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 blaxfriday.com, 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: 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.”

No Ordinary Pies: Five Tucson Pizzerias That Rise Above

By Elise McClain

The love of pizza is a universally spoken and understood language. And while most people enjoy a good pie, not everyone agrees on what makes it good. From deep dish to cracker crust, pineapple or no pineapple, marinara sauce or alfredo, anchovies or no anchovies — the list goes on. So what’s the secret to great pizza? It all depends on whom you ask.

For Alexis Favis, Tucsonan and co-creator behind the popular @Pizzagrateful Instagram account and 365 Pizza Grateful food blog, great pizza comes in many forms. Sample Favis’s favorite, unmissable pizza joints in Tucson, and discover a cheesier side of town.

Photo courtesy of Fiamme

Fiamme Pizza Napoletana

When you ask most local pizza lovers and aficionados who has the best pizza in town, Fiamme is a usual suspect. Born from a hand-built pizza caravan, Fiamme could once be found at any number of local breweries, farmers markets, and bars throughout town. However, after years of touring his hand-built brick oven around Tucson, chef-owner-pizzaiolo Scott Volpe finally established a brick-and-mortar restaurant in 2017.

“This is a great place to have a classic margherita pizza,” said Favis. “Fiamme is a smaller and more intimate restaurant — you’re pretty much right there in the kitchen as the pizza is being made. As soon as you walk in, you can see the oven and the food. It’s a cool experience in addition to great pizza.”

Volpe delivers quality pies using fresh ingredients and Old World techniques, in wood-fired ovens fueled by locally grown mesquite wood. And if you visit on the right night, you might get a chance to spot Volpe flexing his tossing muscles. As five-time world champion of the annual Pizza World Championship in Parma, Italy, Volpe puts on an acrobatic and freestyle pizza-tossing performance like none other.

Photo courtesy of Walter's Pizzeria

Walter’s Pizzeria

Located in Tucson’s south side, Walter’s Pizzeria is the new kid on the pizza-making block. This New York-style joint serves slices, specials, calzones, paninis, and whole pies at unbeatable prices. You’ll find Walter’s inside American Eat Co., Tucson’s first all-local food court featuring seven restaurants, a coffee shop, raspados, a full bar, and an arcade. Perfect for group outings and family gatherings, Walter’s uses fresh ingredients to make unbeatable ’za.

“They serve a great variety of things at Walter’s Pizzeria,” said Favis. “But for those hungry for a classic slice of pepperoni pizza, this would be a good place to start.”

Photography by Evan Zavitz

Pizza Luna

The pie at Pizza Luna can best be described as Neo Neapolitan — handcrafted pizza concepts that marry thin crust with cutting-edge baking science and years of carefully honed techniques. This is the ideal spot to sample nontraditional, gourmet, and curated ingredients like three-day fermented dough, Humboldt Fog goat cheese, housemade sausages, Crow’s Dairy goat cheese from Buckeye, AZ and more.

“I would recommend the sausage rossa or fig, pig and goat,” said Favis. “All of their toppings are a bit more elevated. This isn’t a spot you go for a slice of pepperoni.

Photography by Evan Zavitz

Los Olivos Pizzeria

Los Olivos is a hidden gem that serves simultaneously unexpected and scrumptious takes on classic Italian dishes. Located in west Tucson, Los Olivos opened its door to the public in 2013 and has delivered delicious daily specials and family favorites every day since.

“Los Olivos is the ultimate friendly neighborhood pizza joint,” said Favis. “This place is my favorite because I love green olives on pizza, and they do that really well. They also have a pizza called La Mexicana with chorizo, bacon, jalapeño, tomatoes, beans, and onions that I highly recommend.”

With training in classic French and Italian cooking, chef-owner Quetzakoatl Lora prides himself on his ability to fuse unique and delicious ingredients. Order by the slice, or sample from a large selection of both far-reaching and traditional pizzas, pastas, and salads.

Photography by Jackie Tran

Rocco’s Little Chicago Pizzeria

Having served Tucson for more than two decades, Rocco’s is an undeniable mainstay. Get a taste of the Windy City in the Old Pueblo, with world-renowned, authentic Chicago-style deep dish and wings. With local favorites like the Big Bad Wolf, the Kitchen Sink, and Fungus Humongous, Rocco’s couples quality ingredients, enormous portions, and affordable prices to deliver crave-worthy ooey-gooey chewy pies.

“Rocco’s thing is deep dish, and they do it well,” said Favis. “But surprisingly, it’s their thin crust that I love more. And more than I love their deep dish and their thin crust, I love their hot sticks most, and I do think they have the best wings in town. If you’re looking for a place that would please everybody, then this is definitely the place to go.”

Honorable mentions:

When asked to name the best pizza joints in town, Favis was hesitant to say, for fear of missing one.

“It’s tough to choose the best, because there’s a lot of great pizza in Tucson,” said Favis. “Reilly Craft Pizza and Drink, Empire Pizza, Magpies, and Little Anthony’s are all great too. And looking to the future, a new Detroit-style pizzeria is supposed to open in the coming months, which I’m really excited to try.”

