many long-time Tucsonans see Second Saturdays as a successor to Downtown Saturday Nights, a similar event that ran as often as once a week during the early ‘90s, then trickled away into obscurity in the early 2000s.

To date, Second Saturdays show no signs of slowing.

“Ever since we’ve started this, it’s just been growing and growing,” said John Flanagan, owner of Flanagan’s Celtic Corner.

The most recent Second Saturdays event, on Sept. 11, had the challenge of competing with the University of Arizona’s first home football game of the year. By most accounts, the event held its own against the game.

The sidewalks weren’t constantly filled with pedestrians, but getting up and down the street took a bit of time. People were walking into and out of shops, looking at vendor wares and watching street performers, including a group of stilt-walkers on Congress Street.

Other attractions included a concurrent Santa Muerte Art and Music Festival, which hosted an exhibition opening at Sacred Machine Museum on Sept. 10, and a musical event at the Rialto Theatre.

Part of the goal in luring people downtown, according to, is to encourage residents to visit shops, bars and restaurants that have opened recently.

Flanagan opened his Celtic store in late 2007, despite advice to the contrary. It turns out, it was a good call on his part.

“My research said to open up either on the east side, or in Marana,” Flanagan said. “I ignored it, and I’m glad I did.”

Art lovers admire displays at the Sacred Machine Museum during Second Saturdays Sept. 11. The museum hosted an exhibit opening as part of the monthly downtown festivities.

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