Normally, before anyone can glimpse into the future, it’s deemed necessary to look back to the past.
By Nate Hansen
Larson NewspapersNormally, before anyone can glimpse into the future, it’s deemed necessary to look back to the past.
Last September, a conversation between Al Comello and Sedona Mayor Pud Colquitt did just that.
Comello recalls nearly a year ago, walking the grounds of Sedona’s Airport Day and Car Show with Colquitt. He said he recalled her drawing out a rough sketch for a similar event but broader in a sense it would include a larger part of the community, not only those who appreciated airplanes and classic car shows.
Comello, not one to back down from a challenge, remembered her daydream. So, when the opportunity came to revisit the topic, he jumped at the chance.
Sitting around Sedona City Manager Eric Levitt’s desk are Colquitt, Comello and event planner Shondra Jepperson. Without conjuring the spirits of yesteryear, they discuss rebuilding the past, resurrecting a program.
"If you want to protect what you have down the road, you have to protect your heritage," Colquitt begins.
The three nod their heads in unison as Comello pulls out a newsletter from 1997.
The top of the newsletter reads "sixth annual Western Americana Days." Inserts are full of local advertisers sponsoring three days of activities throughout town.
Activities listed range from static air displays and a classic auto show to gliders and a pow wow.
Comello adds past organizers, such as Bill Lyons, Chuck Groebner, Dave Bleurett and Howard Bos, brought in the Phoenix Orchestra on one occasion, and singer Brenda Lee on another.
Although the event may aspire to become an enterprise that size again one day, Comello and Jepperson say they’re happy to have this year’s modest $30,000 budget. Thanks to cooperation and a joint effort from Sedona Chamber of Commerce, Sedona Airport Authority and city of Sedona, the two co-producers feel they’ll have an easier task than starting from scratch.
The trio openly thanked Andy Hughes. Though they have never met the Western Americana Days founder and only heard stories, they’re beginning to relate to the dedication needed to get something of this magnitude off the ground and satisfaction found in doing so.
"This is the start of a tradition, we think," Comello says.
"It is tradition," Colquitt confirms.
Reminding the creative team this town was founded in 1903, and wasn’t incorporated until 1998, she speaks her mind about the direction she feels Sedona should be going.
"I resent being called a tourist town. I’m so tired of being called a town for big business," she stresses.
"I’ve lived in some high falootin’ places, don’t get me wrong. But, this is a small town. It’s time for community," Colquitt adds.
Jepperson, co-producer of the event, agrees with the mayor. Frankly, she’s happy to see this side and direction taken.
She says since her and her husband Tom Jepperson’s arrival to Sedona five years ago, they still return home each year to perform in an annual community celebration outside San Diego. Although on a smaller scale, she hopes Sedona can find a similar connection.
"This is for the community," she says.
Though the restart of this
community occasion will only last one day, Comello and Shondra Jepperson already have some big plans with the "fair atmosphere."
Traditionally, there will still be a car show, static air display and airplane rides. But there will also be a Western theme, cowboy shootouts, a kids activity area and a dunking tank, for which one Sedona Red Rock News writer is already recruited.
A 1929 Ford Tri-motor owned by Grand Canyon Airlines and a Sparrow Hawk gyrocopter will make their return to the airport, Comello exclaims, praising any out-of-the-ordinary aircraft technology.
Super Bowl mascot "Spike" is confirmed to arrive and hand over an official football marking the event as well, Colquitt says.
And let nobody forget food, dance and professional entertainment, much of which is organized with Jepperson’s expertise.
Barking Frog Grill will host a food booth, in addition to the Civil Air Patrol’s "pilot breakfast sandwich."
"Don’t miss the Frito Pie," Colquitt adds, leaving the snack up to Comello and Jepperson’s imagination.
As big sponsors, such as
Cowboy Club, ILX Resorts, Stage Coach Emporium, Sedona Magazine and Sunterra, help the event make headway, Comello and Jepperson hope other sponsors and booth participants enlist to make this truly a one-of-a-kind occasion.
And as they continue to "fill in the gaps," they say they’ll make sure to keep Sedona posted. This event is one nobody will want to miss.
Nate Hansen can be reached at
282-7795, Ext. 132 or e-mail