The People of Tucson: Fitness Instructor Ron Holland


By Stacey Gregory

After a distinguished career in the United States Air Force — where he trained SWAT members and helped overweight airmen meet physical fitness standards — Ron Holland looked for a warm place to retire. Tucson’s intimate community feel was just what this officer ordered, and he moved here in 1988. He joined The University of Arizona Police Department, starting one of the first bicycle patrols in the nation, which led to his fitness certification. Before he knew it, he was a personal trainer, eventually opening his fitness business, Tucson Transformation Gym, where he used his military background to develop one of the earliest fitness boot camps in the nation. In addition to getting you in shape, he has plenty of recommendations on how to spend your time in Tucson.


Tucson’s climate offers almost limitless opportunities for outdoor fitness, and Holland knows where to go for a walk or run. Just west of “A” Mountain is Tumamoc Hill, a 3.1-mile paved out-and-back trail that gains 800 feet in just 1.5 miles, delivering an exceptional workout and spectacular city views. You can skip the incline for the Loop River Path, offering 131 miles that follow along Tucson’s river beds. For those in central Tucson, Gene C. Reid Park is a 131-acre urban park that offers paved paths that wind around a 9-500-seat baseball stadium, two man-made ponds, public pools, a 24-acre zoo, and much more.

Holland’s Taste of Tucson

When Holland is looking to fuel his body, he has a few suggestions for a variety of cuisines. He visits JPS Seafood Fish Market and Restaurant for their reasonably priced, delicious, and always fresh authentic Mexican seafood.

“The ceviche is my favorite dish. Also, the shrimp cocktail, the 7 Sea Soup—really everything is just good there,” said Holland.

According to Holland, the best pho in town is found at Lee Lee International Supermarket. This superstore is the largest of its kind in Arizona, bringing you flavors from more than 30 countries and regions around the world. You can shop for all sorts of groceries, including produce and seafood you won’t find anywhere else, and get prepared dishes at the deli. You’ll also find a wide variety of saki and other Asian beverages. And when you’re looking for a relaxed vibe, he says The Cup Cafe at Hotel Congress is the way to go.

“This place is really laid back. They have a great espresso martini, and the fish tacos are delicious. It’s in Hotel Congress that’s a great place to stay and has live music in Club Congress,” said Holland.

The People of Tucson: Wine Importer Dale Ott


By Stacey Gregory

Dale Ott knows the alcohol and spirits business. This fifth-generation Arizonan grew up on a little farm in Coolidge, Arizona, before arriving in Tucson for college. She left and came back five times — the sixth time, she thought she might as well stay. Eventually, she married Steven Ott, a fifth-generation Tucsonan, and the two embarked on careers in the alcohol industry that led them to wine importing. The pair are opening Nossa Imports this spring, an import and distribution company that gives a platform to underrepresented wine regions of the world. They often travel to Mexico and the Iberian Peninsula to meet with small vineyards to help them break into the tricky US market while simultaneously bringing what has been an inaccessible luxury item to everyone.

“Why do we need inaccessible things? We need things that bring people together, especially now, and landscape and food and beverages do that. It’s the things that make us all the same,” said Ott.


While these two are often off traveling the world, Tucson is always where they return, a place filled with culture. She points to South Tucson with its different municipality, vibrant style, and the native reservations, most notable the Tohono O’odham Nation, as examples.

“The coolest thing about Tucson is that we are such a multicultural place. The Borderlands is one of the most diverse regions with our mix of cultures across the region and all the history that goes along with it,” said Ott.

Ott says unique geographical spots around town are what tie cultures to its community. Gates Pass is one of her most special places. According to Ott, the land was part of Mexico, and now it’s in the US.

“Going up to Gates Pass, there’s a little rock house that’s kind of up on top. It’s a two-second hike up from the parking lot and has the best view of the sunset in town. When we’ve accomplished something big, we’ll take a bottle of champagne and go watch the sunset with our dog,” said Ott.

