I’m happy to be appreciated.
Yarnell Daze is coming up in May. It’s an event that’s been happening just about every spring in Yarnell for the past 30+ years. It includes a parade, art fair, car show, and all kinds of other activities for people of all ages. A lot of fun up in Yarnell, high above the low desert just as the low desert is starting to really heat up.
Years ago, I noticed someone giving helicopter rides as part of the Yarnell Daze festivities. He was flying out of a lot beside the Mountainaire convenience store (Woody’s) in Peeples Valley. I only saw him one year and that’s because I was just driving through on my way home from Prescott.
So I figured I’d call the Yarnell Chamber of Commerce and ask if I could do helicopter rides for them. There was a machine when I called. (There’s always a machine when you call. I don’t think Yarnell’s Chamber of Commerce is very busy.) So I left a message. And so began our game of telephone tag.
Someone from the Chamber called back and said they were thrilled that I’d called. Thrilled. Wow. Can’t help liking that attitude. Her message said their first Yarnell Daze planning meeting was coming up on a Monday in February and could I attend? I checked my calendar and called back. I told the machine I’d be out of town that day (I was going to be at the Grand Canyon doing a mule trip I’d planned eight months in advance). Then I didn’t hear anything for a while.
I called back early this month to see where things stood. I left another message. Someone named Linda called back and left a message for me with a different phone number. I called back and actually spoke to Linda. Their second meeting was March 28. Could I come? I put it on my calendar.
The meeting was at the Buzzard’s Roost, an interesting little cafe on the north end of town. The Buzzard’s Roost was always a funky, kind of junky-looking place that specialized in smoked food — ribs, pulled pork, etc. It was tiny inside — maybe six tables? — and had a few tables outside. Then someone came along and fixed the place up. They enclosed the outside with clean, neat-looking siding, removing the outdoor seating and making the place look….well, normal. Around that time, the bikers stopped coming in and the place looked empty all the time. It had been stripped of character. Then someone must have woken up to the fact that the place’s old funky look was part of its formula for success. They somehow managed to make it look weird and funky again, added more outdoor seating, and parked an old Harley out front. Now it’s the same old place it was but bigger and people stop in for meals again.
I stepped inside, wearing my freshly pressed Flying M Air oxford shirt and feeling a bit out of place. There were people there having breakfast, but no big groups. A woman at the counter looked at me and said, “Yes, this is the meeting.” Her name was Wendy and with her was a man who turned out to be the cook. When he went into the kitchen to get to work, I noticed that he wore a western style holster under his apron with two revolvers tucked inside it. I don’t think they were fake.
Wendy owned the Buzzard’s Roost and was evidently part of the Yarnell Chamber. She was excited that I’d come and excited that I’d be doing helicopter rides. In fact, she told everyone who walked in or called on the phone while I was there that they’d be having helicopter rides at Yarnell Daze. I know she was more excited than I was. We talked about pricing, hours of operation, etc.
Then she asked me if I could be in the parade. She wanted me to hover down the street. Wow. I’ve always wanted to do that. I know I have the skills required. But the downwash would create hurricane-like winds as I passed. It could blow up dust and tiny pebbles. It could get in people’s faces or eyes or damage property on the parade route. I had to say no. But I promised to do a low fly-by during the parade.
Wendy suggested advance ticket sales. A great idea, especially after the farce at Lake Havasu City. I’d know in advance how many people I could expect at a minimum. We’d do advance ticket sales at a slightly lower price, to encourage people to buy before the event. The tickets would have time slots on them, so not everyone would show up at once. She could sell them at the Buzzard’s Roost, which would help her draw people in. All I had to do was create the tickets and a bunch of flyers.
Linda came by and we talked about landing zones. That’s the only thing that bothered me about the gig: the proposed landing zone was all the way out in Peeples Valley, about three miles further up route 89. Not exactly the in-your-face LZ I like to have. The presale tickets would help get people out there, but didn’t they have a better location?
A man having breakfast, who’d already chatted with me about doing aerial photography from the helicopter, suggested a field near “Choo-Choo,” the train museum at the edge of Yarnell. Linda and I scoped it out when we went to check the Peeples Valley LZ. We both agreed it was better. Linda had the job of finding out who owned it and getting their permission to operate there.
That in itself was weird. Most hosts require that I find and get permission for landing zones. Yarnell was doing everything for me.
Want to know something else that was weird? Linda told me they have insurance and I didn’t have to worry about it. Wow. Normally, the big stumbling block for these events is insurance — hosts normally want to make sure I have it and add their names as additional named insureds. It’s become part of my planning ritual for events. So I told Linda that I have insurance, too. I produced the certificate and made her take a copy. I told her that I pay a ton of money for my insurance and I wanted everyone to know I had it. She took it — probably just to be polite.
Yesterday, I had all the tickets and flyers ready to bring to Yarnell. But I don’t get up there too often so I wanted to mail them up. This way, they’d get them right away. So I called Wendy at the Buzzard’s Roost to get her address. They don’t have mail to their physical address in Yarnell. It’s all Post Office boxes. She told me that she appreciated me doing this. As if I were doing her a favor. I told her that it was my pleasure, that Yarnell was a pleasure to work with, and that I hoped I met their expectations.
And I meant it.
It’s nice to see a Chamber of Commerce that actually works hard to ensure the success of its events, one that invites local businesses to participate and makes it easy for them to do their part. A Chamber of Commerce with a positive “can-do” attitude rather than the “why should we do something for you?” attitude I’ve seen all too many times around here. I think I’ll be joining the Yarnell Chamber of Commerce. It’ll be a real pleasure to support such a good organization.
Now if only all of my helicopter ride hosts were as pleasant and accommodating as Yarnell.