The home of legendary frontier era lawman Commodore Perry Owens in Seligman, Arizona just off Route 66. ©Jim Hinckley’s America

In September of 1887, Apache County Sheriff Commodore Perry Owens rode into Holbrook to arrest Andy Blevins. Blevins, his brothers, and acquaintances that they rode with had a feasome reputation in the Arizona Territory. They were thieves, rustlers, and cold blooded murderer’s. And they weren’t afraid of Owens.

The gunfight lasted mere minutes. When the smoke cleared Andy Blevins was mortally wounded. John Blevins was bleeding profusely but would survive. Sam Houston Blevins and Mose Roberts lay dead. Owens was unscathed.

The Blevins House still stands in Holbrook. It is a private residence with a monument commemorating the now nearly forgotten shootout.

Missed Opportunity

Holbrook never really capitalized on this event or this story in the development of toruism as a component of economic development. Likewise with the beautiful 19th century train depot, the territorial era Bucket of Blood Saloon, or the historic Navajo County Courthouse.

Contrast that with Tombstone, Arizona. On October 26, 1881, the Earp brothers and Doc Holiday faced off against the Clanton-McLaury gang at the OK Corral. The rest, as they say, is history. Tombstone built an entire tourism industry around this single event.

The late Bob Waldmire was a folk artist of legendary stature. Among Route 66 enthusiasts his work and legacy is revered. In 2004, Bob Waldmire earned the National Historic Route 66 Federation’s John Steinbeck Award for his contributions to the preservation of Route 66. His eclectic lifestyle and 1972 VW microbus that served as a studio and home when Waldmire was on the road served as inspiration for the Filmore character in the animated film Cars.

A mural by iconic folk artist Bob Waldmire at TNT Engineering on Route 66 in Kingman, Arizona.

Pontaic, Illinois harnessed Waldmire’s popularity in the Route 66 and folk art community as an integral component in the development of tourism that literally transformed the town into a destination. Kingman, Arizona has an an orignal Bob Waldmire mural, and a display of his orignal work, at TNT Engineering, orignally a Ford dealership built along Route 66 in the 1960s.

Waldmire’s work isn’t recognized or promoted in the Kingman’s official tourism marketing. An innovative narrated self guided historic district walking tour developed by Kingman Main Street finally put the mural and other public art displays in the spotlight. But a year after its introudction the walking tour still hasn’t been included in the city’s tourism marketing initiatives.

Tourism Dollars and Cents

Every community has a story. Every community can use that story as as a component in marketing and in the development of tourism. And, of course, in the context of economic development tourism is easy money.

Leadership that develops cooperative partnerships, that builds a sense of community purpose, and that utilizes all marketable assets is key to succesful tourism marketing. This is crucial if a town is to maximize the economic poential of tourism.

This is the second installment in our series about the economic impact of tourism. As the exclusive Jim Hinckley’s America series continues, I will be sharing action items that have a demonstrable history of sucess in economic development as well as historic district revitalization.


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