Another place that has been part of Mexico is the Mission San Xavier del Bac, a historic Spanish Catholic mission located about 10 miles south of downtown Tucson, on the Tohono O’odham Nation San Xavier Indian Reservation. And, of course, there are hiking trails with three noted favorites. The Finger Rock Trail leads to Finger Rock, a 100-foot-high formation that marks Finger Rock Canyon located in the Santa Catalinas. Seven Falls is a trail found in Sabino Canyon that boasts seven waterfalls, and 25 miles south of Tucson is Madera Canyon Nature Trail that features beautiful wildflowers.

Ott’s Tastes of Tucson

When it comes to food, Ott has praise for two of the most talented chefs in her eyes, both born and raised in the Old Pueblo. Mike Hultquist Jr., the fourth generation to run the family-owned-and-operated El Torero with his dad, Mike Hultquist Sr., commands the kitchen inside the pink restaurant that opened in 1956. He blends old school and new school that Ott says is beautifully unified.

The other notable chef is John Martinez of Tito and Pep, a contemporary neighborhood bistro that encompasses the spirit of Tucson and the Southwest. After starting restaurants in New York and along the East Coast, Ott says that he returned with a completely different level of understanding internationality and hospitality that he brought back to his hometown of Tucson.

Of course, Ott has a bevy of places to get a cool drink across town. She loves dive bars, including Danny’s Baboquivari and The Shelter in midtown. On the west side is The Wagon Wheel and Nevada Smiths Steakhouse Saloon on Miracle Mile, where you can toss peanut shells over your shoulder onto the sawdust-covered floor. Downtown, her favorite is one of the oldest bars in Tucson, Arizona, The Buffet.

“This is really where my husband and I courted each other. We both worked till four in the morning, and then we would find a place for breakfast before going to The Buffet at 6 a.m. for a hot dog and to say hi to all the rest of the hospitality community with the same schedule. Talk about part of the community. It’s a place where everybody is the same, you know,” said Ott.

The People of Tucson: Photographer Dominic Arizona Bonuccelli


By Stacey Gregory

Tucked away in a Tucson neighborhood is a magical home where almost life-size dinosaurs made of weathering steel stand guard over a firepit encircled by sheered-in-half clawfoot bathtubs for benches. Inside resides photographer and artist Dominic Arizona Bonuccelli and his trusty perrito Petey.

Originally from Spokane, Washington, Bonuccelli’s career took him on a wild ride that began with shooting assignments for Seattle magazines to touring the Old World with Rick Steves Europe to getting lost in Melbourne, Australia, only to stumble into a job for Lonely Planet. He’s also been to France, Slovakia and Slovenia, Colombia, Mexico, Spain, and even Tibet, to name a few. Yet, it is Tucson that captured his heart and where he put down his roots.

“I’ve been lucky to hit so many places around the globe, and those I loved the most are authentic like Havana, Cuba. People survive on $30 a month there, so they focus more on food, music, family, art, and color. It’s a lot of what Tucsonans focus on, too. I love this city because it just feels authentic, and it’s rife with real characters, artists, and ferals,” said Bonuccelli.


One of Bonuccelli’s favorite things to do is wander and see where the winds take him. Favorites he’s come across on Tucson walkabouts include mosaic masterpieces on tile risers and magical alter shrines. Using this technique before an assignment at the Tucson Rodeo in 2020, he parked far away and walked the train tracks in, coming across Tucson photog Scott Griessel doing the same thing. Of the rodeo, he has the fondest memories of stumbling upon a ghost atop his steed.

“I was on a side street, and there was this rider in the distance calming his horse who looked like Pancho Villa, solo and noble amid the mailboxes. I captured a black and white shot that transported me to 1896,” said Bonuccelli.

There’s more to explore on foot, with seemingly limitless places to hike around the mountain ranges of Tucson. His favorite: Pusch Ridge Trailhead. The fairly grueling three-hour hike—that he compares to the spines of a stegosaurus—takes you to the very top. Your reward is amazing 360-degree views up to Mt. Lemmon and across the city. If that’s too much for you, there are alternatives.

“One-third of the way up, there’s a kind of Eagle’s nest that you can perch at with about a 270-degree view that takes about 45 minutes to reach. You don’t see many people on the trail, but you might see someone on horseback on the lower loop or even a bighorn sheep or two up top,” said Bonuccelli.

