Life Along the Streetcar with Tom Heath from The Heath Team Nova Home Loans

The Blueprint of Community: Bimi Huebner and the Tucson Festival of Books’ Literary Renaissance

Join us in this enlightening episode as Bimi Huebner, a pivotal figure in Tucson’s literary scene, shares her journey with us. From her unique path into the world of books to spearheading the Tucson Festival of Books, Bimi’s story is a testament to the power of literature in uniting and inspiring a community.

Discover in This Episode:

  • Bimi Huebner’s transition from a technical background to becoming a literary luminary in Tucson.
  • The inception, growth, and impact of the Tucson Festival of Books on the local and wider literary community.
  • Insightful anecdotes from Bimi that highlight the transformative power of reading and community engagement.

Engage with Us

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this episode and your experiences with Tucson’s literary community. Have you attended the Tucson Festival of Books, or has a particular book changed your perspective? Share your stories with us and become a part of Tucson’s ongoing literary renaissance.

For more episodes that delve into the cultural, social, and economic narratives shaping Tucson, visit Your engagement helps us continue to bring these important stories to light.

Transcript (Unedited)

Good morning. It’s a beautiful Sunday in the old Pueblo and you’re listening to KTDT Tucson. Thank you for spending a part of your brunch hour with us on your downtown Tucson community sponsored all volunteer powered rock and roll radio station. This week we’re going to speak with Bimmy Huebner, volunteer co -chair for the Tucson Festival of Books. She has a rich history of community engagement herself, and she’s going to delve into the impact of the festival, which is now one of the nation’s premier literacy events. It fosters reading, it fosters learning, it’s contributed over $2 million to local programs, and all the while has remained accessible to all with free admission. and find out how today in just a few minutes. It’s February 25th, 2024. My name is Tom Heath, and you’re listening to Life Along the Streetcar. Each and every Sunday, our focus is on social, cultural, and economic impacts in Tucson’s urban core, and we shed light on hidden gems everyone should know about. From A Mountain

to University of Arizona and all stops in between, you get the inside track right here on 99 .1 FM, streaming on downtownradio .org, also available on your iPhone or Android with our very own downtown radio Tucson app. If you want to interact with us on the show, we recommend you do that on Instagram and Facebook. And if you want more information about us, our book, or any of the past episodes, head over to our website, which is lifealongthestreetcar .org. And of course, you can listen to our podcast on all kinds of platforms like Spotify, iTunes, iHeartRadio, or just simply by asking your smart speaker to play the Life Along the Streetcar podcast. And while you’re on your smartphone, you might want to head over to the new Tucson Convention Center app. Couple weeks ago, actually, I think it was last week, on the 15th, whatever that was, 10 days ago, on the 15th, the city, with the help of Ria Nuevo and some others here within our community, launched a new augmented reality culture walk.

This is going to allow people that are walking across the convention center’s campus to take a look at the history with the idea of showing those that have come before us, the Native American tribes, the Spanish missionaries, Mexican American, the Chinese cultural, all of that heritage that was displaced in the 60s when we built the convention center. Well, now the city of Tucson, Rain Wave and others have helped to create this app to bring back that important part of our history and culture. And I have not used the app, but my understanding is as you’re walking around the campus you can simply use your smartphone to see what was there in our history and what that spot has meant to the growth and development of Tucson. So I’m super excited about it. I think it’s a launching point and I’m hoping we see a lot more of that. Can you imagine just walking around and looking at a building and seeing every iteration of that building since there’ve been photographs? I don’t know if you find that

exciting, but I do. And I guess that’s what’s important, what I like. And something I like is the Tucson Festival of Books. I’ve talked about it over the years. We actually did an interview with them on their 10th anniversary, which was five years ago. and we thought it was time to revisit this amazing event here in the urban courts on the east end of the streetcar route on the U of A Mall. And we’re joined today, we have an interview today that we recorded just a couple of days ago with Mimi Huebner, the volunteer co -chair of this festival. And volunteers are a way that they can keep this thing running, keep the cost down, and that has translated to over $2 million since the inception of this festival, going back into our community for literacy efforts. So let’s get the inside story on how all of that happens with Bimmy Huebner, volunteer co -chair for the Tucson Festival of Books. So we are joined today by Bimmy Huebner of the Tucson Festival of Books, been involved with the festival,

