Tight budgets crimp Arizona centennial plans
CHANDLER – It's closing in on 100 years since veterinarian A.J. Chandler sold plots of his 18,000-acre ranch to establish this city. That was three months after Arizona became a state on Feb. 14, 1912.
City leaders are organizing to commemorate both centennials next year. But given the poor economy and tight budget, it's going to require scaling back some and seeking private donations, said Jean Reynolds, Chandler's public history coordinator.
"While the city doesn't have a lot of extra money to spend on things that are not high priority … I think that it's still worthwhile to celebrate the centennial because the centennial is a way to promote community pride and to help people create roots in the community," she said.
On Monday, the 99th anniversary of Arizona's statehood, Gov. Jan Brewer will urge Arizonans to use the next 12 months to celebrate the centennial. But like Chandler, many communities will do so with fewer resources than leaders originally anticipated.
The state initially allotted $5 million to provide grants for communities' centennial events but later swept the money to help address the budget deficit. Even the Arizona Centennial Commission is relying on private donations, sponsors and volunteers.
Mandi Wimmer, the commission's associate director, said Arizonans are looking for something to celebrate for reasons including the tough economy, recent controversy over immigration and last month's tragedy in Tucson.
"The centennial could not come at a better time," she said.
In Chandler, organizers have developed a centennial logo and tasked a committee with raising private money for a celebration. They're still developing plans, which may include opening a time capsule buried as part of the city's 50th anniversary celebration.
One thing that won't happen due to the budget – at least by next year – is completion of a museum for which voters have approved bonds. But the most important goal is just honoring the centennials, Reynolds said.
"It's something that only comes around once in a lifetime, and it's a point of pride in the city," she said.
The Casa Grande Arts & Humanities Commission's plans for a centennial celebration have been put on hold for now, City Clerk Gloria Leija said.
"Unfortunately, we do not have the funding right now to go ahead with the plans that we had laid out," she said, adding that it's unlikely the city will find the money.
In Flagstaff, there has been no discussion yet about the centennial or funding a celebration, City Clerk Margie Brown said.
"Our budgets are so dismal it makes it hard to tell people you are spending money on other things that aren't typically already in the budget," she said.
However, Brown said she expects the state to offer ways for residents to commemorate the centennial.
Among other plans, the Arizona Centennial Commission, which Brewer established, is putting on a penny drive that encourages students to raise money to polish the copper dome atop the old Arizona State Capitol building in Phoenix. It will include a program to teach children about Arizona's first 100 years, Wimmer said.
Other events in the works include a "Best Fest" in Prescott, Tucson and Phoenix to highlight Arizona's wineries, microbreweries, restaurants, foods and merchandise and promote the "Local First Arizona" effort. Each city will host the festival at a different period during the year, culminating with one in Phoenix timed with the state's centennial.
Many of the commission's plans hinge on the amount of money it's able to raise over the next year, Wimmer said. She's optimistic, though.
"I think this is something people can rally behind, and this is something that is nonpartisan," Wimmer said. "Everyone is excited for Arizona to turn 100, and it's something for people to really look forward to."