This February Arizona celebrates turning 100 and people all over the state are gearing up to pay tribute.
“Communities small and large are celebrating because this is something that people have looked forward to and been planning for years,” said Roger Myers, Associate Librarian and Archivist at the University of Arizona. “Now comes the time to enjoy it.”
Myers and his colleagues put together the exhibit Becoming Arizona: The Valentine State in the university’s special collections section to share primary documents dealing with Arizona’s journey to statehood.
It was indeed quite the journey.
The United States first acquired the Arizona Territory after a war with Mexico in 1848, as a result, Mexico had to give away large chunks of land. Mexico lost much of the land that is now Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California.
“From 1865 until 1912 when we finally got statehood, Arizona was kind of on a treadmill. They kept petitioning to become a state, but did not have enough momentum in Washington D.C. to get it through,” Myers said.
The people petitioning for statehood were mostly new settlers that had traveled over for the gold rush and the silver discovery in Tombstone, Myers said. Eventually, the first state house was built in Phoenix to prove to congress that Arizona was prepared and ready to join the union.
After many years and many legislative assemblies, a bill authorizing statehood was signed on Feb. 14, 1912 and so Arizona became the valentine state.
David Slutes, entertainment director of Hotel Congress and member of the Arizona Centennial in Tucson committee, said that with recent controversy and some negative talk, it’s important now to celebrate the great things Arizona has accomplished.
“It’s a time to just celebrate and be neighbors and to talk to one another as one people,” he said. His committee planned a whole weekend of events in Tucson for the centennial.
The University of Arizona is sponsoring another event in honor of this year’s centennial called Arizona 100: A Celebration through the Lens of Time.
Four colleges are working together to put on this show including the college of humanities, social and behavioral sciences, fine arts and science, said Jory Hancock, dean of the college of fine arts and main organizer of the production.
“Every speaker and performance element comes from the approach of looking at the future by looking back at the past,” he said.
Hancock said this event is unique because there is a full orchestra, choir, dance ensemble, many films and photographs and speakers from all four colleges.
Mayor Jonathan Rothschild will open the show, scheduled for February 11 from 3-5 p.m. in Centennial Hall, with a reception to follow. Admission is free, but the box office asks that partrons call to reserve tickets so they are aware of the number of people attending.
For a full list of events statewide visit www.az100years.org.