A burrito, a band and coffee

Bonuccelli’s Tastes of Tucson

The coolest restaurant in town for Bonuccelli is LaCo Tucson (previously La Cocina), where a tree of life springs from the center of a sprawling patio aglow in twinkle lights. It’s located in the El Presidio Historic District across from Tucson’s original Spanish fort. The outdoor restaurant is surrounded by adobe and brick buildings in Spanish-Mexican, Anglo-American, and eclectic architectural styles, many adorned with knickknacks and funky tchotchkes.

“They have the most fantastic three-color smothered burrito that recalls the Mexican flag. It’s the best burrito in town, and it’s about the size of a suitcase,” said Bonuccelli.

For a night out, it’s a dive bar for Bonuccelli. The Shelter is the area’s only 60s retro lounge. The inside is a sight to behold with red-and-black tiger-striped decor, lava lamps, vintage paintings (some are velvet), and lots of JFK paraphernalia that he thinks makes for the ideal George Jetson man cave. And if coffee is more your speed, Exo Roast Co. is his go-to and not only for a tasty cup of joe.

“You never know who you will be in line with when you walk into that coffee shop. One day it’s a mariachi trumpeter, the next an old prospector, and the next can be any one of the colorful people who haunt downtown,” said Bonuccelli

Cool Escapes

Discover Daytrips to Higher Elevations and Even Waterfalls

By Heather Wuelpern

Whether you are visiting Tucson for the first time or have lived here for decades, elevating your Tucson experience by venturing out to nearby areas not only can help beat the heat, but you will see some of Mother Nature’s most superb work. Go ahead and treat yourself to a change of scenery. You may find that you have an entirely new perspective when you journey to higher elevations, explore underground, or discover a place to dip your toes in the water.

Get your camera ready! Adventure awaits.


Chiricahua landscape

Head east on Interstate 10 through scenic Texas Canyon and take a side trip to the Amerind Museum or the infamous roadside attraction “The Thing” on your way to or from Chiricahua National Monument.

The area encompasses 12,025 acres filled with 17 miles of hiking trails developed to protect the “Wonderland of Rocks” created from the eruption of an ancient volcano. As you drive the nicely paved road past the pines and live oaks, and spot the otherworldly hoodoo rock formations the first time, the chances of someone in the car not belting out Paul Simon’s lyrics, “Who do you think you’re fooling?” are slim to none.

Get up-close to the magnificent hoodoos and catch glimpses of acorn woodpeckers or Mexican jays when you hike easy trails, like Bonita Springs or moderate ones, such as Echo Canyon Loop Trail. Even if it’s too hot to hike or if mobility issues are a factor, you will still have photo ops galore without leaving your car.

Mt. Lemmon

A woman sits on rocks at Mt. Lemmon.


How does being about 20 degrees cooler sound? On a hot day, you’ll love to feel the outside temperature go down as you drive up Mt. Lemmon on Catalina Highway. Typically, being in nature and unplugging go hand in hand, but The University of Arizona Mt. Lemmon Science app is an exception to the rule. Not only will you hear the local band Calexico play in the background, but you will also learn about the history and geology of Mt. Lemmon as you drive to the top. Once there, take the ski lift for a bird’s-eye view, devour a cookie as big as your head at the Cookie Cabin, and venture out on a hike starting from Marshall Gulch or other nearby trailheads. Pitch a tent or rent a cabin for the night to enjoy stargazing in the cool mountain air.

Did You Know?
You can go mushroom foraging with the Desert Alchemist to learn how to spot the differences between edible, psychedelic, and medicinal mushrooms. His tours are typically offered three days a week from mid-July through mid-October.


The town of Bisbee, Arizona

Bisbee exudes coolness—both figuratively and literally. This funky hilltop getaway packs history, charm, art, and ghosts within its mountain-flanked roads. After devouring a delectable meal at Café Roka, Poco Restaurant + Market, or Screaming Banshee Pizza, climb up as many of the nine staircases that make up the annual Bisbee 1000 competition that your legs can handle. There’s no better way to sneak a peek at hidden tile mosaics, murals, or gardens than when making the climb.

Just out of town, check out the vintage trailers corralled at The Shady Dell—each one showcases authentic memorabilia from the year it was built. Continue to step back in time on Erie Street in nearby Lowell and snap pictures of classic cars and retro storefronts.

