In 1982 the Tucson Festival Society became the official sponsor of the Tucson Mariachi Conference. It was not hard to convince influential Mexican American entrepreneurs that a mariachi conference would be a good thing for Tucson, especially its Mexican American community. Many influential Mexican Americans as well as non-Hispanics got involved.
The Tucson Festival Society then decided that it should take the Conference to what it considered to be the best of the Hispanic philanthropies in town, La Frontera. La Frontera set in motion a massive mobilization of volunteers and resources to make the first conference happen, a task nothing less than remarkable. The concert was a sold-out event with about 9,000 in attendance. Although the success of the first Tucson International Mariachi Conference was modest at best, it prepared the ground for the founding of what would become a source of great pride in Southern Arizona.
Another important development in the history of the Tucson International Mariachi Conference was securing the contribution of Tucson’s distinguished, homegrown artist, Linda Ronstadt. She also was instrumental in introducing folklórico dancing into the Conference program. Without dancing, Ronstadt insisted, the music “then becomes this rigid, sterile form.”