State centennial organizers scrambling to fund bulk of budget before celebration

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Posted: Friday, September 9, 2011 1:15 am | Updated: 5:11 pm, Mon Sep 12, 2011.

State centennial organizers scrambling to fund bulk of budget before celebration By ELVINA NAWAGUNA-CLEMENTE Cronkite News Service

PHOENIX – With just five months left until the state’s 100th birthday, organizers have no idea where 75 percent of their budget will come from but remain hopeful that private donors will cover the gap.

Planning for the celebration began with the state promising $4 million to the Arizona Centennial Commission and another $4 million to local governments, provided that organizers raised an equal amount from private sources.

Then the economy took a nosedive and the Legislature swept the state’s commitment to cover the budget deficit.

“It’s been very challenging to raise money in this economy,” said Karen Churchard, executive director of the Arizona Centennial 2012 Foundation, the commission’s fundraising arm.

The commission, which had raised $5 million of its $22.5 million budget by the end of August, has had to get creative to pay for the yearlong festivities and sustain legacy projects, such as a planned Arizona Experience Museum, that are to remain.

“There are some people who say we shouldn’t be spending money on events and projects at this time, but this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and we really want our corporations, individuals and leaders to step up and participate,” Churchard said.

The organizers may have to scale back some centennial events if the money doesn’t come in, she said.

Individuals, foundations and more than 75 and companies including the Arizona Diamondbacks, Shamrock Farms and Arizona Public Service have accounted for the $5 million raised to date.

Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc., the first corporate donor, sponsored a penny drive in which elementary and middle school students raised $30,000 to polish the State Capitol’s copper dome.

The company also put $1 million toward the Arizona Experience Museum, which is expected to cost $15.7 million. Celebrating Arizona’s history, culture and industries, including mining, it will replace the Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum near the Capitol.

“One of our objectives is to ensure that the [museum] will continue the legacy of the Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum, providing high quality education on the significance of mining in Arizona’s history and the importance it continues to have on this great state,” said Eric Kinneberg, Freeport-McMoran’s director of external communications.

Advertising companies including Clear Channel Outdoor, CBS Outdoor and American Outdoor Advertising have donated about 60 centennial billboards across the state.

Churchard said there are still many corporations to reach out to statewide and added that the commission hopes to raise another $1.5 million by selling merchandise such as cups and shirts. Other fundraising plans include gala dubbed the Fandango Arizona on Feb 14. Individuals can participate by buying tickets for $250 and corporations can buy tables ranging from $5,000 to $100,000.

In the meantime, anyone wishing to donate can do so directly to the commission. They also can purchase $5 raffle tickets to win the Copper Chopper, a copper-plated motorcycle making its way around the state. The commission will sell specialty license plates starting next month.

The commission has planned more than 20 signature projects and events including the museum, a tree-planting project and the Arizona Best Fest, a series of family oriented festivals featuring Arizona artists, musicians, food and storytelling to be held in the state’s three territorial capitals of Prescott, Tucson and Phoenix.

Churchard said the Best Fest would be the first to experience cuts.

“We’re on a tight budget, our state’s on a tight budget, every city’s on a tight budget,” she said.

Still, communities across the state are finding ways to celebrate locally. So far the Centennial Commission has sanctioned more than 130 community events statewide.

Don Prince, Prescott’s director of tourism, said it’s important for his city to carry on with celebrations even without external funding.

“We are just trying to raise what we can and do what we can with what we get,” he said.

He said Prescott is working on a variety of fundraising projects including selling centennial-branded merchandise. Individuals and families can also pay for personalized bricks that will pave a centennial circle at City Hall.

Gilbert is counting on volunteers to put together events including the Gilbert History Awards in November to recognize people who have made a difference in such areas as education, military and religion.

“For any of those programs we have to have volunteers; nothing happens without volunteers,” said Kayla Kolar, a member of Gilbert Arizona Centennial Committee.

Churchard said it’s important for all cities, counties and American Indian tribes to participate in the centennial celebrations, and she commended those already doing so.

“This is just a date, a moment in time, but it’s really a reflection of the past, the present and the future, and it would be unfortunate if we did not celebrate that,” Churchard said.

Elvina Nawaguna-Clemente is a reporter for Cronkite News Service

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