I think, pretty much since the beginning, right? Yep, got involved on the volunteer committee the very first year. And you’re still doing it. It’s only been, what, two or three years now? I took a break for a while to care for parents, but I’m back. As a volunteer myself, I see the work that you put in, and I appreciate what you do to make it so special. On the 10 -year anniversary, we talked about the Festival of Books and had a little bit of an overview, but that was like five years ago. First of all, holy crap, this show, I’ve been doing forever, and second of all, the Festival of books. It just keeps growing and growing and every year you think it’s peaked and it continues to grow. What is the draw or the impact of this festival? Why is it so popular? Gosh, you know, for me, having a librarian mom and an elementary school principal dad, you know, it’s just about the importance of reading. I think that a lot of people in Tucson on and the people who come here understand the importance

of reading to society. Maybe I’m a little biased, but you know, you can’t do anything without reading. I read somewhere that an average middle -class child is likely to own 13 books at any given time while an average low -income neighborhood has one book for every 300 children. So this is just something that community needs and craves, I think. But I do think that gets lost somewhere in the picture that, you know, you have this festival and it’s about, it’s a celebration of all of these fabulous authors and writers. There’s hundreds of exhibitors, all these things that happen, but I don’t think people fully understand that that money that’s raised outside of what’s needed to operate the festival, that money goes back into exactly what you’re talking about, the Tucson area literacy programs. Right. And since 2009, I think we’ve given something like 2 .1 million dollars to local literacy programs. And also, I think a lot of the money that is raised for the just putting on the festival goes

to scholarships to bring in school kids. And we work with a lot of schools to bring kids in for the festival. And we have a lot of programs geared just for them. And so 2009, that was its first year and you were involved at the very beginning. So what, what drew you to this? I mean, back in 2009, was it this love of reading? Well, I mean, I was recruited by friends to be on the, on the volunteer committee. But yes, I mean, like I said, you know, in my home, when I was young, we, we had a set of encyclopedias and we had a room full of books and not everybody had that. And we were just taught the importance of reading. My dad sat me down when I was a child to teach me how to open a book the first time and open it correctly so that you didn’t ruin the spine. It was just a really important thing in my family to be able to read. And so, yes, I was very drawn to that. And do you remember what kind of, again, I know this has been a while, but do you remember what went through your mind when someone

mentioned they were going to be doing a festival of books? Did you understand what it was really going to be? You know, I don’t think, no, I had no idea what it was going to be that first year. I mean, I knew it was going to be a book festival. So for me, that was enough. But having run and managed a lot of community events, my mind was blown when I walked out to that festival the first year and just to see a sea of tents with all of these people in these tents that were as passionate about literacy as I was. And, you know, I had a friend one time who told me, a mentor, who told me that one of the best things, one of the best ways to tell what something is is to tell what it’s not. And that’s the best way I can describe the book festival. It’s not just some little book fair where you go and pick up a few books. It’s this amazing event with all these different aspects and it’s hard to encapsulate it in one sentence. It is and I do tours with people and a lot of times around this time we’re

we’re going on the U of A mall as they’re setting up and you can’t even describe it for me unless you’re there and experience this throng of people it’s hard to really describe how how impactful and how cherished this is. But you just said something there. You talked about you’d done a lot of other community events. What were you involved with? Are you still doing other things or is this something you did prior to the festival? Prior to the festival, yeah. I was chairman of Race for the Cure for several years and then on the board of Komen Foundation and then I was on the international board of my sorority where we planned lots of events for thousands of people. So yeah, I was just blown away. And how do you find time to do all this? Well I’m fortunate that I don’t, I don’t actually work for pay. I’m able to give of my time, so I’m fortunate in that way. Has it been that way since the beginning or have you over the years kind of transitioned into that? I’ve transitioned into that. I’m an

engineer by education and I worked for the Navy as an engineer for several years. I didn’t know that. So that’s where all this, okay, that’s where all this structure and organization comes from. It’s the, it’s the military and engineering. Okay. Now it’s all sort of, it’s all making sense now in the rigidity of how you, this is the plan. It’s not this or that. I have a structure and a plan. Nope. It’s not this or that. It’s this. Right. Anyway. And then you also mentioned, and this is something I’ve learned over the years, your sorority, because this has been impactful because you’ve reached out to your sorority over the years and they’ve pulled you into events and you’ve pulled them into events. That seems to be a really cohesive hub of connectivity for a lot of people. Right, right. Well, there are many people involved in this festival who are also PyFys, but both of my volunteer co -chairs and one of the founders of the festival and the two women who recruited me on the first volunteer

