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'The Rock' rolls to Yuma riverfront this winter
Quartermaster Depot will host traveling Alcatraz display Jan. 12-April 14
YUMA, ARIZONA - History buffs, mark your calendars: For a three-month stretch this winter, you'll be able to get a look at two of the nation's most notorious prisons in one location. Big bonus? The site has been certified by Guinness World Records as the sunniest place on earth.
Already famous - or infamous - for the feared Yuma Territorial Prison of the Old West era (think 3:10 to Yuma), this winter Yuma hosts a special traveling exhibit on Alcatraz (think The Rock, Escape from Alcatraz and more) at the Yuma Quartermaster Depot State Historic Park from Jan. 12 through April 14.
The traveling exhibit is meant to bring Alcatraz to people who otherwise could never visit, said Charles Flynn, executive director of the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area, which operates both of Yuma's state parks.
The "Life on the Rock" exhibit was created by Alcatraz Cruises at the request of the National Park Service and will be displayed at locations around the country including Ellis Island and Liberty State Park.
And while "The Rock" rolling to the river is the big news, it's just part of the improvements this year at the Quartermaster Depot. New permanent exhibits include displays on the Yuma Siphon, the underground water tunnel that celebrated its 100th birthday this year; steamboats on the Colorado River; railroads in Yuma circa 1900 -- complete with a miniature train installation -- and the Yuma's wetlands restoration project.
A sweet addition is the "Back in Time Pie Shop," open daily from December through March. A delicious but more healthy feature is Sunrise Farmers Market every Sunday from Oct. 21 through early May. The Quartermaster Depot is also the venue for an outdoor concert by Riders in the Sky Feb. 3, and hosts Yuma's Christmas Village Dec. 15-22, Civil War Days Jan. 26-27 and Lettuce Days March 9-10.
Meanwhile at Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park, the museum unveils a new interactive digital exhibit on the Mormon polygamists sent to the fearsome lockup in 1885, based on scholarship by Professor David Boone of Brigham Young University.
"This is a fascinating part of the Prison's history. Leading Mormon citizens in the Arizona Territory were imprisoned on federal anti-polygamy charges and thrown in with the most feared criminals in the West," Flynn said. "The exhibit explores whether these imprisonments were simply a matter of criminal prosecution or religious persecution."
Other improvements to the Prison include the historic restoration of the adobe sally port - one of the last original structures from 1876. Also due to be unveiled this fall is a new and improved "time line" of the Prison's history along the sideway from the entrance building to the Prison museum. New panels detailing the environmental restoration of the Yuma East Wetlands have also been installed on the overlook just outside the prison's entrance.
Beginning October 1, both parks are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week through May. Adult admission is $6 for the Territorial Prison and $4 for the Quartermaster Depot, with free admission to the Sunday farmers market. Along with local support, revenue from admissions help to make Yuma's state parks self-sustaining and keep them open to the public under local management, Flynn said.
Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area is an independent nonprofit corporation governed by a local board of directors. It was among the first national heritage areas in the West to be officially designated by the U.S. Congress. The Heritage Area's master plan projects earned the Governor's Arizona Preservation Award in 2009. Info at 928-373-5198 or www.yumaheritage.com.
Yuma Visitors Bureau markets the Yuma area within the travel and tourism industry and to the general public. Direct travel spending in Yuma County totaled more than $616 million in 2011, supported 6,330 jobs and generated almost $40 million in state and local tax revenues.
Yuma's population nearly doubles in the winter months, thanks to more than 23,000 spots in RV parks and resorts. The community also offers nearly 4,300 hotel rooms, conference and meeting facilities, and three casinos. For more details about Yuma's year-round attractions, special events - and the rarely "cloudy with a chance of tacos" forecast* - visit www.visityuma.com or call 800-293-0071.
* Recognized by Guinness World Records as world's sunniest spot, Yuma offered free meals to hotel guests "every day the sun doesn't shine" from Aug. 1, 2011 until July 31, 2012 as part of Arizona's Centennial. Final score? Sunshine 365, Gloom 0.
Ann Walker, 928-376-0100 (office), 928-210-9044 (cell), firstname.lastname@example.org
Visitor Information Center: 1-800-293-0071, www.visityuma.com