DELTA, Utah — A groundbreaking ceremony will kick off the construction of the Topaz Museum on Saturday, Aug. 4, at 10 a.m. on Main Street in Delta, Utah, where the new museum will be built.
Besides the ceremony, there will be bus tours of the Topaz site and a preview of an interactive website created by CyArk. Registration begins at 9 a.m. in Delta City Park, 100 W. Main St.
Honored guests will be Mayor Gayle Bunker and Willie Ito, who taught himself how to draw cartoons while he was in Topaz. He later worked for Disney, Warner Brothers, and Hanna Barbera Studios.
Bunker became a champion for building the Topaz Museum years ago when he was on the City Council and Assistant U.S. Attorney General Bill Lann Lee visited the Topaz site. Since then, the mayor has been a tireless supporter of the Topaz Museum Board’s plans to build a museum.
Ito started working in the cartoon industry in 1954, when he was 19 years old and was hired by Disney for the famous spaghetti kiss scene of “Lady and the Tramp.” He has also worked for other studios, and then went back to Disney until he retired.
When Ito was 5 years old, he saw Disney’s “Snow White” and knew from the moment the Seven Dwarfs started singing “Hi ho, Hi ho” that he wanted to do animation.
Ito has helped to educate the public about the internment by illustrating two books for young readers, “Hello Maggie!” and “A Boy of Heart Mountain,” both based on author Shig Yabu’s experiences in camp.
Part of the day’s activities will be a presentation by CyArk, a non-profit organization that digitally preserves cultural heritage sites by laser scanning and 3-D models online. The final product will be a website that will teach people the history of Topaz and other internment camps.
Registration and lunch reservations, an art show in the Delta City Library, and a book-signing by Ito start at 9 a.m. There will also be tours of the reconstructed camp recreation hall at the Great Basin Museum in Delta and singing by former Topaz internee Toru Saito.
Topaz, one of the 10 War Relocation Authority camps, was located 16 miles northwest of Delta in central Utah, on the lip of the Great Basin. The camp processed 11,212 people while it was in operation from Sept. 11, 1942 to Oct. 31, 1945. The Topaz Museum Board owns 626 acres of the Topaz site, which was one square mile.