The city embraces its past by celebrating National Day of the Cowboy on Saturday, July 23, a free, Old West spectacle organized by the Sedona Main Street Program.

Cowboy traditions have been part of the American culture for generations; 727,000 work in the ranching industry today; annual attendance at professional and working ranch rodeo events exceeds 27 million fans.

Here in Sedona, National Day of the Cowboy brings visitors and locals together for an Uptown party boasting whip-crackin cowpokes and six-shootin’ gunslingers. The spectacle offers plenty of thrills and entertainment, but don’t let it obscure the true meaning of the day.

This year, the addition of the Get Your Pig On Barbecue Competition is bound to attract even more people to Uptown. Teams from all over will compete for top prize while event attendees sample the same grub the judges will base their decision upon.

Pioneering men and women known as cowboys and cowgirls helped establish the American West, including the Arizona Territory.

Locally, cowboys established ranches around greater Sedona, herded and tended cattle, and contributed to the early growth of our community.

In the minds of the American people, cowboys embody honesty, integrity, courage, compassion, respect, a strong work ethic, courage and patriotism.

For many, the cowboy spirit personifies strength of character, sound family values and good common sense.

Real cowboys are excellent stewards of the land and its creatures.

For all these reasons and more, we urge you to pull on your boots and your 10-gallon hats. There’s plenty of fun in Uptown on Saturday, July 23, you won’t want to miss.

Uptown will be crawling with pedestrians making their way from spectacle to spectacle, which will mean traffic delays in Uptown and Oak Creek Canyon. The Sedona Police Department plans to have extra officers in the area to direct traffic as needed, but officers say motorists can still count on some sort of delay.

So, rather than make the drive north, park your car and join us as we celebrate the National Day of the Cowboy.

It appears we may finally find out how Sedona residents truly feel about streetlights in West Sedona.

The city of Sedona will hold an election even though the Arizona Department of Transportation announced continuous streetlights will be added to its State Route 89A project.

ADOT’s announcement comes after the Sedona City Council voted 4-3 in February to take over the roadway — despite a professional survey stating residents did not want to do so — to prevent installation of the lights.

The agreement between ADOT and the city died when a referendum surfaced challenging council’s decision and the principle of whether it should have the authority to take such action.

ADOT’s safety improvement study was one of my first stories as a new reporter at the Sedona Red Rock News five years ago.

The then-council asked ADOT to conduct the study following pedestrian deaths on the roadway at night. ADOT said put up lights.

Five years later, the only safety improvement instituted is the reduction of the speed limit to 35 miles per hour from 40 between Soldier Pass Road and Dry Creek Road.

Five years later, several council votes sent mixed signals to ADOT.

Five years later, ADOT threw up its hands and said it couldn’t wait any longer, and lights were added to the bid for resurfacing of the highway.

The indecisiveness surrounding the lighting saga can be attributed to a lack of understanding of what Sedona residents actually want.

When the issue was simply lights or no lights, people rallied on both sides of the cause making it impossible to truly gauge where the majority stood.

When ADOT said lights or you own the roadway, the water muddied even more.

We can assume the light advocates remained as such, but the threat of liability and financial burden associated with owning a state highway scared some anti-light supporters to the other side.

At least three groups seem to have emerged — pro-lights, anti-lights and those who don’t want lights or the takeback.

The city’s decision to hold a special election for Sedona residents regarding the lighting issue despite ADOT’s recent action could settle the issue once and for all. Residents will be asked two questions — should the city take over State Route 89A and should the City Council alone have the authority to make future decisions of this nature.

Hopefully, we will be able to put this divisive issue behind us after the election, but something tells me regardless of how the vote comes out someone will insist the process was rigged, unfair, flawed or somehow does not, in fact, represent the true opinion of Sedona’s real majority.

High atop a mountain in the Wind River Range, the only buzz heard is created by a swarm of mosquitoes.

Cell phones won’t work, computers are too heavy to carry and playing a portable music device would defeat the purpose of the trip.

It is on this mountaintop a person can reconnect with him or herself and appreciate a simpler style of existence we often lose sight of.

I spent three days hiking with my family in the mountains bordering Lander, Wyo., living like our ancestors did when they settled the great American West.

I didn’t realize it while pounding out miles of trail at elevations sometimes exceeding 10,000 feet, but spending a few days in the woods provides a perspective on life forgotten in the information age where comfort and accommodation is just a button push away.

