Growing Pains

photo courtesy of Kathleen Dreier

2010 was a year of transition for the All Souls Procession Weekend and for the Procession’s organizing body, Many Mouths One Stomach. Most notably, locations for both the Procession of Little Angels and the All Souls Procession Grand Finale ceremony switched from our longtime host venues at Jácome Plaza and the Franklin Street docks to Armory Park and the county-owned lot at the southeast corner of Stone and Toole respectively.

Change is inevitable in Life, and it’s often accompanied by difficulty and adjustment as the process of growth unfolds over time. This year was a particular challenge with issues regarding the Finale site. Several parties were involved in the lengthy bureaucratic procedure of sorting out the details of parade route and Finale location, including Tucson Police and Fire Departments, Arizona Department of Transportation, and this year, Pima County. Following four months of site vetting and reevaluation of safety protocols, the Franklin Street docks were deemed unacceptable by the City as a suitable location for the Grand Finale, largely due to freight train traffic on the adjacent tracks and the hazards posed by the thousands gathered there beginning to overflow beyond the limits of the lot. A plan that had been submitted to fence off the tracks was rejected with four weeks to go before the Procession Weekend, leaving us to make the most of the alternative space at the southeast corner of the intersection, which itself became available only after much discussion and deliberation with Pima County.

We were bound to outgrow the Franklin docks space eventually as attendance continues to increase from year to year. Believe it or not, no one among the original crowd that participated in the Procession’s early years ever imagined the kind of numbers turning out for the event today! We’ve obviously touched on something very significant to us all….many things, to be sure. With so much of our collective energy concentrated into it now, the Procession has indeed taken on a life of its own, and become a rambunctious adolescent running crazily down the street. As you might guess, both the logistical and the financial issues involved in making it manifest year after year grow along with it.

With only so many spaces in the downtown area viable for the size and nature of this event, we were indeed lucky to have secured a site in which to burn the Urn at all. It became a very down-to-the-wire situation, and there was a moment near the end in which we thought we might not have such a site this year. With persistence and the co-operative efforts of the various governmental agencies involved, a contract was signed and approved just days before Procession Weekend for use of the lot across from Solar Culture. We worked with it as best we were able, given limited time and means.

The situation at this year’s Finale site was of course a different one than what we’d all become accustomed to at the Franklin St. docks. It was a dark, dusty vacant lot with stones and furrows scattered about. There were no “natural”/built-in staging areas. It was unable to comfortably accommodate everyone who arrived to witness the Finale ceremony. Add to that the fact that it was a space that we as producers had never worked within before and were unable to anticipate every problem or plan for every solution.

We understand that many of you were unable to properly see everything happening there that night, and that some were unable to see anything at all. What staging and lighting we did have came to us gratis from a friendly party in Utah at cost of transport only; please know that staging is very expensive and at present beyond our means to rent. We also understand this year’s Circo Domo had its share of problems and was difficult to participate in. Without benefit of experience in the space and knowing how it all would play out in real-time, it was indeed hard to manage very successfully.

The good news for everyone is, we are slated to move into a new, permanent host space for the Grand Finale next year, one that can be custom-made for the purpose, on private property. We envision a kind of amphitheater-like set up where everything can be seen more easily by all, and an arrangement that facilitates traffic flow far more efficiently for the sake of the Domo as well as greater access to the Many Mouths One Stomach merch booth. Again, it will still be a new situation, and though we’ll have better opportunities to prepare for whatever contingencies can be imagined, we also expect to be honing that arrangement over time as necessity dictates, to improve the Finale experience for all involved.

What makes All Souls Procession so unique from many other festival-type events is its do-it-yourself, grassroots spirit. The lines between participant and producer blur and dissolve. It is funded not by corporations, but by offerings of all kinds and sizes from the people who come together every year to celebrate life, death and love together. You and what you bring to it are what makes it special. If you love the Procession and want to see it become everything it can be for the benefit of us all, we encourage you to not only give us your feedback but to join together with us in building that vision and contribute your energies toward bringing those changes about. Presently we are just a small group dedicated to nurturing the All Souls Procession and carrying out the work of bringing it into being each year as best we can, but as the family grows and is fed by a love of community that’s expressed through collective will and action, that work will become easier, the load be made lighter, and the outcome of it all a joy to take part in.

We appreciate your patience and understanding as the Procession continues to evolve. Growth is never a steady ascent upward, but rather a meandering path of fits and starts, progress, regress, and back again. With devotion and care, it continues moving forward.

Thank you all for your love of the All Souls Procession.

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