Apache Junction centennial celebration begins to take shape

Apache Junction Mayor Jeff Serdy speaks to volunteers in the Apache Junction Founders Day Committee. The group plans to meet 6-8 p.m. the first Thursday of every month (not July 4) at the Apache Junction Public Library. (Richard H. Dyer, Independent Newsmedia)

The area in and around Apache Junction once was known by a different name, a word that rhymes with iceberg.

It was “Youngsberg,” starting with a Phoenix mayor’s last name.

Another spelling — “Youngberg” without the “s” — can be seen in Google maps of northeast Pinal County for the area near Goldfield Ghost Town.

Apache Junction was founded by George Curtis and was settled in 1922.

The centennial of that decision is approaching and volunteers have begun meeting to plan a year-long celebration for 2022.

About 30 people recently attended the first meeting of the Apache Junction Founders Day Committee in a back room of the Apache Junction Public Library, 1177 N. Idaho Road.

After some brainstorming, they formed break-out subcommittees for fundraising, marketing, events and outreach/education.

“There were lots of faces I’ve never seen before,” Tess Nesser, a member of the committee, said of the May 2 centennial-celebration meeting.

Braden Biggs

“I want to see more people join in and really get involved, but for the first meeting tonight with a little limited advertising it’s really good,” Braden Biggs, Apache Junction Founders Day Committee chair, said.

“The community’s involved. It’s a lot of different nonprofits. We’ve got the city here. We’ve got some different nonprofits here. Different various local community members of all ages and backgrounds, so I think it’s a good diverse group,” he said.

Photo from a postcard of the Apache Junction Inn. (Apache Sentinel file photo)

The centennial celebration is to encompass the larger area of Apache Junction, Gold Canyon and the Superstition Mountains, but not the 1978 incorporation of the City of Apache Junction, Mr. Biggs said.

“The difference between the Apache Junction founders centennial committee and what’s going to happen in 2078 with the centennial of Apache Junction are two different events. One’s celebrating the founding of the entire city and the other is celebrating the city itself. So I think this actually celebrates more of the area,” Mr. Biggs said.

The Apache Junction Founders Day Committee plans to meet 6-8 p.m. the first Thursday of every month (not July 4) at the Apache Junction Public Library. Go to facebook.com/AJFoundersCentennial.

Founding a city

George Cleveland Curtis on Aug. 21, 1922, started a business at Apache Trail and the Globe-Phoenix Highway, and came up with Apache Junction. The area was previously known as Youngsberg Junction, named after Phoenix’s ex-mayor, George U. Young, who had a nearby mine, historian Tom Kollenborn wrote in 2014, according to superstitionmountaintomkollenborn.blogspot.com.

“Young owned and operated the Mammoth Mine at Youngsberg, four miles northeast of the Youngsberg Junction,” the late historian Mr. Kollenborn wrote.

“Curtis was offended by the fact that Young had his mine and the old junction named after himself. Curtis started an immediate campaign to change the name of Youngsberg Junction to Apache Junction,” he wrote.

Apache Junction once had a zoo. (Apache Sentinel file photo)

In addition to Mr. Kollenborn’s research, the centennial committee has a member who has been researching the area since the 1950s.

Tempe resident Greg Davis — director of research, acquisitions, libraries and archives for the Superstition Mountain Historical Society — said he interviewed and has a tape recording of a daughter of George Curtis.

“I have about four or five hours of her and her daughter on tape. Plus they allowed me to copy the family archives. I’ve got all of the photographs, all of the history, everything you need to know about Apache Junction, including some of the darker sides,” he said.

Full year of events

An event would mark the actual Founders Day, Aug. 21, 2022, but the entire year of 2022 should celebrate the founding of Apache Junction, committee members said.

Jeff Serdy

“What we want is we want the whole year — it’s not going to be one day… it’s the whole year,” said Mayor Jeff Serdy, who serves as member of the centennial committee.

“We want the Lost Dutchman Days of that year to be geared toward the 100-year anniversary. We want to get somebody from the family to be the grand marshal in the parade. The Fourth of July that year, 100th-anniversary. Everything we do, we want it to be geared to that whole year-long celebration,” he said.

Ms. Senior Arizona USA 2018 Nancy Berhorst, a resident of Apache Junction, said she is planning a Ms. Senior Apache Junction pageant for 2022.

Tim Anderson, associate pastor at Mountain View Lutheran Church, suggested the Houston Astros baseball team be contacted to see if they could come out that year on behalf of their predecessor, the Colt 45s, which had a spring-training stadium in Apache Junction in the 1960s.

“Let’s reach out to the Astros. Shoot for the moon, why not? See if they can come out for one spring training game that year,” he said.

Mayor Serdy hopes anyone who has attended a centennial celebration will volunteer to bring their ideas.

“A lot of you folks that are from other places, and I’ve been hearing this, they’ve gone through centennials like this in their hometown and we want to hear what you did and what we should try to do also,” he said at the meeting.

Phyllis DeSalvo, who has lived in Apache Junction since October 2016, said she remembers an O’Fallon, Missouri, celebration from about five years ago.

Apache Junction’s centennial celebration is needed “to bring the community closer together and to celebrate history. That’s what we did in O’Fallon, Missouri,” she said after the Apache Junction Founders Day Committee meeting on May 2.

“Most of the events in O’Fallon were centered around family activities, like we had a multi-generational center like they do here with the big outdoor complex. Most everything was geared to families and I think this will too,” she said.

Ms. DeSalvo is volunteering on the marketing subcommittee because she is creative and likes to talk to people, she said.

Volunteers can live in Apache Junction, Gold Canyon or the surrounding areas, Mayor Serdy said.

“We want this whole Superstition area to be involved and … we have three years. We want people to keep coming,” he said.

Having a centennial celebration has been discussed for several years at meetings of the Apache Junction Focal Point and Tourism Committee. Those meetings, which are open to the public, are held at 10:30 a.m. the second Tuesday of the month at the Apache Junction Chamber of Commerce, 567 W. Apache Trail. Search for “Apache Junction Focal Point Committee” on facebook.com.

“It’s 100 years. It will never come around again. Everybody should celebrate their centennial,” Ms. Nesser, also a member of the focal point and tourism committee, said. “I want to see this community get behind this and get excited and get involved and have fun putting on a centennial,” she said.

Editor Richard Dyer can be reached at rdyer@newszap.com

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.

Facebook Comment