Did you Know?
Ghost tours are excellent excursions to learn about the history of Bisbee. A good night’s sleep might be harder to achieve after you hear about what once happened where you booked your room for the night though.


Mt. Graham Arizona

Mt. Graham reaches the highest elevation of these getaways. Being a bit more than a daytrip from Tucson, camping might be the best bet. Riggs Flat campground can be reached by way of the Swift Trail Scenic Drive without the need for a 4x4 vehicle. You will feel that you are on top of the world with the majestic views.

Did You Know?
To expand your horizons even more, head to the Mount Graham International Observatory for an out-of-this-world experience. Eastern Arizona College’s Discovery Park Campus leads tours with accessibility to the telescopes in the observatory.

Oasis in the Desert

Visitors gather along the rocks in Sabino Canyon

Waterfalls are a welcome surprise at the end of several hikes in and around Tucson, such as Hutch’s Pool or Seven Falls in Sabino Canyon, Romero Pools in Catalina State Park, Bridal Wreath Falls off far east Speedway Boulevard, or Tanque Verde Falls off Redington Road. Of course, the water levels can vary depending on the amount of recent rainfall. Always be extra cautious of your footing since rocks can become slippery when wet. And be aware that monsoons are unpredictable and potentially deadly. Know the forecast and make sure the terrain suits your abilities.

Patagonia Lake

The tip of a red kayak on Patagonia Lake


Patagonia Lake offers an escape to water and everything that comes with it, such as fishing, boating, camping, and a beach. Get there by way of Sonoita, and stop at any of the wineries in the area, visit La Cienega Nature Preserve, and get a green chile burrito or a coffee milkshake at the Corner Scoop next to the post office in town. Head back to Tucson via Nogales to see more sights, such as Tumacacori and Tubac.

Did you Know
The town of Patagonia holds a quaint Fourth of July parade each year. Dine at Velvet Elvis Pizza Company and order such gourmet pizzas as The Exorcist, Southwest Diva, and Tuco’s Revenge.

72 Degrees, Please!

Kartchner Caves in Arizona

Southeast of Tucson lies two underground destinations — Colossal Cave and Kartchner Caverns. Book tours in advance to save your spot to learn about stalagmites, stalactites, and other impressive formations carved out from the earth millions of years ago. Know that even though the temperature at Kartchner Caverns can be 30 degrees cooler than temperatures aboveground on a hot summer day, the humidity level can reach heights that sometimes can make breathing uncomfortable. Both caves are wheelchair accessible as well.

Did you Know?
There’s an easy way to remember which is which. Stalagmites with an M before the “ite” grow from the cave floor like an M. Stalactites, with a T before the “ite” hang from the ceiling like a T.

Harrison Ford Will Not Save You

Hikers must understand the importance of ample water, sun protection, and proper footwear. In addition, the monsoon season poses an additional threat of potential flash floods. Be aware of the forecast, always tell someone where you are going, and have a map in case cell service isn’t available.

Heather thinks of life as a journey full of adventures and tries to inspire others to get out and explore. She gives guided hikes to an off-the-beaten-path crested saguaro for her side hustle with Airbnb Experiences.

Meet the Muralist: Pen Macias

By Bellah Nelson 

Pen Macias is a mother and a muralist, with several pieces around Tucson and a growing collection of paper arts like stickers and prints. Originally from Alabama, Macias moved to Tucson at 19 years old and never expected it to become her forever home. 

The culture, the people, the community, and the art atmosphere make Tucson “a diamond place to live,” Macias said, “I found my roots and started a family, and now I’m here forever.” 

From a young age, Macias gravitated towards art and loved any creative outlet.

“I feel the most energized, alive, and myself when I am creating. No other endeavor has given me that fulfillment,” she said. 

Pen Macias sits before her Frida Kahlo mural located on 4th Avenue.

A few years ago, Macias painted a mural in her own backyard: a purple prickly pear cactus with yellow flowers. Since then, Macias has received requests for mural commissions all around Tucson. “I guess this is my thing now,” Macias said. 