committee, all are involved. And now the local chapter is a $10 ,000 sponsor. So literacy is high beta phi’s cause. So it’s kind of a natural fit, I guess. Yeah. I did not realize that. My first thought was don’t join a sorority cause you’ll end up like volunteering like crazy. So don’t do that. Oh, it’s kind of funny because when I first came here I moved here in 1995, and LaDonna Aronoff, who is my co -chair on the festival, recruited me to be house corporation president for the local chapter. And then I recruited her to be volunteer co -chair for Komen, Race for the Cure. And then she recruited me to be an advisor for the chapter, and then I recruited her to be volunteer co -chair for the Buck Festival. So we’ve been playing tag for several years. Yeah. You owe me because I owe you, but you owe me and then I owe you. So, and I appreciate that it’s all good for the community. It’s, you know, your, your time, effort and energy and carrying, I think, you know, for a festival this large

that just comes out of the gate as powerful as it did having people like yourselves that had been involved with, you know, as a chair of a major fundraising effort, I think was, I don’t think I’m, I’m sure that was part of the success that they, you know, that the founders were able to grab a lot of people that had success in so many areas and create a really good sort of dream team to kick this off? Oh, the connections. The connections that the founders had definitely were the basis of the success of the very first festival. And, you know, it’s kind of been a ripple effect. Those connections have created more connections. It’s the whole, what is it, six degrees of separation. People just keep bringing more people in and they’re all just amazing, wonderful people to work with. We’re in the middle of our conversation with Bimmy Huebner. She is the Tucson Festival of Books volunteer co -chair, helping to organize the tremendous amount of volunteers that makes it happen. We’re gonna hear more

about how you could get involved and what that means here in Tucson in just a moment. But first, I want to remind you that you’re listening to Life Along the Streetcar on Downtown Radio 99 .1 FM and streaming on downtownradio .org.

Support for Downtown Radio is provided by the Tucson Gallery located in downtown Tucson inside of the proper shops at 300 East Congress Street. The Tucson Gallery offers original work, reproductions, and merchandise from Tucson artists like Joe Pacek, Jessica Gonzalez, Ignacio Garcia, and many more. For information about all of the artists, including when they will be live at the gallery, head to the TucsonGallery .com or find them on Instagram and on Facebook as Tucson Gallery. All right let’s finish up that interview with

Bimmy Huebner, volunteer co -chair for the Tucson Festival of Books. We’ve got kind of a little bit backstory of the festival and I wrapped up that first segment talking about connections and the people that have been brought in and how wonderful those individuals have made this festival, especially in the volunteer segment. And I wanna really kind of dive into what that means for the festival and for the community in the second half of this interview with Bimmy Huebner. One thing I really wanted to touch upon, because this festival is coming up in a couple of weeks. This is airing here on Sunday, the last Sunday in February. And then the second Saturday in March, the festival will be here. And you talked about six over the course of the years, about somewhere around 2 million, north of $2 million donated back to local nonprofits. And that in and of itself is amazing. But then when you factor in the fact, the the the component that the festival is completely free to the public all the events

all the author presentations you know everything is just open to the public so there’s no revenue generated there i know we have sponsors and exhibitors but i have to assume that the volunteers are what keep the the money flowing towards the the literacy and not towards the operations absolutely absolutely and we have we’re going to be filling it somewhere in the neighborhood of 2400 volunteer slots. Those, I think it adds up to somewhere near $9 ,000 worth of volunteer hours. If we look at Arizona current minimum wage, that ends up being about $125 ,000 value workforce. So I kind of look at it as a single crowdsourced in kind donation of time. Well, and I think if you add up, you know, 15 years at $125 ,000, you pretty much get right to about the $2 million mark. So I think that really is the difference that gets the money into the hands of these organizations in Tucson that focus on literacy. Right. I mean, I think if it, the festival wouldn’t, I mean, the festival wouldn’t happen without

