Event to examine ballads, stories from Ariz. history

2013-06-24T00:00:00Z Event to examine ballads, stories from Ariz. historyVeronica M. Cruz Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
June 24, 2013 12:00 am  • 

A few of the many events, people and stories unique to Arizona's history will be highlighted and brought to life Saturday by scholars, musicians and storytellers in a multimedia event.

The event, The Ballad of Arizona, was inspired by Arizona's Centennial, said musician and scholar Jay Cravath, who organized the show.

"I was looking at various venues that celebrate the centennial, and there were no traveling road shows," Cravath said. "I came up with the idea to do a live 'A Prairie Home Companion' in various parts of the state."

The event was originally slated for last fall, but one of the participants had some health issues that postponed the show dates, Cravath said.

The event will be performed in Tempe, Tucson and Yuma.

Each show will feature three scholars who will speak on various topics significant in Arizona's history, video footage and news segments highlighting important events, such as the death of Phoenix journalist Don Bolles, who was killed in a car bombing linked to organized crime.

Cravath said the multimedia event, sponsored by a grant from the Arizona Humanities Council, is for all ages.

"We wanted to make certain that if a family came that there would be enough interest that a 5-year-old could enjoy it as well," he said.

At the Tucson performance, author and Arizona State University professor Dan Shilling will share the story of Aldo Leopold, a conservationist and forester who began his career with the U.S. Forest Service in Arizona in the early 1900s.

Historian and ASU professor Peter Iverson will speak about the importance of the rodeo to Native American people.

Cravath will give an account of the history of ballads in Arizona.

"Balladeers were the storytellers in a land of nonreaders back in the 19th and 20th century, and that tradition goes back to Homer and the 'Iliad,' " Cravath said.

Cravath will speak about the use of ballads in Native American ceremonies to current forms of ballads, such as Mexican corridos.

Other topics presented by video include the story of the 1951 Miami High School championship basketball team, explained by ASU archivist Chris Marin. The team, made up mostly of Mexican-American students, helped unite a small Arizona town divided by discrimination.

Poet Laura Tohe will speak about the role of the Navajo code talkers in World War II.

Cravath said the topics include interesting and compelling stories in Arizona's history that might not be as well-known as other stories.

"We want to spark a greater curiosity in history by making it come alive as it were, and that's really the job of any historian," Cravath said.

If you go

• What: The Ballad of Arizona.

• When: 2 p.m. Saturday.

• Where: Arizona Historical Society, 949 E. Second St.

• Cost: Free.

Contact reporter Veronica Cruz at vcruz@azstarnet.com or at 573-4224.

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