“Murals have one glimmer of magic that sets them apart from other forms of visual art: the large-scale size,” she explained. Because of this, Macias believes that murals can really create a “wow” factor. 

Macias’ artwork varies from client to client, depending on their vision for the wall. Macias said she writes down adjectives that she hears to understand their dream. She creates a few sketch concepts, shows the client, and uses their feedback to finish the piece and apply color. 

Pen Macias' portrait of a woman with a large tree incorporated as the character’s hair.

“I don’t touch the wall with paint until we have a fully developed design that I’m confident the client is excited about,” Macias said. 

Macias has been able to fill her workload with mural commissions. Her inspiration changes depending on the project, but her favorites are always the ones where her creativity is exercised and she can follow whatever inspiration strikes.

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Macias painted a mural honoring healthcare workers located at Broadway and Columbus depicting healthcare workers as heroes. 

“It was a great experience getting to celebrate healthcare workers in a small way,” Macias said. 

One of her most recent mural creations, Desert Goddess, located at Cobra Arcade.

Macias participated in the art hotel, Hotel McCoy’s MuralFest, which gathered hotel guests and outside visitors to watch 5 artists do live paintings of colorful murals in the individual hotel rooms. 

“Tucson is so art-centric and supportive of artists. That’s reason one million I love our town.”

When Macias landed the gig to live-paint for the event, she was in Ireland. Her mural is based on the Irish goddess of dreams, but this Tucson goddess gives dreams of desert landscapes and vivid lightning strikes. 

Pen Macias live-painting the Tucson Goddess of Dreams Mural at Hotel McCoy during the Oct. 16, 2021 MuralFest.

Macias has also been involved in other types of art. She created cover art for the Ride Guide magazine for Sun Tran, Tucson’s public transit system. She has also designed t-shirts for local organizations such as Roadhouse Cinema and the University of Arizona’s Cooper Center. 

Pen Macias and her three children holding the Ride Guide Sun Tran magazine that features Macias’ work on the cover.

As a mother of three, Macias has also run a school-wide paint night at her kid’s school every year. 

“Basically, if there’s room for creativity, I’m here for it,” Macias said. 

You can connect with Pen Macias on Instagram and on her website. Be on the lookout for her work in local shops and on buildings around town. 

English Rose Skincare

Locally sourced and handcrafted in Tucson by Aesthetic Apothecary

By Stacey Gregory

More and more people are switching to organic skincare products. When in Tucson, get your hands on the English Rose skincare line by Aesthetic Apothecary. Creator Tess Robin worked with Ricky English of English Salon Spa to develop the line from locally sourced Tucson ingredients along with lavender sustainably harvested at a Bulgarian farm. The result: a complete skincare line that feels as good as it smells.

Growing up in an active family, Robin loves being out in the sun. It was important to her to design her line for everyone, but with an active lifestyle in mind. She chose rose as her main ingredient because it's moisturizing and is suited for every skin type: oily, dry, combination and aging skin can all benefit from its properties. When it came to naming the line, English Rose was the perfect fit.

“Ricky's grandmother was actually named Rose, so it has a lot of meaning for both of us,” said Robin. “Everything revolves around natural, holistic products that are all ethically and sustainably sourced, including our florals from Evergreen Flowers in Tucson."

Tess Robin and Ricky English

The line is exclusively available at English Salon Spa and is used in many of the facials offered at the shop in downtown Tucson. You can also purchase these products to take home for your self-care routine and thoughtful gifts.  

Bath Tea

Tighten your skin, prevent premature aging, and fight free radicals (reactive atoms that can damage cells, proteins, and DNA by altering their chemical structure) with the English Rose Bath Tea. Drop the actual English Rose Tea Bag into warm water and let it steep, turning your bath water into a large tub of tea. The tea bag is made from lavender, rose, ylang ylang, and natural black and green teas. 

“Arizona has a big problem with free radicals because when your skin is sun-damaged, part of the electron actually breaks off, and it bounces around because it's not attached to anything. That's what causes the skin damage. When you have a barrier, it helps to prevent those free radicals,” explained Robin. 

