Why Phoenix once celebrated ‘Thanksgiving’ in April

Douglas C. Towne

There had been no autumn leaves or soccer video games when Phoenix celebrated an uncommon early Thanksgiving greater than 80 years in the past. The rejoicing had nothing to do with bumper crops of corn and pumpkin or markets filled with turkeys. Instead, grateful residents who gathered Downtown had been giving thanks for that almost all primary of resources – life-sustaining water.

The event in 1941 was the top of a chronic drought. The dry interval was just like the one typically cited for the collapse of the Valley’s Hohokam civilization in the 1400s or that the Southwest is at the moment struggling.

After the Theodore Roosevelt Dam was accomplished in 1911, Phoenix appeared to have sufficient water infrastructure to deal with Mother Nature’s inconsistent precipitation. The new dam, which created the Valley’s major reservoir, rapidly crammed, and the dam’s spillways overflowed 4 occasions by 1920. 

Roosevelt Lake with water flowing over spillways.

But that very same year, there was below-average precipitation, which continued for nearly twenty years. The drought created a water disaster in Phoenix as lawns turned brown and public swimming swimming pools went unfilled. “Those planning to visit Roosevelt [Lake] should pack their own water in with them,” suggested Lin B. Orme, president of the Salt River Water Users’ Association, in The Arizona Republic in 1940.

The skies lastly opened up in late 1940. Generous rains allowed Phoenix to rescind water use restrictions in October, and the heavy precipitation continued into March. The subsequent runoff crammed Roosevelt Lake and the 5 different smaller Salt River Project reservoirs on the Salt and Verde rivers for the primary time, and the surplus water triggered flooding in the Valley.

Roosevelt Lake Dry, May 1940.

Agriculture was nonetheless an important sector of the native financial system. “The measure of water in our reservoirs is the measure of our prosperity in the Salt River Valley,” Orme informed the Republic.

To rejoice the top of the drought, Arizona Governor Sidney Osborn declared a “Day of Thanksgiving for Water” on April 26, 1941. Revelers had been inspired to dress in both Western put on or Mexican fiesta outfits. To create a suitably rollicking ambiance, organizers assembled the most important band ever to play in Arizona, made up of 500 musicians from Valley excessive colleges and faculties.

An estimated 50,000 revelers descended on Downtown Phoenix for speeches, music, and dancing, at a time when the town’s inhabitants was 65,000. Central Avenue was remodeled into an outsized chuckwagon restaurant for 500 diners, utilizing tables improvised from pine boards and hay bales.

A stage was constructed in entrance of the Heard Building with a 24-feet-long by a 16-feet-high duplicate of Roosevelt Dam. Water poured over the mannequin’s spillways to represent Arizona’s new bounty of this renewable pure useful resource. Cornucopias overflowing with the Valley’s crops flanked the dam.

Additional festivities befell on the Arizona State Fairgrounds. King Neptune, trident in hand, appeared along with his courtroom of swimsuit-clad sea sprites recruited from Arizona State Teacher’s College. A “Welcome Water to Arizona” show featured dancers kicking up their heels beneath fireworks that went on past midnight.

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