"Spirit of Yuma" festival celebrates military

Stephen Cochran to headline inaugural event January 21-23

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 10-25-2010

YUMA, ARIZONA – The Yuma Visitor’s Bureau is proud to announce an inaugural event called “The Spirit of Yuma Military Festival” for 2011.  This weekend-long event celebrating local service members and veterans, the U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground and Marine Corps Air Station Yuma is scheduled for January 21-23, 2011.

To be held at the Yuma Quartermaster Depot State Historic Park, itself an historic military installation, the three-day event will honor Yuma’s active-duty Marines and soldiers, retired veterans from all services and their families.  The festival will include interactive educational sessions, static displays, and a concert featuring Stephen Cochran, a chart-topping country music singer who is a former Marine.

Though Yuma’s rich military history stretches back to the mid-19th century, both of its current bases trace their origins to World War II, when General George S. Patton established the Desert Training Center across a swath of desert from the Mexican border to Nevada, the Army opened the Yuma Test Branch near the new Imperial Dam, and Yuma Army Air Base became one of the busiest flight schools in the nation.

When World War II ended, so did the military activity that had kept Yuma hopping.  With the air base mothballed, local Jaycees came up with an idea to spotlight Yuma’s perfect weather: set a record for nonstop flying.  An Aeronca Sedan named the “City of Yuma” took off on August 24, 1949 and did not touch the ground again until October 10.  Its 1,124 hours aloft was made possible by volunteers on the ground who passed food and fuel to pilots Woody Jongeward and Bob Woodhouse from a Buick convertible. 

“The Spirit of Yuma Military Festival ” will commemorate this intrepid flight with participation from family members of the pilots and other volunteers and the local community.  In addition, Yuma Proving Ground is bringing in several unique artillery displays showcasing YPG’s unparalleled military testing resources. The festival will also feature a Navajo code talker, Marine Corps Search and Rescue support demonstrations, the RQ-7B Shadow aircraft, information about the single Marine program, military working dog presentations, and talks from current and former military recounting their personal experiences in war.  Stephen Cochran will perform Saturday night at the Quartermaster Depot amphitheater.

Both of Yuma County’s premier military installations were reactivated in 1951, and have played a significant role in military training and readiness in the six decades since.  The military is the second largest contributor to the local economy after agriculture.

“This new festival is just a small way of recognizing and celebrating the role the military has played in Yuma’s development since the days of the Mormon battalion and Fort Yuma,” said Susan Sternitzke, YVB’s interim executive director.  “We want to showcase both this rich history and the ongoing contributions that our local bases make to our community and the nation.”

Now the busiest air station in the Marine Corps, MCAS Yuma supports 80 percent of the Marine Corps air-to-ground aviation training thanks to 2.8 million acres of training ranges and superb flying weather. Each year, approximately 100 aviation units deploy here for training, bringing about 14,000 personnel and 600 aircraft to Yuma for periods lasting from a few days to seven weeks.

At 1,300 square miles, YPG today is the county’s largest civilian employer and one of the world's largest military installations, hosting up to 100 tests simultaneously. Every year, tens of thousands of artillery, mortar and missile rounds are fired, 36,000 parachute drops take place, over 130,000 test miles are driven, and nearly 4000 air sorties are flown.

YPG is also home to the Military Freefall School, a joint forces training school covering all aspects of military parachuting.  Through a joint-use agreement with General Motors, a new hot-weather test track complex opened at YPG in 2009.

Yuma Visitors Bureau Markets the Yuma area within the travel and tourism industry and to the general public.  The nonprofit is funded in part by City of Yuma hospitality tax revenues.

Direct travel spending in Yuma County totaled more than $577 million in 2009 and supported nearly 6,000 jobs. Travel spending in the county also generated more than $36 million in state and local taxes.

Ann Walker, 928-376-0100 (office), 928-210-9044 (cell), ann@visityuma.com

202 S. 1st Avenue, Suite 202, Yuma, Arizona 85364 / www.visityuma.com

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Yuma Visitors Bureau markets the Yuma area within the travel and tourism industry and to the general public. The nonprofit is funded in part by City of Yuma hospitality tax revenues.