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Happy Birthday--to Us!

Who is super hot and still kickin' at 231 years old? Tucson, of course!

On Tuesday, Aug. 1, City Councilman Steve Leal and members of Los Descendientes del Presidio de Tucson will kick off a month-long birthday celebration at the El Presidio site (the southwest corner of Church Avenue and Washington Street) at 11 a.m. The event, which is free and open to the public, will include a ribbon-cutting and piñata-whacking by Leal. The piñata will be in the shape of a quail, the emblem for the birthday bash.

Cele Peterson, a native Arizonan and the head of Tucson's birthday celebration, said that a wide range of events will continue daily throughout the month of August to celebrate Tucson's multifaceted makeup, its rich history and its thriving uniqueness. The celebrations, she said, are intended to remind Tucsonans of the city's Old West heritage through fun events.

"That's exactly what we are trying to retain, is its small town charm, its uniqueness. And we're doing that by celebrating the 231st birthday. We are gathering people around us who have, you might say, the community at heart. We're not just another metropolis--we are Tucson. We have so much to be so proud of," said Peterson.

Peterson hails from Bisbee, where she "watched the Mexican Revolution going on; I watched many things happen. You know, (it was) a wild, rip-roaring, mining town." She has been in business selling women's clothing for 75 years in Tucson.

Peterson said that she's celebrated Tucson's birthday--which is actually on Sunday, Aug. 20--in past years and decided that involving the community would be the best way to honor Tucson's heritage. As Tucson continues to reshape itself in contemporary America, the celebration of its distinct culture should become a focus, she said.

"I think the birthday bash will recognize the fact that there are many things that we want to hold on to in tradition. We know that there's going to be growth. We have to grow; we have to change, just like everything changes in the world. We are a part of all that change. Nature changes; all of this is only a part of living," said Peterson.

Tucson organizations sponsoring events include the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, Tucson Medical Center, the Tucson Museum of Art, Tucson Unified School District and the Tucson International Airport.

Peterson said that community celebrations for Tucson's birthday will become an annual event--if she has anything to say about it. "This is only the beginning, because as we live through life and celebrate our own birthdays, so too will Tucson continue to celebrate each birthday in the future, glad and grateful that we are the community we are."

Upcoming events include:

· Tuesday, Aug. 1: City Councilman Steve Leal and the Los Descendientes del Presidio de Tucson will participate in the aforementioned kickoff event.

· Wednesday Aug. 2, through Friday, Aug. 4: Viva Arizona! is holding a Hispanic performance-arts conference and series of dance workshops supported by the UA School of Dance, the UA Mariachi Ensemble and El Centro Cultural de las Americas. Contact El Centro Cultural de las Americas at 629-9536 or visit the Web site at www.vivaazworkshops.com. (Also, see the blurb "Chance to Dance" to the right.)

· Friday, Aug. 4: "How the Presidio Vanished!", a presentation of Old Pueblo Walking Tours, will highlight the growth of Tucson outside the original Presidio. Attendees are asked to meet in the courtyard of the Old Courthouse, 115 N. Church Ave., before the tour, which will run from 6:30 to 8 p.m. The cost of the event is $10. For more information, contact Ken Scoville at 358-8500.

· Friday, Aug. 4: The classic 1940 movie Arizona!, filmed at Old Tucson Studios, will show at the Fox Tucson Theatre at 17 W. Congress St. The show begins at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 for a reserved single and $25 for a loveseat for two.

· Saturday, Aug. 5: Centennial Hall will host the Viva Arizona! concert, which will highlight "the history of Tucson in music and dance, featuring flamenco, mariachi, folklorico and more." The show begins at 7 p.m. Tickets range from $15-$25. Centennial Hall is located at 1020 E. University Blvd.; call 621-3341 for information.

Also, on Sunday, Aug. 20--Tucson's actual birthday--every child born will be awarded a certificate by the Tucson Medical Center, "making them a special child born on that day," said Peterson.

For more information on upcoming events, visit www.tucsonsbirthday.org. All Tucsonans and their businesses are welcome to add events to the monthlong celebration.

More by Beth Prosnitz

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