August 20 marks Tucson's 238th birthday and the Tucson-Pima Historical Commission thinks a celebration is in order.
The party will celebrate Tucson years of history with a flag ceremony, a canon salute, a traditional Tohono O'odham blessing, signing/reading a proclamation from local governments, and a reading of the letter from Hugo O'Connor designating Tucson as the location for the presidio. Mariachi music performed by Los Changuitos Feos will welcome guests as the event begins and sing the National Anthem afterwards as part of the ceremony. Presidio soldiers will be dressed in period costumes and there will be cake and paletas to munch on.
O'Connor's letter marks the beginning of the Spanish/Anglo history of the city, but Marty McCune of the Tucson-Pima Historical Commission says the group is always eager to include the area's more long-standing cultures in the celebration.
"I just really believe that celebrating and remembering what happened in our past is very important," McCune said.
The flag ceremony, a part of the celebration since the Tucson-Pima Historical Commission started planning it in 1975, will honor the five flags that have flown over Tucson—the American, Spanish, Mexican, Confederate and State of Arizona. The Tohono O'odham Nation and Pascua Yaqui Tribe flags and a replica of the 28-star American flag that was brought by the Mormon Battalion and flown over Tucson on Dec. 16, 1846, will also be a part of the ceremony. The color guard from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base will be presenting the American flag, and representatives from other organizations will help with the other flags.
"It really brings a lot of cultural groups together," McCune said. "It adds another piece of Tucson."
She also said the cultural diversity is one of her favorite things about the celebration. She points to the events diverse and ever-growing list of sponsors — the Tucson-Pima Historical Commission, the City of Tucson Parks and Recreation and City Clerk's Office, Pima County, Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation, El Presidio Neighborhood Association, the Presidio Trust for Historic Preservation, Los Descendientes del Presidio de Tucson, and the Santa Cruz Valley Heritage Alliance — as proof that the event brings much of Tucson's diversity into one place.
McCune has gone to almost all of the annual celebrations since 1996. She's excited about the evolution the event has made in the last few years to become a bigger part of the community. She attributes part of the events growing popularity to last year's decision to hold the event in the evening. "Before that, we always held it in the morning and it was very poorly attended," McCune said.