Lip Balm and Lip Scrub

It’s easy to neglect your lips but even easier to care for them with the English Rose Lip Scrub and Lip Balm. Robin hand tends the duo that works together for smooth lips and fresh breath. The lip scrub is made from a honey scrub, so it’s antibacterial to prevent bad breath or any smells that might stick on the lip. The balm itself is made from a thicker beeswax, so it has staying power without weighing your lips down. Both include aloe grown right in front of the salon. 

“Face coverings can make lip health suffer, unfortunately. I started the lip products during COVID, but it works for a post-COVID lifestyle,” said Robin. 

Body Butter & Bath & Body Oil

Feed your skin by nourishing it with authentic English Rose Body Butter. According to Robin, a lot of body butters are actually falsely advertised. Body butters should be anhydrous, which means without water. Look at the ingredients on many popular body butters, and you’ll often find the first ingredient is water, not with English Rose Body Butter. 

“Moisture is great for your body, but your skin is your largest organ that needs food. We're putting a lot of vitamins and minerals, shea, and a lot of great butters in there that mixes into a really creamy, rich texture. It’s not heavy on the skin, so that you can use it day or night.”

Add in the English Rose Bath and Body Oil for even more moisture used alone or with the body butter. The versatile product can be put into a bath or used directly on the skin before applying body butter to lock in all of those good elements.

Soaps, Scrubs, and Air Fresheners

The line includes even more products, including a sugar scrub great for exfoliating, full-size bar soaps for daily use, as well as tiny cube soaps perfect for guest rooms and host gifts. Plus, Robin created air fresheners. 

“A lot of our guests were sharing that they leave their English Rose Soap in their car because it smells so good, so we developed an air freshener. It’s not made with perfume, but with oils, I extract and infuse myself,” said Robin. “These are actually a lot healthier for you because ylang ylang and sandalwood are natural purifiers. They give you a great sense of calm and Zen while you're driving, so we help to prevent road rage.” 

Ethically & Environmental Sustainability and No Preservatives 

Recycling and being ethnically, economically, and environmentally sustainable is also important to both Robin and English. All of the packaging used in the skincare line is recycled, including amber glass, which only recently became reusable and is the only preservative used in any of the products.

“I do not put sulfites or parabens into my products, so the amber glass is one of the only things that is preserving them. We also have zero plastic options for zero-waste lifestyles with our tins that come in travel size, and you can reuse and refill your jars and tins right here to reduce waste,” said Robin. 

You can get your hands on this locally produced skincare line exclusively at the first all-in-one full-service salon and day spa conveniently located in the heart of downtown, English Salon Spa, 27 N. Scott Ave., 520-777-8997.  

The People of Tucson: Wilbur, The University of Arizona Mascot

The People of Tucson put their spin on places to visit.

Words and Photography by Evan Zavitz

Bear down, Arizona! Whether you are a Tucsonan or just passing through the Old Pueblo, it’s hard to miss the fun-loving spirit that surrounds The University of Arizona. Who better to give visitors the lowdown than The University of Arizona mascot and Sonoran celebrity Wilbur T. Wildcat? Born November 7, 1959, Wilbur has embodied the “Wild” in Wildcat spirit that students have grown accustomed to for more than 60 years. Wilbur stands as a living icon and steward of the reputation exemplified by U of A students at season-opening football games and community outreach events. He lends his insights on some of the great history and traditions that make the U of A his favorite spot around town.

University of Arizona Mascot, Wilbur, shoots a large water gun while a crowd of U of A students mingle behind him.
Photo by Evan Zavitz

Game Day Gladiator

Over the years, as the Wild West town of Tucson continued to shed its frontier heritage and modernize, Wilbur followed suit. No longer needed as the law-bringer on the sometimes rowdy outskirts of the university, Wilbur traded in his six-shooters for the more genteel getup he sports today. 

“One of my favorite traditions here in Tucson is Bear Down Fridays. Before every home game, we get wild on University Boulevard with the Pride of Arizona marching band leading the charge and me in tow. The energy of the crowd is limitless,” said Wilbur. “Game days are always special for me. At the 2021 spring football opener, I helped cool down the crowd with a barrage of water balloons assisted by none other than our very own Rob Gronkowski!”

