Yuma’s centennial celebration honored by state

By Joyce Lobeck, Yuma Sun staff writer | Posted: Friday, July 18, 2014 5:01 pm

Special Event Urban Award

A delegation from Yuma poses with Gov. Jan Brewer during the Governor’s Conference of Tourism after she presented the Special Event Urban Award to the city of Yuma for its week-long centennial celebration in April. They include Ricky Rinehart (from left), deputy city administrator; city marketing specialist Miriam Limon; Mayor Douglas Nicholls; Brewer; City Administrator Greg Wilkinson; Linda Morgan, executive director of Yuma Visitors Bureau, which nominated the city; and Yuma City Councilwoman Leslie McClendon, who also is an employee of YVB.

Not only was the city of Yuma’s centennial celebration a week of fun for its residents and visitors that set two new Guinness World records, it has received state recognition for being an awesome event.

The celebration is the recipient of the Special Events Urban Award presented during the Governor’s Conference on Tourism held this week in Phoenix. In vying for the award, Yuma was up against the largest cities in the state and came out on top.

“It was my pleasure to accept the award and all the accolades,” said Mayor Douglas Nicholls.

But the honor really goes to the hard work of the people who helped put on the various activities, he said. “It’s impressive that the city staff, Yuma Visitors Bureau and all the volunteers helped us compete against all the cities. It was an amazing event.”

While knowing in advance that the city was a finalist, the mayor made the trip specifically to attend the awards gala. He was accompanied by City Administrator Greg Wilkinson as well as Deputy City Administrator Ricky Rinehart and marketing specialist Miriam Limon, who coordinated the centennial celebration. Leslie McClendon also was there wearing two hats as a member of the Yuma City Council and an employee of the Yuma Visitors Bureau.

“We knew it would be a strong contender,” Nicholls explained. “We needed to be there to show how proud we are of the event … what we accomplished as a city, whether or not we won.”

Perhaps, he said, it helped that Gov. Jan Brewer participated in the celebration. Brewer presided over the lighting of the two new signs that frame Main Street and the burial of the first time capsule during the launch on April 7 of the week’s activities.

The busy week offered a wide range of activities that drew crowds of people and enabled participating nonprofit organizations to raise thousands of dollars to help fund their charitable programs, Wilkinson said.

While offering a special thank you to Rinehart and Limon for coordinating the event and city staff for their hard work, “the entire community made it happen … the number of sponsors and volunteers,” Wilkinson said. “This award was really earned by the entire community.”

He said the city did set two new Guinness World records for the largest human letter and largest human number. But one has since been eclipsed by a group in Saudi Arabia that broke Yuma’s record for the largest human letter.

The governor’s tourism awards are given each year to honor individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions to the Arizona tourism industry.

Wilkinson noted the Tacos and Tunes event drew about 35,000 people, some of whom were from San Diego and heard about the centennial during MATO and came back for the celebration. He also noted that the city saw an increase in revenue from the 2 percent hospitality tax during April, likely a direct impact of the celebration.

Yuma has a good track record when it comes to bringing home awards from the Governor’s Conference on Tourism, observed Ann Walker, YVB media relations manager. Past wins include:

• 2013 – Yuma 101, innovative promotion, Yuma Visitors Bureau

• 2012 – Free Board Every Day the Sun Doesn’t Shine, innovative promotion, Yuma Visitors Bureau

• 2011 – Yuma Lettuce Days, best special event, urban population

• 2009 – Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area projects, Arizona Preservation Award

“We’ve won two of seven awards given for best big-town event. Not bad for a small big town,” Walker said. Furthermore, “Yuma has won in five of eight years the awards have been given, again a pretty good record.”

Linda Morgan, YVB executive director, concluded: “It’s always great when Yuma is recognized for its efforts. It’s great when organizations come together to do great things for the community. Yuma has the ability to get things done.”