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With prayers and a postage stamp, Arizona pauses to celebrate 100 years

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PHOENIX – After American Indians led silent prayers at sunrise, dozens marked Arizona’s 100th birthday Tuesday by trekking a mile to the State Capitol, following a volunteer dressed as George W.P. Hunt, the state’s first governor.

Arizona flags rippled in every direction, from the hands of children to the backs of police motorcycles.

Years in the making, Arizona’s centennial celebration carried over from the weekend Best Fest to a day of events including the release of a special postage stamp and a mass wedding.

At a ceremony in front of the Capitol, Gov. Jan Brewer said the milestone offers Arizona a chance to appreciate its past but also to look forward.

“The beginning of the second century of statehood offers an opportunity for all Arizonans to envision the future and strive toward new achievements in education, innovation, economic development and social well–being,” she said.

Mary Ellen Kane brought her 13–year–old son and 12–year-old daughter, calling it a once–in–a–lifetime opportunity.

“They got to do this instead of going to school today because I thought this was more important,” she said.

Pam Whitaker–Lee said she hopes Arizona continues to grow and get stronger over the next 100 years.

“Every place is having hardships right now and I think we’re having problems dealing with that, but I’m still proud of Arizona,” she said.

Janet Jackson Parker said it was moving to briefly hold a U.S. flag with 48 stars that Secretary of State Ken Bennett displayed to signify Arizona’s place as the 48th state. She got that chance during the walk from the sunrise ceremony to the Capitol, a walk that followed Governor Hunt’s path the day Arizona became a state.

“To think a hundred years ago people walked that same walk, how excited they must have been to know that they’re finally a state,” she said.

Hopi Chairman LeRoy Shingoitewa helped begin the day by telling those assembled at Historic Phoenix City Hall that all Arizonans join in celebrating the centennial.

“We are one people, and with that in mind the state of Arizona will continue to grow and we will continue to be a prosperous people in this state,” he said.