The University of Arizona mascot Wilbur is facing away wearing his number 20 red and blue football jersey waving.
Photo by Evan Zavitz

Cat About Town

Wilbur is an integral part of the Tucson community and loves spending time with locals and travelers, letting them in on the not-so-little secret that is the Old Pueblo. During the summer months when students are away, Wilbur takes advantage of the lull to center himself and engage with the great array of activities that go on in the Tucson community. One particular outdoor adventure that calls to Wilbur’s animal instincts—climbing to the summit of “A” Mountain for a great lookout over the city. What might surprise you is his love of a good swimming pool.

“Living in Arizona, the heat is on. Even a cat like me enjoys a nice dip in the pool to cool off on a sweltering day,” said Wilbur. The next time you are in town, don’t be alarmed if you bear witness to a big cat donning a blue sombrero. Don’t be afraid to say hi and grab a photo—our resident wildcat loves making new friends and creating great memories.

The People of Tucson: Tucson Juneteenth Festival Committee President, Valerie Stanley

The People of Tucson put their spin on places to visit.

By Stacey Gregory

Air Force brat Valerie Stanley moved around quite a bit before landing in Tucson, Arizona, in 1986. Stanley is a nail technician at Great Waves Salon and the Tucson Juneteenth Festival committee president when she’s not painting and polishing nails to perfection.

Juneteenth is held on the third Saturday in June every year to honor and observe June 19, 1865, the official emancipation from slavery in the US. Stanley had never heard of this holiday before relocating out west and joining the committee about 25 years ago. Since moving to the Old Pueblo, she has fallen in love with the city.

A black woman wearing a red and black top stands in front of a wall of nail polish.
Photography by Evan Zavitz

Valerie Takes a Hike

Tucson offers many places to hike, and Stanley couldn’t get enough of this outdoor activity. So much so that she joined a women’s hiking group called GirlTrek and finds herself hiking every Sunday. While she enjoys Saguaro National Park East, she recommends Sanctuary Cove, an easy trail on the west side of town. It’s a private property open to the public and managed by a nonprofit corporation.

“It’s a mile-long trail with 12 affirmations you’ll find as you go. When you get to the bottom, there’s a really neat labyrinth that’s very spiritual. They also have an outdoor chapel and amphitheater,” said Stanley.

Valerie’s Tastes of Tucson

Lucky for Stanley, her friend recently opened a Jamaican restaurant, Janet & Ray’s, serving Jamaican and Caribbean soul food. Jerk chicken is always on the menu, and on special days you’ll find seafood macaroni and cheese.

“Her jerk chicken is spicy. I don’t do spicy, but I will die to have her spicy jerk chicken. The mac ‘n’ cheese is out of this world,” she said.

Valerie’s Black Business & Adventures

You can support local Tucson Black businesses by searching, a site created by a community organization that spotlights Black-owned businesses in Arizona. For an event, consider traveling up to Scottsdale, Arizona, for the Arizona Black Rodeo held annually in the spring, featuring national African-American rodeo competitors. “It’s so cool to see Black cowboys from all over the United States compete. It’s something to be proud of for our community,” she says.

The People of Tucson: Artist, Nadia Hagen-Onuktav

The People of Tucson put their spin on places to visit.

By Stacey Gregory

When you’re looking for inspirational places to explore around Tucson, who better to share insights than artist, designer, choreographer, and creator Nadia Hagen-Onuktav? This Tucson transplant was born and raised in New York City, moved to the West Coast, and discovered the Old Pueblo traveling cross-country to visit her grandmother, eventually settling here in 1992. Hagen-Onuktav founded Flam Chen Pyrotechnic Theater Co. in 1996 (producing daredevil acrobatics, pyrotechnics, and new circus arts), was named artistic director for The All Souls Procession in 1998 (the largest ceremony honoring the dead in North America), and became a founding board member of Many Mouths One Stomach in 2006 (an umbrella nonprofit that inspires and manifests modern festival culture)—all roles she continues to hold today.

 A woman in a colorful costume and yellow hat walks across stage holding a flaming circle in one hand.
Photo courtesy of Nadia Hagen-Onuktav

Nadia’s Tastes of Tucson

Hagen-Onukatav spends a lot of time at the MSA Annex; Flam Chen Pyrotechnic Theater Co. is the artist-in-residence producing shows at the MSA Annex festival grounds. So, she recently discovered Kukai Japanese Kitchen. Her go-to dish is the Mt. Fuji Don rice bowl served with spicy tuna, cucumber, avocado, masago, tempura flakes, and eel sauce.

