Fort Verde Days celebrates its 50th

It's the big five-oh. This year Fort Verde Days will mark the 50th time the town has gotten together to celebrate its connection to the military fort that that marked the beginning of the town.

Although settlers had moved to the banks of Clear Creek in January 1865, and although they had established a small adobe building as a fort of their own, the cluster of farms traces its real beginnings as a town to the establishment of the military presence the following summer.

By spring 1872, the soldiers had moved into their new digs, a permanent fort located on a mesa overlooking the Verde River. In time it wold become the center of downtown Camp Verde.

Some 80 years later, residents of the still isolated and still rural community decided it would be appropriate to honor that heritage. Thus was born Fort Verde Days.

Over the years the celebration has stuck to its roots of honoring both the fort and the community.

Beginning in 1964, the community decided it would also be appropriate to honor an individual or individuals form the community for their service by having that person or persons lead the parade.

This year, the honor of Grand Marshal has fallen on long-time Camp Verde physician Dr. Mark Westervelt.

It was the organizer's opinion, and seconded by the rest of community, that the man who had spent all 42 years of his professional career tending to the health needs of the town, was the right choice to lead the big parade.

Westervelt will be joined by this year's Colonel's Daughter, Camp Verde High School sophomore Lara Petska.

Fort Verde Days actually began with the presentation of the Colonel's Daughter on Oct. 7 at the Community Center. However, the real festivities don't get under way until Friday, Oct. 13.

They begin with the annual wild horse and burro adoption at noon followed by arts and crafts fair, the 7 p.m. Bull Bash, and an evening dance.

This year a group of local reenactors will play out the soon to be famous, A Black Day for Black Jack Ketchum, a re-enactment of the 1899 murder of Clint Wingfield and Mac Rogers by the infamous outlaw Black Jack Ketchum.

Reenactments will take place at 2 p.m. on Friday and at 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

The biggest event, the annual parade, will start at 10 a.m. Saturday and take its usual path starting at the Bashas' parking lot and heading down Main Street. Organizers expect over 100 entrants.

Events will be taking place all day on Saturday, beginning with the Kiwanis breakfast at 6:30 a.m. and finishing with the community dance that runs from 7 p.m. to midnight.

Many of the events will be taking place on the grounds of Fort Verde, including artillery demonstrations, vintage baseball game, fashion show and plenty of living history presentations.

Organizers have spent months planning the auspicious 50th year and say they hope to have something for everyone.

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