Print Fort Verde prepares fence for Tom Sawyer Day
Written by Mark Lineberger   
Friday, 17 September 2010 00:00

It’s time to roll up the sleeves and make Aunt Polly proud, because Fort Verde State Historic Park is looking for volunteers for its annual Tom Sawyer Day.

George Dvorak, bottom, a volunteer at Fort Verde State Historic Park, and seasonal ranger Bill Fritz repair a fence gate at the park Saturday, Sept. 11, in preparation for Tom Sawyer Day on Saturday, Sept. 25.The event is inspired by the story of Tom Sawyer tricking people into doing his fence painting job in Mark Twain’s classic novel.

The fort, however, isn’t trying to trick anybody. Organizers are just looking for people to come out for a day of family fun.

If the white picket fence happens to get a nice new coat of paint in the process, then all the better.

The event came into existence a few years ago when staff at the fort was trying to think of something that would really bring people out, said Sheila Stubler, fort manager.

“We thought this would be a really great community volunteer project,” Stubler said.

She was right, and Tom Sawyer Day has become quite popular over the years.

Last year’s event brought out more than 80 people, Stubler said.

It’s a great opportunity for groups like the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts, the Builders Club and anyone else who wants to help give a little something back to their community, Stubler said.

“It’s great,” Stubler said. “They’ve done such a good job that we had to look for parts of the fence that people could actually paint. Some people have asked me if we could do something like this twice a year or more, but there’s only so much fence to go around.”

This year’s Tom Sawyer Day is set to run from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday, Sept. 25.

If people would like to participate, Stubler only asks that they call the fort ahead of time so staff can get an idea of how many supplies they’ll need.

The fort will provide scrapers, buckets and paint. They’ll also have paintbrushes, but Stubler said people should bring an extra if they have one.

The fort will also have water and snacks on hand. It’s not all manual labor, Stubler said. There will be historical reenactors wearing period clothes from the 19th century, and if it gets hot, “Tom Sawyer” the movie will be playing inside the air-conditioned fort, a luxury not enjoyed by its original inhabitants.

The fort has been heavily dependent on volunteers since the state gutted the budget of Arizona State Parks. Through a community effort, a small army of volunteers stepped up to help keep the fort running, and Stubler said they deserve a lot of credit.

“An assistant director with state parks was here the other day,” Stubler said. “He said he hadn’t seen the fort look this clean in 30 years.”

For more information about Tom Sawyer Day, call the fort at 567-3275 or contact Nicole Armstrong-Best with Arizona State Parks at (602) 542-7152. Anyone age 13 or younger will need to be with a parent or legal guardian.