the sponsors, obviously, and the festival would not happen without the volunteers because, you know, a workforce of, well, we have two full -time staff and one part -time staff year round, and that’s it. Well, and I know – Everything else is volunteers. With 2 ,400 shifts to fill in two weeks to go, I’m assuming that everything is full and you don’t need any more volunteers and we should just end the show right now? No, we’re close. We have just shy of a hundred slots that we’re still trying to fill through the website. Okay. And there actually are a couple of slots that are priorities for us. One is an operations troubleshooter. I know that’s near and dear to your heart. And so basically we’re looking for those people who have that knack for noticing things that need attention and great people skills and people who can remain calm in the face of pressure. So if there are people out there who can do this and stay mobile for an entire shift walking around, we’re looking for you. And how

long are the shifts? Oh gosh, I think they’re five hours. That sounds about right, four or five hours, yeah. Five hour shifts, yeah. So, and then also we have venue line management people who help get our people into all of our events. And we’re still looking for a few of those folks too. And surprise me, we have a job that is for that person who just says, that’s how you started. Right. Well, it just says, so that’s what I morphed into. Well, but you started as a volunteer. As I recall it, I could just say, Tom, we need you to do this now. And you’d go happily do it and show back up. And I’d send you to the next place. Well, this has to be my disclaimer to the general public because I have to put like a warning on this. Yes, I do support the festival. And I, I hope we can fill those slots, but be very careful because I literally just showed up 15 years ago for a shift on a Saturday morning and I haven’t left. No, you have not, and we’re very lucky for that. This does grab you and I think

the compelling piece of it is the festival and the impact, but also the people you get to work with. It really is a strong group of volunteers year over year and built friendships through this that I think are really rewarding in and of themselves. Absolutely. And I was, and the other piece of it, I was just talking to our new executive director, Wells Kaufman, and I, for me, this is, this is truly one of those Tucson jewels, Jim, whatever you want to call it. And for me, it doesn’t just belong to the people who put it on or the people who come, this belongs to the whole community. It belongs to all of us. This is something we could all be proud of. And I hope that at some point, everybody out there will actually come be a part of it somehow. Yeah, and it is definitely, and that’s why I got involved, honestly, the very first year I read about it in the paper. And I saw this call for volunteers. I thought, what a great event for Tucson to be hosting. And they talked about, you know, some

of the things they were trying to accomplish. And at the time I was heavily involved with financial literacy efforts. And I said, this is great. I don’t have the money to donate to a cause. at the time that, you know, that wasn’t something I could do, but I can spend some hours of my weekend to make that happen. I didn’t know it was gonna be my whole weekend, Bimmy, but, you know. And I do thank you for that, Tom. And I thank you for the last 15 years. I took the COVID years off, but, so how do people get more information about the festival, the volunteers, like what, I know there’s a website, you know, how do you recommend people approach this? Well, so absolutely. Go to the website Tucson Festival of Books .org. There’s a lot of different ways you can find out about the festival there. We have the author presentation schedule there. We have the list of exhibitors, the entertainers, the food vendors that are going to be there. What else is there? Just about everything you can imagine.

There’s just a mind -boggling amount of information. And there’s a button there for volunteer shifts? There is a button there for volunteer shifts. It will remain active for as long as we need volunteers. Our goal is to finish it the Monday before, to close everything the Monday before, if not before then. And if someone’s at the festival, they’re just enjoying themselves, do you take people that would come in and do like a walk -in or do they have to have gone through training or what? You know the answer to that, Tom. I’ll take anybody. It’s a softball question, baby. I’m trying to tee it up here. Come on, work with me. No, absolutely. Please, if you’re there and you want to learn more about volunteering, all you have to do is show up at Volunteer Headquarters, which is on the east patio of the University of Arizona Student Union. And we will sign you up as a walk -in volunteer, and that would put you into the pool as a Surprise Me volunteer, here, which is where you started, Tom. And

yeah, we’ll put you to work. I think most importantly, we talked about the impact of the community, the friendships that you can build the really the sense of just the enjoyment of making all of this happen for our community. But let’s really get down to it. Do they get a t shirt?

