Put those flowers aside and stop eating those chocolates for just a minute. Long before the greeting-card, floral and confectionery industries successfully marketed an obscure saint’s feast day into our modern romantic buying bonanza, today was statehood day in Arizona.
Four score and 14 years ago today, the Arizona Territory’s having spent 49 years in wait and hope for statehood finally came to an end. Accounts of the celebrations of the morning of Feb. 14, 1912, told of tolling bells and shouts of joy.
The firing of a 48-cannon commemorative barrage for the new 48th state in downtown Phoenix was halted in the middle because their exceeding loud reports were shattering windows and scaring livestock into a frenzy. State historian Marshall Trimble noted in his 1989 book, “Arizona: A Cavalcade of History,” that “the biggest blast came in boisterous Bisbee, where a charge of dynamite was set which nearly blew the top off a mountain.”
And what a state. As richly varied as is Arizona’s topography — from alpine mountains to near sea-level low desert — are our notable symbols, resources, landmarks, plant and animal life and of course, history.
So much has come to represent Arizona in the past 94 years that we don’t envy the task of the Arizona State Quarter Commission, appointed in December by Gov. Janet Napolitano. The 22-member panel’s task is to select a handful of ideas for the reverse side of Arizona’s entry into the parade of 25-cent pieces that have been coined since1999. From that list, the U.S. Mint will create three possible designs for the Arizona quarter and the governor will make the final choice.
As the 48th state out of 50, Arizona’s quarter will debut in 2008, the last of the 10-year program, along with Oklahoma (which achieved statehood in 1907), New Mexico (1912). Alaska (1959) and Hawaii (1959).
For those who think they might have the winning design, the governor’s office said that a page is expected to be ready this week on the governor’s Web site, www.azgovernor.gov. There you can download an entry form and learn the rules. Here’s a summary:
The federal government doesn’t want to see any likenesses of anyone, living or dead. Nor do they want to see state seals or flags — which is too bad, because Arizona has a dandy state flag. The U.S. Mint’s rules call for things like landscapes, landmarks (natural or man-made), historically significant buildings, symbols of state resources or industries, state flora or fauna, the outlines of states or state icons, such as Texas’s Lone Star or Wyoming’s bucking bronco. The mint prefers montages of symbols instead of just one.
A few polls taken of Arizonans on the subject have reported that we mostly like the Grand Canyon and the saguaro cactus, which would look a bit funny together, at least to Arizonans, because there are no saguaros located at the canyon. We have talked to folks who like Monument Valley, the San Francisco Peaks, the Colorado River and the San Xavier del Bac mission south of Tucson.
There are also some preferences out there for the roadrunner, which is not the state bird, and the cactus wren, which is.
Arizona waited a long time to become a state. It’s fitting, although a little bit frustrating, to have to wait to get our quarter. It’s a small thing with little consequence. But soon enough, jingling in America’s pockets and purses will be something that symbolizes the state we love. If some of those folks take a moment to take a look at one before spending it, they might learn that Arizona is probably nothing like they think it is.
Of course, you could bag up a collection of those quarters and they wouldn’t come close to equating the value of the Arizona experience. So celebrate statehood day — but take a pass on the explosives.