Hot Time at a Cool Fest:
Reclamation Helps Celebrate America’s and Arizona’s Heritage
Touted as Arizona’s “coolest independence festival”, the third annual Southwest Ambulance Celebration of Freedom was held on the evenings of June 29 and 30 in downtown Mesa, Ariz.
Arizona is celebrating its 100 years of statehood this year, and the Celebration of Freedom (estimated to have drawn up to 60,000 participants) is one of many ‘Official Centennial Events’ that are taking place throughout the state. According to the Arizona Centennial 2012 Foundation, these events “have a focus on education and community-building, and range from culinary celebrations to down-home rodeos.”
The crowds enjoyed a carnival atmosphere and numerous activities and attractions, including showcases of motorcycles and classic cars, live music, games, and family fun areas. Also featured were patriotic displays, a Fallen Heroes Memorial, and the World's Largest LEGO American Flag. ‘Heritage Lane’ included inflatable replicas of the Capitol, White House, and Washington Monument highlighted by costumed American founders, family history research booths, and more. The event featured more than a dozen ‘zones’ for exploration, including a variety of sponsor, vendor and community booths.
As part of the festivities, Bureau of Reclamation public affairs specialists Patricia Cox and Colleen Dwyer hosted an exhibit highlighting Reclamation's official Centennial Legacy Project: web pages documenting a "Century of Cooperation" between the state of Arizona and Reclamation. Braving record temperatures and an "excessive heat warning," the staff distributed brochures that showcased Reclamation’s notable water and power projects throughout the state, and maps and booklets offering information on recreational opportunities at sites like Hoover Dam, Lake Mead, and Salt River Project lakes in central Arizona. Especially popular with participants (young and old) were the Otto Otter Canal Safety coloring books, postcards of historic project photos, and small tote bags underscoring Reclamation’s cultural resource protection role within the state.
During their visits to the booth, several individuals shared their experiences growing up in Arizona, and remarked on how much the Phoenix valley has changed, due much in part to Reclamation's projects. One third-generation Phoenician even recognized one of the settings in the historical postcards from photos in his grandfather’s scrapbook, and reflected on the roles his family has had in the state’s evolving ‘water world’. Dwyer and Cox enjoyed watching the public point to various features illustrated on the exhibit and exclaim, "I've been there!" and listening to the stories they told of experiences at the various recreational sites.
“It was wonderful to talk with these residents and learn how much they value water (on such especially hot days!), and hear of their appreciation for the massive Reclamation projects that make their lives in this desert environment tolerable,” remarked Dwyer. “Also, prominent examples of the necessity of this valued resource were the many “cool zones” of misting fans and splash pads that were featured along the event venue where crowds of adults and children constantly gathered to escape the heat.”
The climax of the event was a “Salute to America” fireworks extravaganza that lit the night sky for nearly a half hour.
"It was worth putting up with the hot weather to be able to answer questions about our projects and direct people to our Legacy Project web pages. When you put our activities in the context of the Centennial celebration, it's really amazing to see what an impact Reclamation has had throughout the entire state," Cox said.
Patricia Cox, Photographer
(Click on thumbnail image to see full-size photo)
July 12, 2012
Joseph J. Billerbeck - firstname.lastname@example.org