The Grand Canyon State turns 100 years old on February 14, 2012, and the celebration has already begun. Centennial projects are underway in a number of communities and cities across the state.
For instance, Washington Street in Phoenix, a main downtown thoroughfare, is receiving signage and plaques that will designate it as Centennial Way. Composers from Arizona State University have written two works in celebration of Arizona, available for use by school and community bands and choirs.
And in public and private schools around the state, children have collected pennies for donation to a fund to refurbish the copper dome of the State Capitol building.
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer launched a Countdown to the Centennial on February 14, 2011, with a celebration on the Capitol grounds. It was announced that $7 million had already been pledged toward a campaign to raise $30 million for Centennial events and projects. Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold has contributed $1 million; Bashas' grocery stores and The Arizona Republic are also partners in the fund-raising. Organized by the Arizona Centennial Commission and its non-profit Arizona Centennial 2012 Foundation, in collaboration with the Arizona Historical Advisory Commission, the Centennial celebration has stated its vision: to "inspire all Arizonans to appreciate our state's rich past, celebrate the present, and, together, create a vibrant and sustainable future."
In a document called The Centennial Plan the organizers said the 100-year milestone deserves special honor, even in rough economic times, because "it is precisely in times of struggle that bringing people together to support a common cause can be most meaningful.
We need a point of pride we can come together and rally around, and the Centennial gives us that opportunity." In fact, the organizers hope that all 22 Native American tribes, 15 counties and 120 cities and towns in Arizona will have at least one Centennial-related project or event, with festivities continuing through December 2012.
The Centennial Commission has launched a number of signature projects that are funded by its foundation or through sponsorship from individuals and corporations. A major undertaking is the makeover on Washington Street, turning it into a "promenade" starting at the Maricopa County Courthouse and Phoenix City Hall and extending to the Capitol. Another signature project is the Arizona Experience Museum, celebrating the state's Five C's -- copper, climate, citrus, cattle and cotton -- going in at the Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum and scheduled to open by the end of 2012. The CENTennial Penny Drive at more than 100 Arizona K-8 schools ended April 15, 2011, and was expected to raise enough money to clean, polish and reseal the Arizona Capitol Museum Dome. Other signature projects include: fund-raising to refurbish the USS Arizona Anchor at Wesley Bolin Park near the Capitol; placement of 100 new historical markers around the state; and a tree-planting initiative in Pioneer & Military Memorial Park and other areas.
There are also "signature events," such as the statewide tour of the Centennial Copper Chopper, a gleaming motorcycle making its way to festivals and sporting events. A historic Union Pacific steam locomotive will tour southern Arizona and Phoenix in November 2011. Three cities -- Prescott, Tucson and Phoenix -- are scheduled to host a "Best Fest" to celebrate the best of Arizona in native culture, food, music, art and more. Coming February 10-11, 2012, is a Centennial tribute concert featuring the Mormon Tabernacle Choir at US Airways Center in Phoenix.
Most events will occur from September 2011 to February 2012, the commission says. On Arizona's actual Statehood Day, February 14, the commission is hoping that communities, schools and libraries will stage "birthday parties," complete with fireworks, bell-ringing and a generally festive atmosphere. Other projects and promotions for the Centennial are either underway or in planning. There will be celebrations for the many Arizonans through the years that have contributed culturally, politically and in other ways to the vibrancy of the state. Historians and scholars are busy with plans for Centennial-related books, films, television programs, concerts, walking tours, park and historic building improvements, new digital databases on Arizona history, and museum exhibits. These are called legacy projects and number at least 65. Keep abreast of Centennial celebrations and projects by visiting the Arizona Centennial official website, where you will see a continuously updated calendar of events along with ideas on how you can participate in the project.
All dates, times, prices and offerings are subject to change without notice.