Yes, if they come and sign up as a volunteer, they will get a lovely t -shirt. This year it is sky blue and it has our fun coati critters on on it this year. Well if you want a critter t -shirt, you want to do something good for the community, I recommend you explore the Tucson Festival of Books either as a volunteer, maybe as a guest, a supporter, a sponsor. And let’s just keep rolling and make this another great year for the festival and support literacy in Tucson. You’re here. Bimmy, thanks for your time. I really appreciate it. I know you’re busy right now. Absolutely, and I appreciate the opportunity. Once again, that was Bimmy Huebner of the Tucson Festival of Books. She’s the volunteer co -chair. Talking about the history and impact of the festival and how it all comes together through lots of reasons. You know, sponsors, exhibitors, and volunteers. So some of us who can’t afford to write the big checks, we can spend a little bit of time there and support the community effort. My

name is Tom Heath. You’re listening to Life Along the Streetcar and Downtown Radio, 99 .1 FM, and we’re streaming on downtownradio .org. You’re listening to KTDT Tucson, Arizona, 99 .1 FM, Downtown Radio. I’m Brother Mark, host of a show called Radio Club Crawl that airs every Tuesday at 3 p .m. We try to focus on most of the bands that are coming through Tucson And we give you a tasty taste of their music. You want to check out what’s happening around Tucson? Check out radio club crawl Tuesdays 3 p .m. Right here on KTDT Tucson, Arizona 99 .1 FM downtown radio. Thank you very much Enjoy your evening. Bye. Bye Wrapping up here episode 3. I’m sorry 285 getting ahead of myself there an episode 285 at the end of February 2024 24. Yeah, time is flying, huh? But don’t go anywhere, though, because we’ve got Ted Przelski with words and work coming up in just a couple of minutes. And then at the top of the hour, Heavy Mental with Ty Logan at noon. If you don’t know him or his show, you can find

out more on our website, lifelongwithstreetcar .org. Put his name in the search bar, Ty Logan, Heavy Mental. We did a two -part episode with him, just an amazing man doing wonderful things in our community. He’s very open and candid about his struggles and his hurdles and how he’s using some of those challenges that he’s been working through to help others in our community, especially on the youth end of the spectrum. And that’s at noon today. It goes for about an hour and then at one o ‘clock we get back into the music with Speakerboxx, which has opened up my eyes a lot more to the world of hip -hop locally and beyond. And And our DJ, V -Riv, is just fabulously in tune with that scene and sharing a lot of insight into the music, as all of our DJs do with their shows. And you can find out more on downtownradio .org about the lineup of the various shows that we have to offer. Monday through Friday, typically, is like a rock mix. Sundays, we have the talk shows and the more alternative music,

like V -Riv’s show here at 1 o ‘clock, Speakerboxx. and you can’t you can’t wrap up Sunday without a little bit of a little bit of the Olmec underground and a music they’re just really good shows put together by people that love that genre and again not just the music but their insight into the music and the artists yeah hard to beat it downtownradio .org if you’re not able to get it on the terrestrial 99 .1 you can stream it from our website. And while you’re over there, I always like to remind you to hit that donate button. We’re a volunteer organization, no paid staff. Everyone, our board, our technicians, our DJs, our show hosts, our janitors who are our DJs and show hosts, some of them anyway. They all do it for love. And I wanna promote this within Tucson. And you know, this experiment’s working in eight plus years on the air. So supportdowntownradio .org. You’re supporting local music as well as the local music scene. It’s not all local music played But it definitely has an influence

and impact on that local music and if you want to be an underwriter All the information’s on the website. Hey, you’re listening to lifelong streetcar So do you want to know more about what’s happening in the Tucson area from a mountain to the University of Arizona? well, then Tune in and talk speak up tell us what are things that we should be covering that you are aware of that we’re not we uncover hidden gems and they’re hidden because we don’t know about them so to uncover them you gotta tell us and then we’ll get out there and do a little research and have some fun with them and if you want to point something out tag us in Facebook or Instagram we’d be excited to get those those mentions there and you could also go over to our website I mentioned earlier and there’s a button to contact us or the email is contact at lifelongstreetcar .org. The show does not happen on its own. My name is Tom Heath. I am your host and producer and James Portis is the gentleman in the background that really

makes things click here and gets this out into the world as our production specialist. We use the music from Ryan Hood at the beginning of every show. We’ve done so show one. It’s called Dillinger Days. We’re very thankful for that and we’re thankful for all the guests that spend time. We’re up to 285 episodes, well over 250 individual interviews, and those that in our community making things happen, that take time, are just fabulous. In honor of our fabulous guest today, Bimmy Huebner from the Tucson Festival of Books, we’re gonna leave you with a themed song. It’s gonna come all the way from the UK with the senior choir of the Newington Community Primary School. It’s from the 2019 World Book Day, and the song is The Reading Song. I hope you have a great week, and tune in next Sunday for more life along the streetcar.