Fort Verde Days start Friday

The origins of Fort Verde Days date back to 1956. That year the Fort Verde Museum Committee was established to build a museum on the site of the former U.S. Army fort.

The committee chose the former headquarters building -- the building that now contains the administrative offices and museum at Fort Verde State Park.

Camp Verde residents Harold and Margaret Hallett had owned the building since 1940.

By 1953 they were considering tearing it down, but the couple changed their mind and instead began an effort to save the four buildings, three support structures and two ruins that composed what was left of Fort Verde.

The Halletts sold the building for $1 to the Camp Verde Improvement Association, which in turn formed the Museum Association.

In November 1956, with generous contributions of time, money and historical items from many of the local families, the museum opened.

A year later, the Museum Association thought it would be appropriate to invite all the generous people who had contributed to the museum's success, along with all those who had come and enjoyed the story it told, to a celebration.

Fort Verde Days was born,

It is not the oldest celebration in town. That distinction goes to the annual Pioneer Picnic.

But as an interesting footnote to history, Fort Verde Days served as the de facto Pioneer Picnic from 1960 to 1972.

The picnic was disbanded through those years due to lack of membership in the Verde Valley Pioneer Association.

At the very least, Fort Verde Days is the longest continuously running celebration.

But what it boasted in continuity it lacked in consistency.

Over the last 51 years, the activities associated with the celebration have changed with the community and with the times.

In the past there have been volleyball games (in the mud), horseshoes, tug-of-war, 10K runs, square dances, rodeos, chicken races, beard growing contests and even something called an Indian stump race.

Nowadays it's bull bashing (riding), burro buying (adoption), vintage baseball games, calf roping and a turn-of-the-century church service (20th not the 21st).

But there has almost always been a parade.

And the man at the head of this year's parade, Clifford Larson, is the very embodiment of this year's theme, "Community Inspirations."

As a world champion kick boxer, who has begun a new career as a traditional boxer, Larson has been an inspiration to both of the communities that exist today as a result of the fort, the Yavapai-Apache Nation and the Town of Camp Verde.

Accompanying Larson will also be this year's Colonel's Daughter, Camp Verde High School sophomore Christine Dunn.

And behind her will be at least 50 other parade entrants.

The party starts on Friday with the Bureau of Land Management's annual burro adoption opening at noon on the grounds of Fort Verde.

The carnival opens at 5 and the Bull Bash begins at 7 p.m.

The Friday schedule is capped off with a free community dance on the town grounds from 9 to 11:30 p.m.

Saturday, the big day, begins with the annual Kiwanis breakfast at the gazebo, beginning at 6 a.m.

The parade starts at 10.

Antique shows, arts and crafts, historical demonstrations, kids rodeo, artillery demonstrations, plus more bull bashing and a dance make up some of the rest of the day's events.

Starting at 7:30 on Sunday morning the Verde Valley Rangers will host a fund-raising roping at Arena Del Loma. There will be an old fashioned church service at Fort Verde at 9 a.m. and a baseball game at 11:30.

This is by no means a complete list of the events, so come on out and celebrate the Verde Valley's oldest celebration in the Verde Valley's oldest community.

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