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Tucson Meet Yourself Folklife Festival co-founder dies at 86

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Posted at 12:37 PM, Dec 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-19 19:57:37-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Dr. James S. “Big Jim” Griffith, co-founder of Tucson Meet Yourself Folklife Festival died Saturday at his home. He was 86.

He passed away quietly and peacefully at his home, Tucson Meet Yourself and Southwest Folklife Alliance board and staff says.

With a mission to bring the experience of traditional arts, expressions and foods of ethnic communities to southern Arizona, Tucson Meet Yourself Folklife Festival was founded in 1974 by Jim Griffith and his wife, Loma Griffith.

During a three-day event in downtown Tucson, there are hundreds of food vendors, artisans, cooks, dancers, performing groups, musicians and exhibits—all to recognize and celebrate the diverse and distinct cultures of Southern Arizona and Northern Mexico.

Previously, Dr. Griffith was the director of the Southwest Folklore Center at the University of Arizona. While at the university, he earned his PhD in cultural anthropology and art history. In 1988, he retired from the faculty at UA, according to the TMY website. Also, in 2011, he was honored by the National Endowment for the Arts with the 'National Heritage Fellowship, the Bess Lomax Hawes Award.'

Through his years, Dr. Griffith continued to educate the area on Southern Arizona folk arts.

A celebration to honor his legacy will be announced in 2022.