PHOENIX — A state’s 100th birthday only happens once, and the current budget crisis shouldn’t stop Arizona from ringing it in right, Gov. Jan Brewer said Wednesday.
“As we approach the centennial, some people say, ‘How can you celebrate the centennial during our state’s fiscal uncertainty?’” Brewer said at a summit of municipal and county leaders. “I say to the skeptics, this time of economic uncertainty is the time to celebrate what is certain — the strength, pride and diversity of the people of Arizona.”
One proposed project would have Arizona literally pinching pennies. The Arizona Centennial Commission hopes penny drives at schools statewide could cover the cost of cleaning and polishing the tarnished copper dome atop the state Capitol while teaching kids about civic engagement.
The state originally allotted $5 million for such centennial activities, but the entire fund was swept last legislative session to help close the budget deficit.
Sans state funding, historical and cultural projects, such as refurbishing historical markers and transforming the Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum into an Arizona Centennial Museum, will rely on private donations, sponsors and volunteers.
At last count, local governments, organizations and individuals were planning 63 Legacy Projects in honor of the centennial, including historical renovations, digital databases, musical compositions, monuments, documentaries and books.
Sierra Vista, for example, is rebuilding a park band shell and will christen it the Sierra Vista Centennial Pavilion, City Councilman Tom Reardon said, adding that the community also plans to take part in some of the statewide festivities.
“I’m seeing lots of opportunities here for cities and towns to get involved that I wasn’t aware of,” Reardon said as he flipped through the latest list of approved and designated projects, which included ideas for planting trees and encouraging charity work.
The centennial isn’t all about community service, though.
Sherry Henry, director of the Arizona Office of Tourism, anticipates a boost to tourism all around the state in 2012.
“Arizona has the best product in the world, so people come here anyway, but when you add big events, that’s just another reason to draw more people, have them stay longer or travel throughout the state instead of just one destination,” she said.
City Councilman Lerry Alderman of Globe hopes the centennial will do precisely that.
“We want to be a destination instead of a pass-through place,” Alderman said. “Most people just stay on (U.S. Highway 60) and go through, but we have such a wonderful historic downtown.”
Globe has a number of centennial events and projects in the works, although it, like other Arizona cities and towns, doesn’t anticipate any funding from the state.
“That’s where we’ve gotta be innovative,” Alderman said. “And volunteerism — one thing about our community is we just look at each other as family so whenever someone is in distress or whatever, we all come together and help out.”