I’ve backpacked many times before, but a trip to the Fremont County museum the day after I returned introduced a new perspective on my excursions into the woods.

While touring the museum, I saw pictures of pioneers living daily the way I chose to live for a mere three days.

White men, women and children walked with loads of possessions on their backs while traveling in the unsettled territory. They hauled water from the streams and often slept in makeshift structures while building their homes with their own hands.

American Indians also lived off the land constructing tepees they carried with them as they trekked from place to place following a buffalo herd.

None of them could shower daily.

There was no antibacterial soap to stop the spread of germs.

Contact with family and friends only occurred in person.

At night, they sat around a campfire telling stories and singing songs, not around a television staring mindlessly.

Modern technology, however, makes backpacking into the mountains a much more comfortable experience than the settlers had.

Tents, a tiny camp stove, dehydrated meals, sleeping pads and headlamps would seem luxurious to people from the past.

Even with my camping conveniences and comforts, we were still in the wild unplugged from the madness of modern society.

Not all people appreciate the outdoors or choose to spend time hiking grueling trails with blisters on both ankles, but most would benefit from a few days of complete disconnection. It teaches a person to appreciate our way of life today and understand how hard the lives of others were on the journey to where we are now.

It isn’t easy to be an artist in Sedona right now. It’s never really been a cakewalk — artists spend more time waiting tables or serving coffee than recording great albums or painting masterpieces — but the art scene seems to be languishing in the doldrums.

Over my seven years and five months in West Sedona, I’ve seen the comings and goings of hundreds of artists, from painters and sculptors to poets and musicians, but the city is hovering at a nadir. The Great Recession is partly to blame but so is the general malaise that comes with uncertain political and economic times.

Some artists tell me they are merely “hibernating” at home due to personal or economic factors, but many others have left town for “greener” pastures, in both senses of the word.

An easy measure of an art scene’s vitality, a musician friend once told me, is karaoke. Live bands cost money, karaoke doesn’t. In Sedona, the going rate for a band is $100 per musician per night whether a solo guitarist plays background cover songs or an original six-piece band rocks a bar. Renting a karaoke machine and paying a host costs $60 to $80. Cutting the entertainment budget is understandable when a venue is struggling to pay rent, overhead and staff.

While it’s hysterical to watch a tone-deaf tourist three sheets to the wind belt out Queen’s 35-year-old “Bohemian Rhapsody,” seeing a singer/songwriter mournfully recount a recent break-up in a 10-day-old song while holding her guitar like the lover who left her is indescribably profound. No one goes to karaoke to listen; they go to wait their turn.

Sedona advertises itself as a “city animated by the arts.” Sometimes, however, that seems just a catchy motto, like calling this the “The Grand Canyon State” when many Arizona residents have never seen the big hole. The canyon is so large, you can fit the world’s 7 billion people in it 5,100 times over — go pack a lunch and see it now if you never have.

There seems to be a disconnect between the concept of an artistic city and the reality on the ground. Both a linguist and poet, I am uncertain of the city’s definition of “animated.” Sculptures dot Uptown and we’ll soon be placing two more in the roundabouts at the ‘Y’ intersection, but a roundabout isn’t a community gathering place, despite the illusion of sidewalks.

Arts groups are supportive cliques, helping members in tremendous ways, but often struggle to find ways to share with each other.

A busker who plops down an open guitar case on a busy street corner is more likely to be asked to move on than thanked for playing moving tunes.

Venues supporting Sedona’s original art and music scene soldier on, but could always use more bodies in the seats and at the shows.

In discussing the art scene at my weekly Wednesday night art house powwow, my friend Brian Walker said selling art is great but not his motivation — he paints because he loves everything about the creative process. Without art, I believe he would go crazy, or more crazy than he already is.

For those who remain in Sedona’s art trenches, a little support is all we need. Painters, performance poets and musicians could always use another body at the show, gig, poetry slam or exhibit. Encouraging city leaders and venues to support original, local art is our obligation as residents of an arts destination city.

If we believe “animated” is living verb, then join the dance and share the words. Otherwise, we’re just wasting our breath.

On Nov. 30 Arizona lawmakers passed legislation fire officials still scramble to defuse.

Arizona’s statewide ban on fireworks ended with the passage of House Bill 2246 allowing residents to purchase and use “consumer fireworks.” This type of firework contains limited amounts of pyrotechnic composition, and is designed to create visual and audio effects by way of combustion, according to the bill’s language.

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