Financial support for Marana's annual fall festival had been stopped by the town because of its financial constraints.
In stepped the Marana Heritage Conservancy, which "has decided to pick it up and make it go," according to Marana's indefatigable former (and still reining) first lady, Ora Mae Harn.
The Fall Harvest Festival is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 24, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Marana Heritage River Park, located off Tangerine Farms Road near the Gladden Farms development. It'll feature a pie contest, plenty of entertainment, activities for the kids, a farmers' market, mesquite pod milling and more.
"It's my way of saying to the town, 'you can trust us, we can do something,'" said Harn, who was Marana's first woman mayor. "We think we're going to have a pretty great event. We're going to prove we have something to offer."
Harn, today the town historian, has been soliciting commercial and community support for the event. "We're out begging, to tell you the truth," said Harn.
Her purpose is simple — "to preserve the history of the town."
The effort is centered upon the Marana River Heritage Park, a 93-acre space along the banks of the Santa Cruz River that'll someday be home to an amphitheater, a museum and much more in Harn's ambitious vision. The Heritage Park is already site of the Community Food Bank farm, and the Marana Farm Stand.
"We haven't done a very good job pushing the park itself," Harn said. "We are very fortunate. The food bank's 10 acres, they're putting together a wonderful farm."
She intends to "start telling the story of Marana" at the park. "We want to make sure the people remember where we came from," Harn said. "Marana is a very special community."
Marana's "very rich history" dates far back, to the native peoples who farmed along the Santa Cruz, to Father Kino, and to Juan Baptiste de Anza, who trekked through 234 years ago.
"Marana is about water," Harn said. "I say it about every time." So "we're trying to prepare the history of Marana around the Santa Cruz River. It's absolutely amazing. Everything is really based on that." The Hohokam were "able to plant and grow. Father Kino, the first of the explorers, brought cattle with him. The Hispanics were trying to get to California." Ranchers realized they could scratch out a living with water nearby. That's why the park makes sense to Harn.
"We need to do some things to make sure we get the project together, and we have people to carry it on," she said. The Marana Heritage Conservancy Foundation was formed last year. Application for 501©3 status has been submitted, and bylaws adopted. There are 13 people on the foundation board, "working together to tell the story of Marana. We're a little fledgling."
In the long term, she wants to separate the park from Marana's political structure. "We're going to need people, architects, planning, the De Anza Society. We need to get people together that are knowledgeable about preserving history."
Money is tight. "Bad timing, isn't it?" said Harn, who notes, "with everything I've tried to do, I never had any money any how. I never knew what it was to start something with money any how, so I don't feel intimidated by this."
"We've got a base to work out of," Harn said. With the foundation, Marana has found "a group of people interested in protecting the history of Marana, developing the park, and see that it's well taken care of."
Marana Fall Harvest Festival
Saturday, Oct. 24, 9 a.m.-2 p.m.
Marana Heritage River Park, 12375 N. Heritage Park Drive.
For the kids – farm sign painting, a petting zoo, a peddle tractor and the river park train ride
Mesquite bean pod milling with the Desert Harvesters -- $3 for up to three gallons.
A pie contest to support the Community Food Bank.
For more information, call Ora Mae Harn at 307-0279.