A cowboy lassoed a bale of hay, flamenco dancers clapped castanets and a Navajo sounded his drum on Monday, Arizona’s 99th birthday, as Gov. Jan Brewer kicked off the countdown to the state’s centennial.
“I encourage all of Arizonans to participate to help increase tourism, generate economic activity and bring positive attention to Arizona,” Brewer said at a news conference outside the State Capitol.
John Huppenthal, Arizona’s superintendent of public instruction, kicked off the CENTennial project, a 48-day penny drive that has grade school students raising money to polish the Capitol’s copper dome for the first time in nearly two decades.
“[The students’] dedication and enthusiasm for this historic undertaking will mean the dome can proudly serve as the centerpiece for Arizona’s 100th birthday one year from today,” he said.
The event, sponsored by the Arizona Centennial Commission, included an exposition that featured organizations, societies and groups from around the state that will participate in the centennial celebrations.
Arizona historian Marshall Trimble sang songs about cowboys, whiskey and Arizona’s “lassies” and shared stories about the state’s Old West days.
“As we count down to the centennial, our 100th birthday, it’s important to remember that Arizona lives by its myths and legends,” said Trimble, strumming his acoustic guitar.
Hundreds attended attended the event, including Lois Potts, a retired schoolteacher who lives in Scottsdale. She said the bad economy is one reason why Arizona should celebrate the centennial.
“We all need that joy and that experience of celebrating something that’s important to all of us,” Potts said. “I think it’s something that brings us all together.”
Mick Woodcock, curator of the Sharlot Hall Museum in Prescott, said the centennial shouldn’t be about spending money but about commemorating Arizona’s past and celebrating its future.
“Arizonans need to be proud of their heritage,” said Woodcock, wearing 1800s garb. “You could throw a lot of money at this or a little; it’s what people make of it that makes the centennial.”
Maryfrances Krumwiede, the CENTennial project manager, said she is proud to see the Arizona children excited to be involved in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“It’s not about government dollars,” Krumwiede said. “It’s about the kids owning it. This is their building.”
Lisa Heidinger, one of the four authors of “An Arizona Century,” a book commissioned by the Arizona Centennial Commission, said she thinks not having money for an elaborate celebration will actually force Arizonans to celebrate what’s important: the state’s history and its people.
“We don’t get to buy our centennial the way some states did, but it’s free to have a party; it’s almost free to make a cake,” Heidinger said. “We really want every single person in this state to celebrate that day because it only happens once.”