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Some communities make Arizona’s centennial a year-long event

Author Cathy Hufault speaks about “climate” in the Centennial Speaker Series focusing on Arizona’s “Five Cs.” (Cronkite News Service Photo by Ivy Morris)

NOGALES – Twenty-five people watch as author Cathy Hufault projects black-and-white pictures of six Boy Scouts onto a screen at the Pimeria Alta Historical Society.

These boys set out on an 80 degree day in November 1958 to climb Mount Wrightson, tallest of the mountains around Tucson. The group included one boy determined to celebrate his birthday at the summit, she explains.

The next photos show bundled-up cowboys on horses, ready to search for the three scouts who didn’t turn around before a sudden storm dropped 7 feet of snow. Searchers found their bodies 19 days later, and the enormity of the challenge led to the formation of the Southern Arizona Rescue Association.

It isn’t the happiest fare, but to Teresa Leal, the historical society’s curator, the book Hufault wrote about tragedy was the perfect “climate” topic for a Centennial Speaker Series focusing on Arizona’s “Five Cs.”

“We had to deliver something that’s popular, something that’s identifiable with people,” Leal said. “It can create an educational component for people who are new or old.”

For many, Arizona’s centennial was over Feb. 14, but Nogales and other communities around the state are using the opportunity to teach Arizona’s history and ponder its future throughout 2012.

The goals vary, but Julie Yoder, chairwoman of the Arizona Historical Advisory Commission’s Centennial Programs Committee, said most efforts recognize the importance of remembering the past.

“We really want to get communities involved, to understand a little more about their history and where they live and how what they’re doing relates to the history of the state and to other people,” she said.

For Springerville and Eagar, the centennial advances a celebration the communities have had every Fourth of July for 100 years: the Apache County Sheriff’s Posse Rodeo. Its centennial, along with Arizona’s, will turn the normally two-day event into a weeklong occasion.

“We have a lot of history here, and we don’t want to forget that,” said Becki Christensen, director of the Springerville-Eagar Chamber of Commerce. “Different things have happened that are very dear to the hearts of the people, and it’s important to celebrate our history. People in Arizona tend to be independent thinkers, and we’re proud of who we are and what we have.”

Springerville and Eagar also combined to make the Round Valley Arizona Centennial newspaper, 32 pages of decades-old stories highlighting Apache County’s achievements as well as founding families, ranchers and gangsters from the Old West.

The Prescott Victorian Society went beyond 100 years with the Prescott Territorial Governors Statehood Ball in March. Current leaders, including Secretary of State Ken Bennett and Prescott Mayor Marlin Kuykendall, dressed as governors who served before Arizona was a state.

“We try to bring a rich history to life,” said Bonnie Russell, president of the Prescott Victorian Society. “We want to involve the community and teach them something in a fun and positive way.”

That’s exactly what the Arizona Historical Advisory Commission’s Centennial Programs Committee hoped communities would do, Yoder said. Plans that followed specific guidelines, including producing “an enduring product that will live on after 2012,” are designated Official Legacy Projects.

“Our goal is to not just celebrate 100 years that have passed but to build a foundation for the next 100 years,” she said.

Leal, with the historical society in Nogales, hopes that the next centennial includes collaboration among communities to share ideas.

“This manifestation of being people and communities and neighbors has been around for a long time,” she said. “Working together, doing things together, will eventually be that tapestry of history that we all need.”

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