Posted: 01/06/2012 11:33:31 PM MST
President William Howard Taft, portrayed by Dale
Liikala, signs the... (Robin Zielinski/Sun-News)
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LAS CRUCES - As Voz Vaqueros began
singing "O Fair New Mexico" at Friday's re-enactment ceremony to
commemorate the 100th anniversary of New Mexico's statehood, Las
Crucen David Chavez smiled and broke into song himself, as the
longtime singing group reached the chorus.
"It's funny that I still remember it," Chavez mused. "We sang it
every day in school, right after the Pledge of Allegiance. It's
funny, but nice, that I still remember all of the words, all these
There was another irony during Friday's re-enactment ceremony of
the day 100 years ago today that President William Howard Taft
signed the proclamation making New Mexico the 47th state in the uion.
State Rep. Mary Helen Garcia, D-Las Cruces, noticed there were no
women among the delegation of state residents who were in
Washington, D.C. on Jan. 6, 1912 to witness Taft sign the
It was explained by KVIA's Hiliary Floren and Jon Hunner,
narrators of the program, that women weren't allowed to vote at the
time of New Mexico's statehood. In those days, women in support of
being allowed the right to vote wore a yellow flower as a sort of
"I'm appalled, in a way," said Garcia, of her discovery that no
women participated in the ceremony that granted New Mexico statehood
because women weren't allowed to vote. "By comparison, today we have
five women who represent Do-a Ana County, alone (in the state
"We've come a long way."
A standing-room-only crowd gathered in the Tortugas Gallery of
the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum to watch the
re-enactment ceremony. Las Cruces residents, dressed in costume,
portrayed members of the New Mexico delegation that went to
Washington to see Taft sign legislation in the White House's Oval
Office. Taft was portrayed by Dale Liikala, an Ohio actor, who has
long impersonated our 27th president.
Shortly before 11:35 a.m. Friday, the exact time 100 years ago
when Taft signed the proclamation, Liikala did likewise. Afterward,
he said the moment of the re-enactment was something he will
"I was shaking a little, quivering, as I realized I was signing
the document at the same exact moment as it happened a hundred years
ago," Liikala said. "I've been portraying President Taft for a long
time, but this is something I'll always remember."
As Liikala signed the document, he repeated the same words Taft
said to New Mexico's delegation 100 years ago.
"I'm glad to give you life," said Liikala, echoing Taft. "I hope
you will be happy."
A standing ovation then came from the large crowd.
Centennial events continue today with a parade at 11 a.m. and a
Centennial Celebration at 6 p.m. at the Amador Hotel. Tickets are
$50 for the celebration.
Steve Ramirez can be reached at (575) 541-5452.
•A hundred years ago Friday, a proclamation was signed by
then-President William Howard Taft that made New Mexico the 47th
•A re-enactment ceremony was conducted at the New Mexico Farm and
Ranch Heritage Museum, and a proclamation was signed shortly before
11:35 a.m., almost to the minute of the state's 100th birthday.
•Today's events include: the Centennial Parade, at 11 a.m., along
a route that travels north on Church Street to the roundabout at
north Main and then south on Water Street to Loretto Towne Center,
where the parade originates; and a Centennial Celebration, at 6
p.m., at the Amador Hotel. Tickets for the celebration will be
available at the door for $50 per person.
In a note to Debbie Weinkamer about his events
in New Mexico as President William Howard Taft, Dale Liikala wrote:
The centennial events on Saturday also went perfectly!
Everyone agreed the parade was the largest ever seen in this part of
New Mexico, with more than 200 entries. Mr. Taft made his way downtown
and was picked up by his driver in a 1962 Lincoln Continental
convertible and taken to the parade formation area. The mass of
humanity, floats, wagons, cars, tractors and horses was unbelievable!
My car was owned and sponsored by a local restaurant and the driver was
the grandson of the restaurant's founder. He made a point of dressing
the part in a black jacket and driver's cap, and also had magnetic US
flags that he put on the front of the car to make it look presidential
(wouldn't even let them put sponsor signs on the car because it would be
the "right look for the President."