Alexis Favis

As a lifetime lover of pizza, Alexis founded @pizzagrateful in 2016 to document the exploration of the Tucson Pizza scene that she shares with her husband Adam. In the same year, Alexis launched 365 Pizza Grateful, an online food journal that chronicled 52 different pizzas over the course of 52 weeks. Keep up with Alexis and her pizza journey on Instagram @pizzagrateful.

Arizona Dude Ranch Roundup

Lasso a lifetime memory at 10 guest ranches around Tucson

By C. Jill Hofer

More than a century ago, the nation was captivated by iconic images of the great American West. Travelers were drawn westward by Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West world tour, Western silent movies, and dime novels like The Shootout at the OK Corral. The dude ranch was born. Today, the desire for an authentic reprieve from modern life has never been stronger.

According to Russell True, former president of the Arizona Dude Ranch Association, author of Dude Ranching in Arizona, and co-owner of several dude ranches, “It’s the unwavering core principles of dude ranching that provide the timeless appeal. The ‘Six Hs’ are at the core of any good dude ranch: horses, hats, hospitality, heritage, honesty, and heart.”

Take a gander at a few of Arizona’s dude ranches. Explore the many options and cut your favorite from the herd.

FUN FACT: Western cattle ranchers used the word “dude” to describe city slickers. Many consider Teddy Roosevelt to be the original dude.

Photo courtesy of Tanque Verde Ranch

Tanque Verde Ranch
14301 E. Speedway Blvd., Tucson

Tanque Verde Ranch is located in the Rincon Mountain foothills, bordering Saguaro National Park East and the Coronado National Forest. The first guests arrived in 1928, 60 years after the ranch was established in 1868. Tanque Verde Ranch recently celebrated 150 years in operation as the oldest non-city owned business in town.

FUN FACT: You could win a ranch vacation by signing up to receive exclusive offers and updates from Tanque Verde Ranch. Drawings are held April, August, and December.

HIGHLIGHTS: Horseback Riding + Team Penning + Horsemanship Lessons + Guided Fishing + Hiking & Biking

Photography of White Stallion Ranch by Steven Meckler

White Stallion Ranch
9251 W. Twin Peaks Rd., Tucson

White Stallion Ranch has been in the True family for more than 50 years. The ranch is located on 3,000 acres of pristine Sonoran Desert and borders Saguaro National Park West for an even more expansive, wide-open landscape. A quick 35 minutes from the Tucson International Airport and 90 minutes from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, this Spanish hacienda-style dude ranch carefully blends the frontier lifestyle with the amenities and services of a fine resort and includes an on-site bar.

FUN FACT: More than 200 productions and 31 feature films were shot at White Stallion Ranch, including the gunfight from the classic film Winchester ’73 starring Jimmy Stewart.

HIGHLIGHTS: Horseback Riding + Team Cattle Sorting & Penning + Rock Climbing & Biking + Shooting Range & Archery + Weekly Ranch Rodeo

Photo courtesy of Elkhorn Ranch

Elkhorn Ranch
27000 W. Elk Horn Ranch Rd., Tucson

Elkhorn Ranch, owned and operated by the Miller family since 1945, is nestled into the Sonoran Desert grasslands in the foothills of the Baboquivari Mountains just an hour from the Tucson International Airport. “We ride into the rough and scenic mountains and explore the open desert grasslands of the Altar Valley. With about 10,000 acres of country for riding, guests experience true adventure in a wilderness setting,” said Mary Miller, co-owner.

FUN FACT: Thanks to their intimate size limit of up to 32 guests and a small on-site horse breeding program, horses outnumber guests more than three to one at Elkhorn Ranch.

HIGHLIGHTS: Horseback Riding + Guided Hikes + Bird and Nature Watching + Tennis, Basketball & Shuffleboard + Heated Pool

Photo courtesy of Kenyon Guest Ranch

Kenyon Guest Ranch
80 Kenyon Ranch Rd., Tubac

Built from native river rocks in the foothills of the Tumacacori Mountains, Kenyon Guest Ranch is a stone’s throw from the highway and a world away from modern life. The water runs year-round along the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail, lined with shady cottonwood trees. Guests follow in the footsteps (and hoofprints) of celebrities such as Cary Grant and Ricky Nelson. Nearby, Tubac offers plenty of opportunities to gallery hop, shop, stroll, and dine.

FUN FACT: Kenyon Guest Ranch resident cowboy poet and livestock manager Ross Knox holds the Guinness World Record for logging more than 50K miles in 17 years as a mule-packer in the Grand Canyon.

