It's a time to celebrate history, heritage, place - Tucson Local Media: El Sol

It's a time to celebrate history, heritage, place

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Posted: Tuesday, March 16, 2010 11:00 pm

Marana's 33rd annual Founders Day celebration is this Saturday, March 20.

"It's like having a birthday party, to remember how old you are, and to bring together some of your friends, and even some of your relatives," quipped Ora Mae Harn, the town historian and former mayor and council member.

Marana started its Founders Day celebration soon after the town was incorporated in March 1977, Harn said. The small gathering of mostly farm people, removed by miles from the city of Tucson, intended the celebration to show the world it was serious.

"We were proud of ourselves," Harn said. "We didn't know we were rednecks. Or we knew, and we were proud of it."

People skeptical of Marana's incorporation "didn't understand," Harn said. "It was all about water."

The Cortaro Water Users felt threatened by the city of Tucson, which had a plan to buy farmland in the unincorporated region to tie up water rights related to agriculture. Pat Garrett, manager of the Cortaro Water Users, and others argued incorporation was necessary to protect water rights for the future.

"The incorporation went along pretty good," Harn said. "Everyone out here was farmers, and they certainly were interested in having control of the water. People were excited, and worked together. We really had nobody that was fighting against incorporation.

"We told them we had 1,200 people," Harn said. "I don't think if you'd have counted heads" there were 1,200 residents. "You might have counted a few cows."

In 1980, the decennial census showed Marana had 1,647 residents. Today, Marana has an estimated population near 33,000.

"Over the years, the support for the community is terrific," Harn said. "We are so fortunate. We have had councils that have worked together well over the years, and put together a marvelous foundation for this town."

In the historical display at the Marana Municipal Complex, Harn pulled out a photograph taken of the large student population at Marana Elementary School, Jan. 13, 1955. There are children of every color in the group. "There's no segregation here," she said.

"People need to belong, they really do. I want people to feel they belong in Marana, that this is their place, this is their home."

Acker leads the parade

Georgia Acker is the grand marshal of the Marana Founders Day Parade this Saturday, March 20.

Acker "has done a lot of wonderful things for the town," said town historian Ora Mae Harn, and she's been "overlooked over the years. This is a wonderful opportunity to honor her."

For years, Georgia Acker was the clerk at the post office in Marana. "People knew her from the post office," Harn said.

Acker has also volunteered to lead exercise classes at the senior center, and has been active in the Marana Community Church.

"She's always been involved, helping and volunteering in the community," Harn said last week. "I called her just today, to ask her if she'd accept it. She really felt good about it."

Usually, the grand marshal of the parade is the recipient of the annual Branding Iron Award. This year, the final of eight nominations for the award were received last Tuesday, so that selection is being moved to later in the year.

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