Mr. Taft was the grand marshall of the parade. We traveled about 2
blocks, then picked up Nellie at the reviewing stand and continued
through the rest of the parade route. It was about two miles long and,
when we got all the way back around to the staging area, the last half
of the parade was still taking off. Our driver cut through back streets
to get us back to the reviewing stand, where we took our places with
other dignitaries. In my opinion, the high point of the parade was the
entire Engineers' Brigade from White Sands marching in the parade (at
least a quarter-mile of soldiers who have just been reunited following
their split deployments to the Middle East and Kosovo. The cheers and
applause they received was awesome.
Following the parade, Nellie and I were escorted to the weekly Las
Cruces farmers market, where we cut a birthday cake for New Mexico and
for a nice little lady who was born the same year. She was just beaming
at all the attention. We were later treated to lunch by one of the
vendors, before going to the Branigan Culture Center for the children's
story time. The program went well, but I cut it off after reading the
book I had brought when I felt the children (15) were getting antsy.
Saturday evening, Mr. Taft attended a cocktail reception (probably 200
in attendance) at the historic Amador, a building used through the years
as a hotel, bank, county offices, etc. It's being restored and the
downstairs is taking shape nicely. Mr. Taft was asked to say a few
words, then my "split personality" took over and Dale had a chance to
thank everyone for their warm hospitality.
Whew! It's been a hectic three days, but I have thoroughly enjoyed
every minute. Everyone really has welcomed me and Mr. Taft with open
arms. The comments I've received have all been positive. Some people
have even told me that having Mr. Taft in attendance at so many
functions has really made this one of the most memorable events in their
memories. That really made my time here seem even more worthwhile.
Centennial Celebration of the Signing of
New Mexico into Statehood (Itinerary)
H. Taft’s appearance is sponsored by the New Mexico Farm & Ranch
January 5-7, 2012
Las Cruces, New Mexico
William H. Taft "Chautauqua"
Centennial of New Mexico Statehood & Taft
Signing Ceremony Re-Enactment:
11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. @ The New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum
An event to commemorate the 100th anniversary of New
Mexico statehood, including the presenting of the New Mexico flag, singing of the state song (O Fair New Mexico), and a
re-enactment of the statehood proclamation ceremony – exactly 100 years to the minute after
President Taft signed the document in Washington, D.C. (11:35am Mountain
For More Info Contact: Craig Massey @ 575-522-4100,
11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. – @ Main & Mesquite Streets
More Info: Greg Smith, 575-202-5654,
The Centennial Ball in Las
Historic Amador Hotel
Dancing to the Music of the 1900's,
And even...President Taft!
More details to follow…
Proceeds to benefit
the Amador Museum Foundation
only have one chance to celebrate the 100th Birthday of the
For more information on President Taft and the Admission of New Mexico
into the Union see here:
For Immediate Release-
Center to host President Taft for family book
reading and performance
Cruces, NM – The Branigan Cultural Center (BCC) will
commemorate the New Mexico State Centennial with a
family program featuring a President William Howard
Taft re-enactor on Saturday, January 7 at 2pm.
partnering with other Centennial Celebration
organizers to bring Dale Liikala, a Taft re-enactor,
to Las Cruces to mark the 100th
anniversary of New Mexico’s admission to the Union
by the President on January 6, 1912.
appearance at BCC will follow the Centennial Parade,
which will commence at 10am on January 7 and proceed
through downtown Las Cruces.
BCC, Liikala will read “The President and Mom’s
Apple Pie,” a children’s book about a parade of
people following Taft through the streets during a
1909 whistle-stop tour. He will also entertain the
audience in-character following the book reading.
5” tall and 300 lbs., Liikala, of Mentor, Ohio, has
portrayed Taft at events around the country.
more information on other Centennial events, visit
Branigan Cultural Center is located next to the
Museum of Art at 501 N. Main Street. Gallery hours
are Tuesday through Saturday from 9am to 4:30pm;
gallery admission and the Taft program are.
more information, contact the Branigan at
Andy Albertson, Branigan Cultural Center
Curator of Education
Branigan Cultural Center
City of Las Cruces Museums
PO Box 20000
501 North Main Street
Las Cruces, NM 88004
575-541-2219 / Fax: