Arizona celebration marks state’s 100th birthday

Arizona's first governor, George W.P. Hunt (left) helps launch the battleship USS Arizona in 1915. Image courtesy Wikipedia Commons.

Arizona’s first governor, George W.P. Hunt (left) helps launch the battleship USS Arizona in 1915. Image courtesy Wikipedia Commons.

PHOENIX (AP) – Arizona proudly celebrated its centennial Tuesday with story-telling and pageantry amid recollections of the state’s long independent streak.

“Happy birthday Arizona,” Gov. Jan Brewer shouted from a stage in front of the domed Old Capitol at the start of festivities.

Arizona shed its five-decade status as a U.S. territory when it became the 48th state and the last in the contiguous 48 states on Feb. 14, 1912.

The U.S. Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp to mark the anniversary of statehood. Based on a painting by Arizona artist Ed Mell, it depicts Cathedral Rock, one of Sedona’s red rock formations.

State Historian Marshall Trimble recalled that President William Howard Taft signed the statehood legislation only after Arizona removed a constitutional provision to allow recall of judges.

“See, they started it,” Trimble said, pointing a finger toward the crowd in an obvious imitation of Brewer during her recent airport tarmac encounter with President Barack Obama.

Trimble noted that Arizona restored the recall provision once it became a state.

“That’s how we do things here in Arizona,” said Trimble, who was followed to the stage by a Mexican folk dance troop.

Inside the Senate building, a performance by noted violinist Itzhak Perlman and a Mesa school group opened the legislative chamber’s session.

Earlier, Janet Jackson Park of Mesa said “it was an absolute honor” to carry a faded 48-star flag from statehood day.

She and her husband, Jeff Park, were among dozens of people who re-enacted a statehood-day walk by Arizona’s first state governor from Phoenix’s city hall to the Capitol.

“I love the people. I love the environment. I love the desert,” said Jackson Park, who said her parents brought her to Arizona from Colorado as an infant.

“There’s all kinds of things to do. I can’t say I’ve ever done anything where people weren’t accommodating (and) friendly,” she said during an interview. “It’s a great place to live.”

Statehood meant Arizona went from “being ruled to governing ourselves,” said Don Shields, an Arizona Capitol Museum volunteer who plays the character of the state’s first governor, George W.P. Hunt.

“I think George would be proud of the fact that the state is so independent,” Shields, who was in period garb, said during an interview after his talk to the crowd.

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AP-WF-02-14-12 2110GMT