By Joanna Dodder Nellans
Perhaps no one in the huge crowd at the unveiling of Arizona\’s centennial stamp design Friday was more excited about the artwork than Yavapai County Supervisor Chip Davis.He was standing with other dignitaries on the Yavapai County Courthouse steps when the stamp design was unveiled to reveal a stylized image of Cathedral Rock in Sedona\’s Red Rock Country, part of his county supervisor district.\”Wow! That\’s cool!\” Davis said just after the ceremony. \”I think it\’s a great honor. I\’ll be bragging about it all week!\”Davis\’ representative on the county\’s Centennial Committee, Bill Cowan, also was excited.\”With Yavapai County being the \’Mother of Arizona counties,\’ I think it\’s only appropriate that the stamp be here,\” Cowan said. Yavapai was one of only four original counties in Arizona; five others were later carved out of it.Stamp artist Ed Mell also has a Yavapai County connection. A native of Phoenix, he has fond memories of staying at his grandparents\’ cabin in Prescott as a child every summer. He now owns that cabin and built a second home next to it.Mell told the crowd at the unveiling that he collected stamps as a child, too.\”I used to buy my stamps at the post office over here as a little kid,\” Mell said.Earlier in the day, Mell explained that he chose Cathedral Rock because it is an \”iconic image\” of Arizona, and it had not been featured on previous stamps, like the Grand Canyon and saguaro had.\”It\’s got a very unique form to it, and I thought that was very important,\” Mell said.Secretary of State Ken Bennett of Prescott told the crowd that \”it all started here in Prescott\” as the first official territorial capital of Arizona.\”This is one of the biggest events in Prescott history,\” he said of the three-day Best Fest that officially kicked off with the stamp unveiling late Friday afternoon.The event exuded an old-time atmosphere, with the Prescott High School Band performing rousing patriotic songs and Pony Express re-enactors delivering the governor\’s proclamation while some people in the crowd wore period costumes.
Dignitaries from throughout the region were in attendance, including state legislators, city council members, U.S. Postal Service officials and even some local centenarians. One, 102-year-old Florence Wells, just happened to serve as Wikiup postmaster.The 10×15-foot image of the stamp will remain hanging on the north side of the courthouse throughout the Best Fest weekend.The Best Fest has literally taken over downtown Prescott for the weekend, with most of the tents and displays literally going up overnight. \”It was a massive undertaking,\” said Mandi Wimmer, deputy director of the Arizona Centennial Commission. \”We really want to make history while telling history.\”We\’re talking the largest event in Arizona history. We\’re bringing elements of the entire state to one city. We did things that have never been done before.\”For example, portable museums celebrate everything from Arizona\’s history to its natural resources.\”They are literally small museums in tent structures,\” she said.Villages celebrating the state\’s Hispanic and Native American heritage also went up overnight. Apache Monte Jackson and Yavapai Tony Sanchez gathered cottonwood and willow branches on the Yavapai-Apache Nation Thursday morning and brought them to the Best Fest to build their wikiup Thursday evening.\”We don\’t do it for money. We do it to help out the elders,\” Jackson said.Elder Elizabeth Rocha and her daughter Cindy Earl were watching over the work all day, including the efforts of young girls making their first wikiup. Born in 1933, Rocha spent part of her childhood living in a wikiup.\”We\’re here to show people we\’re still trying to teach the younger kids the traditional way of making a wikiup, the way we were taught,\” Rocha explained.She will be demonstrating how to grind corn the traditional way throughout the weekend, too.Indian tribes from throughout the state set up traditional structures where they are demonstrating arts and crafts.\”We\’re showcasing the culture and traditions of the tribes in Arizona,\” said Rory Magenta, a Hualapai, who is president of the Arizona American Indian Tourism Association. \”We want to share with our visitors who we are. We\’re a big part of Arizona.\”The centennial is a big celebration of the melting pot of all of Arizona.\”Organizers anticipate 25,000 people could attend the three-day Best Fest. Volunteers staff many of the displays. For a detailed schedule, visit dCourier.com.The celebration is made possible through corporate donations, not taxpayer dollars,City of Prescott Director of Tourism Don Prince said. Organizers tried to include as many local vendors as possible and involve the local community, he added.This is the first of three Best Fests in Arizona\’s three territorial capitals, culminating in Phoenix on Feb. 10-12, 2012.Arizona celebrates its centennial on Feb. 14, 2012. The centennial stamp will be available for purchase at post offices throughout Arizona on that day.(Source-The Daily Courier)