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Grand Canyon National Park celebrating 100th anniversary

Updated February 25, 2019 - 4:51 pm

Happy birthday, you old hole in the ground!

Tuesday marks the 100th anniversary of Grand Canyon National Park, but don’t worry if you can’t make it there for the festivities. The centennial celebration will stretch on for more than just one day, said Grand Canyon spokeswoman Vanessa Ceja.

“Tomorrow is our actual anniversary, but we really are planning year-round events,” Ceja said Monday.

President Woodrow Wilson designated Grand Canyon as the 15th national park on Feb. 26, 1919, after decades of lobbying to protect the 277-mile gorge carved to a depth of more than a mile by the Colorado River.

During its first year in operation, the park welcomed fewer than 38,000 people, most of whom arrived by train, toured the South Rim on foot or horse-drawn carriage and descended into the canyon on mules, Ceja said.

More than 6.4 million people visited Grand Canyon in 2018, marking the fifth straight year of record attendance for the park about 280 miles east of Las Vegas.

Ceja couldn’t say how many of the park’s visitors arrive there by way of Las Vegas, but based on the calls she regularly fields “we get a good number from there.”

Tuesday’s festivities begin at 10 a.m. Arizona time with cultural demonstrators and family activities at the Grand Canyon Visitor Center on the South Rim. Elementary school choirs from nearby Flagstaff, Arizona, will present a pair of concerts at 10 a.m. and noon, followed by a commemoration ceremony at 1 p.m. featuring leaders from the park and the state of Arizona and a happy birthday singalong led by fourth-graders from Grand Canyon School.

At 7 p.m. Tuesday, Navajo storyteller Sunny Dooley will present winter stories in the visitor center theater.

Entrance to the park will be free all day.

More events will be held in the following days, weeks and months — both at the park and elsewhere in Arizona.

On May 19, for example, a commemorative plaque will be dedicated to mark the 150th anniversary of John Wesley Powell’s famous 1869 Colorado River expedition through the canyon — a dangerous journey that ended in Southern Nevada at what was then the town of St. Thomas.

Eventually, Grand Canyon’s centennial celebration will spread to the North Rim, which currently is closed for the winter.

That part of the park, which is actually 15 miles closer to Las Vegas, stands roughly 1,000 feet higher in elevation than the South Rim and shuts down between Dec. 1 and May 15.

A complete list of anniversary events is available by going to the park’s website at www.nps.gov/grca and clicking on the banner at the top of the page.

Contact Henry Brean at hbrean@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0350. Follow @RefriedBrean on Twitter.

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