February 26th was a day of speeches, ribbon cutting, and cake for all on the South Rim. The date marked the 90th anniversary for Grand Canyon National Park. With the stroke of a pen on February 26, 1919, President Woodrow Wilson added Grand Canyon to the growing list of national parks in the fledgling National Park System. A small ceremony was conducted in the Canyon View Information Plaza, including a rousing interpretive program by NPS ranger Dave Smith in period garb.
The celebration then moved down the rim to the official opening of the Verkamp’s Visitor Center. Readers of this column will recall that the Verkamp family sold its interest in their century-old family business to the park service in 2008. Three of the family members were in attendance, each giving emotional speech about growing up along the rim. Other dignitaries included a representative from Arizona Congressman Grijalva’s office, and Phyllis Kachinhongva, a Hopi woman who grew up as a neighbor of the Verkamp’s family, and served as an NPS interpreter before retiring recently.
Phyllis gave a traditional Hopi blessing for the new Visitor Center. As she uttered her final words a California condor flew low over the gathering, much to the delight of the overflow crowd. The new Verkamp’s Visitor Center will be opened all year, with ranger programs beginning on the doorstep throughout the day.