By Susan Sternitzke, owner of Limelight Creative Group
Shannan Louser, Yuma Visitor’s Bureau Group Sales Manager, was traveling on a WestJet flight from Montreal to Winnipeg. While browsing through the in-flight magazine she came across a story titled “Weird and wonderful Arizona.” Michele Sponagle, the author, says that, “to say Arizona is unique is an understatement. While there is no standard gauge for weirdness, this southwestern U.S.
state just seems to ooze strangeness and peculiarities. Where else can you find festivals paying homage to lettuce (Yuma Lettuce Days)
or to ostriches (Ostrich Festival in Chandler)?
The article got me thinking. Does quirky really sell?
As a Yuma resident, I will focus on Yuma quirkiness to prove the theory. Alberto’s lunch counter inside Sant Drugs was featured in a recent Arizona Highways magazine. With just 19 stools and one table that seats five, this local eatery has been serving tamales and more traditional soda fountain treats for the past ten years. Local characters abound and may end up sharing your table. Quirky
characters and seating landed them in a publication that reaches hundreds of thousands of people. They may be on to something.
Jacques Istel, the Mayor of Felicity, Calif., just outside Yuma, tops the quirky and unusual list. Istel’s pyramid claims to be the “official center of the world.” There’s also a staircase from the Eiffel Tower, sundial with the arm of God as its gnomon, a manmade Hill of Prayer, topped by a replica of a French country chapel and the history of humanity inscribed in granite. Its quirkiness is highlighted
in www.RoadsideAmerica.com. Hmm, I’m beginning to see the upside of being a bit “eccentric.”
The list would not be complete without a mention of what’s commonly known as The Bridge to Nowhere. This 800-foot long suspension “Swinging” bridge spanned the Gila River when it was built in 1929, but now spans empty desert — no water, creek or river in sight. The lonesome bridge attracts an amazing number of curious travelers. Someone needs to build a taco stand there!
Oh, wait! They did! From the Farm is Yuma’s newest quirky and fun attraction, celebrating the fact that Yuma is the winter vegetable capital of the world. It’s a “you pick” farm with artichokes, beets and carrots, a general store, date shakes. And, an authentic carne asada taco stand, all in the middle of nowhere. Next to the Bridge to Nowhere.
One final addition is the Yuma Territorial Prison and the Yuma criminals. After its building burned down, Yuma High School held classes at the prison site from 1910 to 1914. When its football team upset a Phoenix rival, the crowd taunted the Yumans as “Criminals.” The Yumans adopted the “Criminals” as their mascot and Yuma High still uses it proudly today. Bridges, criminals, barstools. Quirky and unusual indeed sells. There are people who will travel great distances looking for unique experiences and Arizona is full of them. Business owners, embrace your quirkiness within. Good luck and happy summer visitor season to Arizona.
Sternitzke, previously Executive Director of the Yuma Visitors Bureau, can be reached at 928-246-9255, firstname.lastname@example.org