Harold's Corral sign, in the heart of Cave Creek, now using the slogan "Where the West Begins!"
PHOENIX — For 66 years, Scottsdale has playfully called itself “The West’s Most Western Town,” a nod to its early years of hitching posts, Western storefronts and long-gone dude ranches that have been overtaken by contemporary high rises and South Beach-style nightclubs.
The shift toward a more urban metropolis — more Los Angeles, less Wickenburg — has prompted some people to ask: Is it time for Scottsdale to find a new slogan?
“When is the last time you’ve seen a bolo tie or a cowboy hat and boots on a gentleman in our stores, bars or restaurants?” wrote resident Patricia Dooher in a letter to the editor to the Scottsdale Republic this month.
Dooher urged the City Council or Chamber of Commerce to sponsor a contest to find a more appropriate nickname.
In recent years, Scottsdale has made efforts to promote and retain its Western brand, pumping millions of dollars into an expansion at the Tony Nelson Equestrian Center at West World and planning a Scottsdale Museum of the West, set to debut late next year.
The city still boasts a number of Old West-themed businesses, including Pinnacle Peak Patio, Greasewood Flat and the Rusty Spur Saloon. The annual Parada del Sol is still held in the city each winter, featuring plenty of riders on horseback, and a rodeo is held at WestWorld.
But other Western haunts have come and gone.
The Rawhide Western Town entertained visitors for 34 years before trotting out of town in 2005, relocating to the Gila River Indian Community near Chandler. The shuttered Pink Pony Steak House, Old Town Scottsdale’s oldest restaurant, plans to reopen this year after an extensive remodel.
While “not totally opposed” to a change in the motto, Mayor Jim Lane said he is “personally tied with the Western heritage.”
“I would hate to lose that,” he said. Scottsdale can maintain its Western image and still be modern, Lane said.
Saying Scottsdale “can’t stand still and be in 1910 forever,” Lane offered a slight change to the slogan.
“I think people have a vision of a more antique look for a Western town. Horses in the street, gun belts on everyone’s hip,” Lane said. “Are we losing that? Sure, we are losing that. But we’re becoming the New West’s most Western town.”
In recent years, Scottsdale has seen a proliferation of trendy bars and nightclubs in part of its downtown, just a short drive north of its traditional Old Town area that seeks to retain a Western flair.
In addition, high-end shopping centers, luxury resorts and homes, golf courses and high-profile events such as the Barrett-Jackson collector-car auction, Waste Management Phoenix Open and spring-training baseball have drawn more attention than the Parada del Sol and its related rodeo each winter-visitor season.
City officials also have drawn criticism for its recent approval of several high-rise apartment and condominium projects. Critics suggest the buildings will change the landscape and harm the city’s long-time appeal.
Dan Semenchuk, a downtown Scottsdale advocate and unofficial spokesman for the area, said he moved there with his wife from Denver in 1980.
“We’ve always felt that Denver, as well as the surrounding cities of Cave Creek, Wickenburg and Prescott, have more Western character than Scottsdale,” he said.
If there is a “West’s Most Western Town” in Arizona, “it should probably be Tombstone,” he said.
Despite the changes, traditionalists aren’t about to turn over the slogan anytime soon.
City Councilman Bob Littlefield said the decades-old motto is part of Scottsdale’s cache, designed to lure visitors hankering for a taste of the Old West.
“What would the right slogan be? ‘Just another suburb of Phoenix’?” he asked. “Of course Scottsdale isn’t a Western town anymore, in the sense that we’re not riding around on horses and cleaning up horse poop. As I’ve said a million times, people come to Scottsdale because Scottsdale is different and better. If we’re just like Tempe, Glendale or Apache Junction, why would people want to come here?”
Cave Creek is the latest Arizona town to jockey for the title. The Cave Creek Merchants & Events Association was talking of developing a “friendly” competition between the neighboring communities, which could take place just before Cave Creek’s Wild West Days in early November, said Fran Booth, membership director of the association. But under threat of a suit for copyright infringement, threatened by Scottsdale, the Town of Cave Creek dropped any plans to adopt the slogan "where the Wild West lives!" Except that is the slogan for Deadwood, South Dakota.. . . oh well!