Peoria to Launch City's Centennial Celebration

Posted on by az100

Sonu Munshi/Arizona Republic (Mar. 9, 2011 @ 8:59 am)

Peoria will kick off the first of four Arizona Centennial celebrations Saturday with Bravo Peoria! Celebrating 100! City officials estimate 5,000 visitors may attend to reflect on a century of statehood. Arizona became the 48th state on Feb. 14, 1912.

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Bravo Peoria! attendees at events inside and outdoors at Sunrise Mountain Library can pan for gold, watch blacksmithing and listen to the state’s official historian regale crowds with nuggets of Peoria’s history. A new public-art sculpture, “Be Water,” will be unveiled at the library that day.

City leaders said a tight economy should not take away from marking the occasion.

“You only turn 100 once,” Mayor Bob Barrett said. “In addition to celebrating the centennial, it’s a way for the community to celebrate its own existence.”

Two of the city’s festivities are annual events given a centennial twist, Bravo Peoria! and July 4.

Two others are planned specifically for the occasion. Arizona on the Move will be geared toward transportation in the Grand Canyon State, while Arizona Centennial Celebration will feature an old-time baseball game in throwback jerseys and the dedication of a new city plaza. The Arizona Centennial Commission sanctioned all four events, which means they will get added publicity from the commission.

Mandi Wimmer, deputy director of the Arizona Centennial Commission, said cities and towns statewide are showing a “great level of participation” and more events are being sanctioned as the day comes closer. She said having local interest is “vital” to show that Arizonans care about “this extraordinary milestone.”

Councilwoman Joan Evans, an Arizona resident since she was 11 and chairwoman of the city’s Arizona Centennial Committee, said she wanted to mark the anniversary.

“It’s part of who I am,” Evans said.

The councilwoman said she is especially looking forward to dedicating the Centennial Plaza and Decades Walk, a $3.5 million project that should be completed next fall at the City Hall complex.

City officials planned the plaza, and had bond borrowing wrapped up, before the economy tanked.

“We now have a special area which will be with us for generations to come to learn our history and to celebrate who we are as a city and as a state,” Evans said.

The Decades Walk is planned as an educational walkway within the 3.4-acre plaza, with historical information on etched stones, pavers or bronze plaques.

The city’s popular Fourth of July All-American Festival at Peoria Sports Complex will have a centennial zone with related activities. Representatives from Peoria Historical Society will be on hand and festival-goers will find centennial merchandise from rodeo tees to handbags.

Evans sees value beyond celebrating a community and a state.

“It’s a good economic tool because it brings people here to see what Peoria has to offer,” Evans said. Peoria officials said they are taking care to celebrate within the city’s budget. The banners, for instance, being made for Bravo Peoria! will have language so that they can be used for the other three events, too.

The city also curbed costs by rolling two celebrations into existing, budgeted events, said Kevin Naughton, Peoria’s special-events supervisor.

Staff will ask City Council to approve nearly $50,000 in additional funds in the next fiscal year budget for the two new events. The city hopes to offset part of the costs with sponsorships.

Peoria resident Arthur Othon, a member of the Peoria centennial committee, said he would like future generations to appreciate Arizona’s past as far back as the Hohokam ruins and the significance of the canals the long-ago culture left behind.

“It’s a historic perspective that you can pass on to your kids,” said Othon, a fourth-generation Phoenician whose Peoria relatives were farmworkers.

State historian Marshall Trimble said the centennial is the 100-year anniversary of the day Arizonans could vote for president.

Trimble, who will share stories about the city at Bravo Peoria!, said he generally likes to tell tales about towns, their colorful characters and if lucky, any stupid outlaws.

Trimble said it has been hard to see Arizona struggle to put together a grand celebration in light of budget cuts, but he said the occasion is worth honoring, if nothing else, to draw more tourists.

“Every town has a story to tell,” Trimble said.

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