HIGHLIGHTS: Horseback Riding + UTV & Fat Tire Electric Bike Tours + Labyrinth + Heated Pool + Poolside Bar

Photos courtesy of Kay El Bar Guest Ranch

Kay El Bar Guest Ranch
2655 S. Kay El Bar Rd., Wickenburg

The quaint Kay El Bar Guest Ranch lies outside the mining town of Wickenburg, an early hotspot for Arizona dude ranches. Built from adobe bricks, handmade by the nearby Maricopa Indians, this historic guest ranch offers an unhurried lifestyle, and unforgettable memories. Vacationers ride through scenic hills and canyons and enjoy close proximity to Wickenburg’s history, restaurants, and shops.

FUN FACT: This charming adobe ranch was built in the early 1900s, is listed on the Arizona and National Historic Registers, and is where actor Val Kilmer grew up.

HIGHLIGHTS: Horse Grooming + Horseback Riding + Hiking & Horseshoes + Hammocks + Bird and Nature Watching

Photo courtesy of Triangle T Guest Ranch

Triangle T Guest Ranch
4190 E. Dragoon Rd., Dragoon

Nestled in the boulders of Dragoon’s Texas Canyon, Triangle T Ranch is the setting of several original Lone Ranger movies and 3:10 to Yuma, starring Glenn Ford. The ranch is renowned as the winter camp of Apache Chieftain Cochise, and other esteemed visitors include the Rockefellers, Vanderbilts, and President John F. Kennedy. Co-owner Don Beesley encourages guests to experience a dude ranch getaway to “discover the magic and treasure the memories.”

FUN FACT: The Triangle T Texas Canyon Harmony Labyrinth is an exact copy of the Tohono O’odham design except that there is an opening into the center circle.

HIGHLIGHTS: Horseback Riding + Mountain Biking + Labyrinth + Jeep & ATV Tours + The Rock Saloon & Grill

Photo courtesy of Tombstone Mounument Ranch

Tombstone Monument Ranch
895 W. Schiefflin Monument Rd., Tombstone

For the quintessential Old West look and feel, visit Tombstone Monument Ranch, a 13,000-acre working cattle ranch. Built to modern standards using remnants from original 1880s structures, it resembles a Western frontier town with a main street, saloon, and themed rooms such as the jail, bank, and sheriff’s office. Guests can catch the stagecoach or head to Tombstone on horseback between poker lessons, petroglyph hikes, and shows at the on-site saloon.

FUN FACT: Criollo cattle are purebred descendants of Spanish cows brought by Christopher Columbus. Tombstone Monument Ranch collaborates with The University of Arizona to offer a ranch-to-table experience with their on-site herd.

HIGHLIGHTS: Horseback Riding + Working Ranch Experience + Shooting Range + Archery + Star Cinematic + Photo Shoot

Photo courtesy of Circle Z Ranch

Circle Z Ranch
1476 AZ-82, Patagonia

The Circle Z Ranch in Patagonia offers all-inclusive adventures with everything from horseback riding to guided nature walks. “Sonoita Creek traverses the heart of our property, which features more than 100 miles of trails through a riparian area, desert scrub, high grasslands, and mountains that rise dramatically from the desert floor,” said co-owner Diana Nash.

FUN FACT:  Circle Z Ranch offers a tennis court that doubles as a pickle ball court, complete with paddles, rackets, and balls.

HIGHLIGHTS: Horseback Riding + Ranch Activities + Birding & Guided + Nature Walks + Hiking & Stargazing + Heated Pool

Photo courtesy of Spurcedale Guest Ranch

Sprucedale Guest Ranch
1228 Wiltbank Rd., Alpine

For an elevated experience, ascend to Sprucedale Guest Ranch in the pines of the White Mountains. The appeal of this family-owned and -operated dude ranch is much about what they don’t have. “We’re unique in that we’re off the grid with generator electricity, no TV, and cell service is limited to the lodge only,” said Tiffany Willis, manager. It’s easy to unplug in this high-country ranch in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest.

FUN FACT: The first guests of Sprucedale Guest Ranch were fishermen looking for shelter from a monsoon in the early 1920s. Today, it is the oldest continually run guest ranch in Arizona.

HIGHLIGHTS: Horseback Riding (including a River Ride) + Cow Milking & Colt Leading + Rodeo Practice + Cattle Work + Hayrides & Bonfires

Photo courtesy of Rancho del la Osa

Rancho de la Osa
1 La Osa Ranch Rd., Sasabe

At Rancho de la Osa in Sasabe, the unique convergence of Native American, Spanish, Mexican, ranching, political, and celebrity history keeps guests coming back year after year. Three US presidents, Pancho Villa, and John Wayne have frequented this remarkably historic property on 590 acres surrounded by 120,000 acres of the Buenos Aires Wildlife Refuge.

FUN FACT: The Marshall Plan was drafted at Rancho de la Osa, and the ranch boasts the oldest continually occupied building in Arizona.

HIGHLIGHTS: Horseback Riding + Wildlife Refuge + Guided Off-Road Tours + Guided Fat Tire Electric + Bike Tours + Sport Shooting & 22 Range

Start making your plans to trade in your cellphones and televisions for a rustic retreat complete with crackling campfires under a starry Arizona sky.