Though Yuma’s rich history dates back even further, this sunny city on the Colorado River is getting ready to celebrate a significant birthday: April 7, 2014, marks the 100th anniversary of Yuma’s charter as a city under the laws of the new state back in 1914.
Along with birthday candles, Yuma will light up new signs on Main Street to welcome folks to the “Gateway of the Great Southwest” – and kick off a flurry of centennial celebrations, from proclamation-makin’ and time-capsule-sealin’ to an old-fashioned ice cream social and barbecue. A full schedule – and details on how to join the party – will be posted as plans develop at www.yuma100.com.
Centennial Music Fest
One birthday package has been unwrapped thus far: A daylong Centennial Music Fest featuring Creedence Clearwater Revisited and Lonestar set for April 12 at Desert Sun Stadium.
The music kicks off at 2 p.m. with a lineup that also includes hometown-boy-gone-Nashville Bobby McClendon, the Dennis Jones Band from San Diego, plus local favorites Checker’d Past and Common Ground.
Admission is $20 (ages 13 and older), with a $5 discount for active-duty military with ID. Tickets for kids ages 6–12 are just $5, and ages 5 and younger are free. Check www.yuma100.com for details on where to purchase tickets.
Yuma Taco Festival
You can make it a day of family fun by folding in a stop at the Yuma Taco Festival, also held on the same day, April 12, from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on an adjoining field. Admission to the taco festival is free, with a vast array of tacos available for purchase from vendors vying to be honored as Yuma’s “Taco King” and “Salsa Queen.”
Yuma Lettuce Days
Yuma’s big birthday party isn’t the only reason to plan a visit this spring – there are colorful events to please all tastes.
Come during Yuma Lettuce Days, March 1–2. It’s an agricultural “feastival” that celebrates Yuma’s status as the winter vegetable capital of North America. This homegrown celebration will feature twice-daily live cooking demos by celebrity chef Chris “C.J.” Jacobson, a two-time Top Chef contestant, along with other culinary demos and contests, red-hot ice carvers, a ginormous salad bar and a tasting event showcasing specialties from local restaurants.
There will also be plenty of farm- and food-related vendors, live entertainment, a beer garden, displays of tractors and other farm equipment, a special kids’ “ag-tivities” area and “windshield” bus tours through Yuma's lush fields narrated by local growers.
New this year: A bar where you can blend fresh ingredients for custom salsa or pico de gallo, and free consultations with a “vegetable butcher” who’ll provide recipe suggestions and prep your farmers market purchases for easy cooking. Festival plans are still germinating; get the latest on the recipe for fun at www.yumalettucedays.com.
Midnight at the Oasis
More interested in classic iron than leafy greens? Mark your calendar for Midnight at the Oasis, March 7–9. The Southwest’s premier classic car and nostalgia festival features nearly 1,000 classic cars spread across the grassy fields of the Ray Kroc Baseball Complex, plus regional food served up by local nonprofits, vendors from around the West and rides for the kids.
It all kicks off with a free cruise-in on Friday evening, and there are also (ticketed) oldies rock-and-roll concerts both Friday and Saturday nights. For more info, see www.midnightattheoasis.net or call (928) 343-1715.
Just a week later, the action moves to the skies, as Marine Corps Air Station Yuma hosts its 51th Annual Air Show on March 15.
One of the largest air shows in the Southwest, this event features military and civilian aircraft on the ground and aloft, and provides a rare close-up view of the busiest air station in the Corps, which traces its roots to the earliest days of aviation in Arizona. Find more information at www.yumaairshow.com or call (928) 269-3327.
Yuma County Fair
Finally, you don’t have to wait for fall to enjoy an old-fashioned county fair – the Yuma County Fair runs April 1–6 and includes cute kids showing off their animals, plenty of junk food and all the traditional attractions. Find more info at www.yumafair.com, or call (928) 726-4420.
To check out other fun events on Yuma’s calendar, and to plan your real Arizona adventure, head to www.visityuma.com or call toll-free, (800) 293-0071. The Visitor Info Center is open 9 a.m.–5 p.m. MST, seven days a week, October through May.
Older Than It Looks: Highlights from Yuma’s Timeline
• 1540: First European explorers arrive upriver from the Sea of Cortez.
• 1849–50: More than 60,000 gold seekers cross the Colorado River via rope ferry.
• 1857: First U.S. post office established.
• 1863: Arizona Territory established under law, signed by President Lincoln.
• 1866: Townsite laid out for what’s known as Arizona City.
• 1871: Arizona City incorporated under Territorial law.
• 1873: Arizona City renamed Yuma.
• 1900: Yuma City Hall built.
• 1912: On Valentine’s Day, Arizona becomes 48th state.
• 1914: On April 7, city of Yuma chartered under new Arizona laws.
(Brought to you by the Yuma Visitors Bureau, (800) 293-0071, www.visityuma.com.)