Most resorts acknowledge the Arizona soil under their foundations by throwing a Navajo rug on the floor or hanging a Monument Valley photo on the wall.
But one Scottsdale-area resort is celebrating its new home by honoring living people who make the Grand Canyon State distinctly Arizona.
On Friday, the Westin Kierland Resort & Spa in Phoenix, working with the Arizona Historical Foundation, will kick off its Arizona Culturekeepers program by honoring 10 people who have made significant contributions to Arizona’s culture, history, environment and economy.
Among the 10: A Seligman barber who created the idea of old Route 66 as a destination in itself; a pioneer girl born in a town now beneath a lake; a Scottsdale couple who have worked to preserve the city’s desert; and two women who have worked to save the charm and history of their small towns.
Ten honorees will be chosen each year until the project ends with 100 people in 2012, in time for the commemoration of Arizona’s centennial.
“We have a long-term commitment to it,” said Bruce Lange, general manager of the 750-room resort located west of Scottsdale Road near Greenway Parkway.
State historian and project adviser Marshall Trimble compiled a list of about 70 nominees gleaned from his travels. Trimble, an Ash Fork native, said he favored rural Arizona.
That heritage is defined by the smaller towns off the beaten interstate paths, he said.
“You don’t know Arizona if you haven’t gotten out on those blue highways, those state highways,” he said.
He had two criteria:
First, nominees had to be alive, with longtime Arizona ties. Second, he looked for people who gave their time.
“That’s the most important thing they can give,” Trimble said. “And these people have done that in their respective communities.”
The author and singer found living treasures all over the state.
“Winslow, well, I knew someone up there who has for years been working on preserving a great hotel up there — La Posada — and that was Janice Griffith,” Trimble said. “Janice was a one-woman show. Over on Route 66, when the towns were dying when the freeway bypassed them, there was Angel Delgadillo over there working his tail off to say, ‘Come back and enjoy the experience of old Route 66.’ ”
Each honoree will be presented with a photo and plaque describing their contributions. The plaques will be displayed in Culturekeepers Hall, an area adjacent to the resort’s Grand Ballroom.
Lange said you can go anywhere in town to see a Navajo rug or cowboy hat hooks on the backs of the doors.
“What we’ve really tried to accomplish — and a lot of the credit really goes to Marshall — is the difference between a hotel stay and a hotel experience,” Lange said. “This becomes a launching pad for a lot of customers who want to go different places while they’re in the state. We can give them a handful of information on where to go and tell them some stories along the way.”
And, he said, “we’re going to get that customer to come back. Everybody’s got a little history buff in them.”
The 735-room resort is packed with original artwork by well-known Arizona artists and historical photos from organizations and private collections.
Employees went through a 10-week class on Arizona history taught by Trimble.
“People who are visiting the hotel are getting a real, real treat, a rare treat they’ll not find in another hotel, and it’s because these folks are walking the walk, not talking the talk,” he said.