What’s a Fandango?

Love this word: Fandango!


Amid all the events scheduled for Arizona’s 100th birthday – street concerts and historical reenactments in Tucson, a performance by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir at US Airways Center, the Best of Arizona traveling museum and the Arizona Centennial Ride with Dierks Bentley as honorary chair, let alone the kickoff event that took place in Prescott in mid-September 2011, drawing a crowd of almost 90,000 to the square –  there is plenty of opportunity to join this once-in-a-lifetime celebration.


But none has a name quite like Fandango. So what is a fandango?


Merriam-Webster says it’s a “lively Spanish or Spanish-American dance in triple time.” (The second definition was “tomfoolery”; love that, too!)


More than a year ago as co-chairs Stevie Eller and Patty Simmons began planning Arizona’s 100th birthday celebration, they discovered that in the early days of territorial Arizona, a festive event – not necessarily a formal one – was called a fandango, a word that originated in Mexico.


When they heard it, they knew: Fandango was the name they sought for the Valentine’s Day birthday gala they were planning. The word perfectly suits the Southwestern heritage. “We’re celebrating Arizona, after all,” says Eller. “We promise a great birthday bash, and we are honored to be part of it.”


Stevie and Patty plan for Fandango! Arizona to be the "gala of the century." After all, Stevie says, it was a century in the making.


Longtime Arizonans Karl and Stevie Eller say they are honored to help celebrate

the state's Centennial. "This will only happen once!" Stevie says. 


Eller and her husband, Karl, have both invested a year in the Centennial celebration. As chair of the capital campaign, Karl has worked to gain support from the private sector, raising funds to help support the Centennial’s many official events.


“We love Arizona,” Stevie says. “There isn’t another state where we would want to live. Arizona has been our life, and now we want to help celebrate it.”


What do you do at a fandango?

You fall in love with Arizona all over again, Stevie says.


The star of the evening will be Arizona. The North Ballroom of Phoenix Convention Center will showcase vast panoramas of Arizona landscapes, plus videos highlighting the state’s magnificent and diverse beauty.


The state’s story will be unfurled a quarter century at a time by masters of ceremony Hugh Downs, Harvey Mackay and Rex Allen. A highlight of the evening will be a special performance of the “Grand Canyon Suite” by the Phoenix Symphony, conducted by Michael Christie and with photos choreographed by James Westwater.


“This is an evening not to be missed,” Stevie says. “Like many galas, this too has a vital purpose. Unlike many galas, this one only happens once in history.”


Proceeds will help underwrite Arizona Centennial activity dedicated to education and commemoration of Arizona’s 100 years.


Who’s on the guest list?



Patty Simmons is co-chair with Stevie Eller of the Centennial's

grand birthday gala, Fandango! Arizona


Co-chair Patty Simmons says, “We are inviting everyone to step out and experience this once-in-a-lifetime evening. Now is the time to honor the state that has already been good to so many, and continues to hold great promise for our future, including for our young future leaders. You can’t keep Arizona down. And that’s exactly the spirit of this ‘gala of the century.’ It’s for everyone in Arizona.”


The ballroom is 46,000 square feet, and Eller and Simmons hope to fill it.


Oh my, what do you wear to a fandango?

Arizona black-tie.


That term throws some people into a tizzy, but it's pretty simple, really.


For the ladies, Arizona black-tie can mean gowns, long dresses, broom skirts, cocktail dresses and denim,  all dazzled up with boots, turquoise, silver and gold! High heels and stilettos are Arizona style, too. Or highlight a simple black skirt and top with turquoise jewelry.


For the men, Stevie says, if you want to be formal, wear a bolo tie. Or wear a tux, or wear a suit. "It's a party," she adds. "but this isn't about clothes. This is about celebrating Arizona."

– C. Miller



Official centennial events



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