“I would eat here every day even if I wasn’t right there all the time,” she said.

Outside of the MSA Annex, other favorites include La Chaiteria Neighborhood Cafe, which serves Latin-inspired dishes with vegan and vegetarian options, and Barista Del Barrio, an authentic and local coffee shop with a menu boasting award-winning breakfast bowls, quesadillas, and tamales including hemp tamales.

“I love Barisa Del Barrio’s breakfast bowls. You have to get there early to get one; they sell out quickly,” Hagen-Onukatav said.

Nadia’s Must-Do Experiences

Of course, a talented artist would be drawn to artistic endeavors. One of Hagen-Onuktav’s favorite places to visit in Tucson is Creative Machines, a multidisciplinary design and fabrication firm that creates interactive exhibits, kinetic rolling ball machines, site-specific sculptures, and public artwork. While they are not open to the public, those interested in design, engineering, and fabrication careers or those who have a strong interest in this art form, can e-mail the shop for a tour.

“They build some of the most amazing sculptures and installations in the country and ship them all over the world,” she said. You can see some of their creations around town, like the Toby the Griffin sculpture at Broadway Boulevard and Scott Avenue and the light-up doughnut in front of the Tucson Museum of Art.”

For those willing to travel to see more sights, she recommends The Arcosanti Project, an experimental town in the high desert of Arizona, 70 miles north of metropolitan Phoenix. Visitors can tour the world’s first prototype “arcology” structure consciously integrating architecture and ecology into its design, learning about its rich 50-year history that continues to influence young architects, urban planners, and designers from around the world.

The People of Tucson: Drink Slinger, Thomas (Tiger) Ziegler

The People of Tucson put their spin on places to visit.

Words and Photography by Evan Zavitz

In 1952, a Greyhound bus hailing from Dubuque, Iowa, delivered Thomas Ziegler to the historic Hotel Congress. Known for his kind, people-first attitude, Ziegler wandered into Hotel Congress in search of a drink and ended up working the bar as a favor.

A man wearing a blue checked shirt and a southwest style vest serves a drink at TIger's Taproom in Hotel Congress

More than 62 years later, Ziegler can still be found pouring drinks for locals and travelers alike here, where he earned the moniker “Tiger” after an incident at the bar. A customer standing over a foot taller than him and weighing in at least 250 pounds was groping a female patron. Ziegler calmly yet firmly diffused the situation, resulting in the aggressor leaving the bar. Another patron exclaimed, “Get ’em, Tiger!” and the name stuck.

For his 80th birthday, Hotel Congress honored him by naming the bar Tiger’s Taproom where he is still pouring classic and sophisticated cocktails and sharing his insights on the city with customers at Hotel Congress.

A man wearing a blue checked shirt and a southwest style vest pours a cocktail at TIger's Taproom in Hotel Congress

Tiger’s Take on Tucson

When it comes to Tiger’s favorite things, he enjoys the simple pleasures; a cold beer, Dr. Phil and Judge Judy, his customers, and his adopted home of Tucson. And while Tiger seldom likes to drive anymore, when he does, he often travels alongside his brother and his brother’s family.

“We like the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and the Reid Park Zoo. And, of course, we like to go up to Mt. Lemmon too,” he said.

And after more than six decades living in the Old Pueblo, Tiger is no stranger to the varied and inspired cuisine of the area.

“In Tucson, you can experiment with and experience different dishes. There’s this one Mexican restaurant, Casa Molina, that I really love. I love tacos, enchiladas, and chimichangas,” said Tiger. “The Cup Cafe here at Hotel Congress is also marvelous. We have some of the best food in Tucson, and I serve a great Bloody Mary.”

Tiger is a true icon in the fabric of Tucson lore. His taproom has been a mainstay for the community. When asked about his motivation and why he stays in Tucson, Tiger will tell you: “I stay because I love my people. I love Tucson. I love the mountains. I love The University of Arizona. I love everything about it.”