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3:33 AM Thu, Nov. 15th

State stamp unveiling opens Prescott Best Fest Friday

What will the new stamp look like?  Attend the Best Fest unveiling Friday ...

What will the new stamp look like? Attend the Best Fest unveiling Friday ...

Phoenix may be the capital of Arizona these days, but Arizona's official centennial stamp design will be unveiled in its territorial capital of Prescott.

The philatelic ceremony will kick off the three-day Best Fest on the north side of the courthouse plaza in Prescott at 4 p.m. Friday.

Prescott is the first to host a centennial Best Fest, followed by Tucson and then Phoenix.

"This is going to be a major, major event," said Ann Sterling, chair of Yavapai County's state centennial committee.

The "Forever" stamp won't be available for purchase until the state's official centennial day of Feb. 14, 2012.

But the design will be displayed on a huge banner throughout the Best Fest weekend Friday through Sunday in Prescott.

The Prescott High School Band will open the free public ceremony unveiling the stamp, which also includes the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University color guard and ERAU plane flying overhead.

Pony Express re-enactors will deliver the governor's centennial stamp proclamation.

Secretary of State Ken Bennett of Prescott will read the proclamation, Prescott Postmaster Frank Watson will share a brief history of the Postal Service in Prescott, and Ken Ohman, manager of Post Office operations in Arizona, will speak briefly about the commemorative stamp process.

Watson will introduce the stamp artist after the design is unveiled. He also will officially announce next year's date of issuance for the stamp.

At the end of the 45-minute stamp ceremony, local centenarians Georgia Simmons, Richard Testut and Florence Wells will release balloons to officially open the Best Fest.

It's unusual to have a large event such as the Best Fest associated with the unveiling of a state centennial stamp, said Peter Haas, communications director for the U.S. Postal Service in Arizona.

"We're very excited about Friday's event, and to be part of the kickoff," he said.

The unveiling of New Mexico's stamp earlier this year for its centennial was a smaller stand-alone event, for example. New Mexico also celebrates its centennial in 2012. It was the 47th territory to become a state, while Arizona was the 48th. They almost became one State of New Mexico together, but Arizonans successfully fought off that idea.

When Feb. 14 rolls around, the centennial stamp will be available at every post office in the state.

People can ask their local post office on Feb. 14 to hand cancel envelopes or postcards featuring the centennial stamp and Feb. 14 date, Haas said. Those who also want a "first day of issue" cancellation can attend the Feb. 14 ceremony at the main post office in Phoenix, but they don't have to.

The Postal Service will be announcing a special address where people can send a stamped envelope or postcard between Feb. 14 and March 14 to get the cancellation that reads "first day of issue," Haas said.

"That's the postmark a lot of stamp collectors covet," he explained.

Students all over Yavapai County are participating in a project with the county centennial committee to create collectable postcards that the committee will take to the Feb. 14 ceremony in Phoenix, so the students can have postcards with the "first day of issue" cancellation, Sterling said.

Each student will draw his or her own centennial design (aka "cachet" or "first day cover") on their postcards, and the centennial committee is picking its favorites in a contest that is sanctioned as an Arizona Historical Advisory Commission Legacy Project. County centennial committee member Mary Liggitt came up with the idea.

Winning designs will be distributed in December.