Two Valley towns formed an unlikely bond while trying to "best Western" each other in a publicity blitz.
What's more Western? Having a big bronze statue of a cowboy on a bucking steed in the middle of an asphalt roundabout, or bringing a half-ton buffalo named "Harvey Wallbanger" to a town council meeting and getting your spurs stuck in dung?
Such burning questions need not burden Scottsdale or Cave Creek anymore. Turns out, they're both Western in their own ways, and there's no need to shoot it out with paintball revolvers or sue over slogans. But for a hot high-noon minute last fall, there was a whole lot of huffin' between the two towns over Scottsdale's trademarked title, "The West's Most Western Town." In the end, Cave Creek got its own slogan, Scottsdale got a laugh, and both towns agreed to forge a future alliance to discuss "real" issues.
The fracas started last September, when the mayor and town council of Cave Creek – in anticipation of their annual Wild West Days festival in November – challenged the mayor and city council of Scottsdale to various cowpokey competitions. The suggested prize? Scottsdale's slogan, "The West's Most Western Town."
Cave Creek's always been a town without a nickname. The North Valley burg of 5,000 boasts a tract of gorgeous Sonoran desert, myriad ranches and riding trails, and neighborhood businesses like Buffalo Chip Saloon and Rusty Spur Saloon. Horses and motorcycles coexist in the corrals. Interim Cave Creek town manager Rodney Glassman, an admitted city slicker from Phoenix, said the "Most Western" title was important to Cave Creek because "They don't have spring training. They don't have the Mayo Clinic. They don't have Fashion Square," referencing some of Scottsdale's most un-Western attractions.
Scottsdale City Councilman Dennis Robbins came to hear the challenge at Cave Creek town hall, accompanied by three Scottsdale police on horseback – "wearing helmets and mounted on English saddles," as Cave Creek resident Larry Wendt pointed out. Challenges included Glassman taking on Scottsdale City Manager Fritz Behring in a live bull-riding contest; Cave Creek Mayor Vincent Francia vs. Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane in a "quick-draw" shootout; and Cave Creek Vice Mayor Adam Trenk challenging Scottsdale Vice Mayor Virginia Korte to a pig race.
At first, Scottsdale sidestepped the thrown-down gauntlet with good-natured guffaws. Lane wrote an open letter to Cave Creek, declining the challenge and extending an invitation to the Scottsdale Showdown in October, but just for the prize of "good fun." Lane pointed out the "West's Most Western Town" motto, trademarked in 2007, had been "Scottsdale's brand for almost 70 years," and "isn't up for grabs."
In October, Cave Creek's Francia and town council members arrived at Scottsdale City Hall in a horse-drawn carriage to reiterate their challenge, accompanied by Harvey Wallbanger the buffalo, citizens on horseback and the full Cave Creek High School marching band blasting "Happy Trails," trailed by several townspeople, including a hawk-handler with a live bird perched on his glove. Scottsdale police joked at the door that tickets to the city council meeting were $25. Inside, Mayor Lane commented, "Our friends from the north have come down and made quite a hoopla." But as for the "Western Challenge" to its motto, Scottsdale again demurred.
The weekend before the Wild West Showdown, word emerged Cave Creek was moving forward with a resolution to use Scottsdale's slogan in marketing materials. Lane's chief of staff, J.P. Twist, told The Arizona Republic, "If Cave Creek adopts this resolution, Scottsdale will begin exploring any legal remedies available for infringement on our trademark."
Cave Creek finally backed down – declaring all the contests "a draw" – and in November, officially adopted an alternative motto, "Where the Wild West Lives."
In the resolution adopting the new slogan, Francia announced that Lane had invited him to a joint council meeting, for the two towns to "discuss issues of 'mutual concern' including economic development and regionalism."
But given that Cave Creek's resolution called Lane's invitation "a gesture that embodies the type of class that can only be possessed by... a community with more Mercedes than any place outside the country of Germany," this friendly rivalry may not be over.
Tale of the Tape
Cave Creek (Incorporated in 1986)
Nickname: "Where the Wild West Lives" (adopted in 2013)
Scottsdale (Incorporated in 1951)
Nickname: "The West's Most Western Town" (trademarked in 2007)
Estimated number of horse stables/ranches: Cave Creek: 18; Scottsdale: 35
Bars with live bull riding: Cave Creek: 1; Scottsdale: 0
Preserved land acres: Cave Creek: 5,000+ (of 28.2 square miles); Scottsdale: 27,800+ (of 184.2 square miles)