A rock 'n' roll revival in Winslow, Arizona
The town is capitalizing on its mention in a classic Eagles song, making it a quirky vacation spot.
Those who remember the Eagles can reconnect with the rock band's music in a surprising place. No, not in some Hotel California, but in the tiny town of Winslow, Ariz., about 100 miles from the Grand Canyon.
On the surface, it would appear there isn't much to do in Winslow. But look again – it's one of those little gems that rewards the traveler who takes time to stop and explore. This is especially true for fans of 1970s music and those who like to discover quirky places.
Basically, Winslow is a collection of small desert-style houses and some gas stations for those traveling through.
The La Posada Hotel, built in 1929, used to be the main tourist attraction.
Because Winslow sits on historic Route 66, it once reaped the benefits of countless tourists traveling that highway made famous by the popular television series of the same name, which ran from 1960 to 1964. But when Interstate 40 opened to the north in the late 1970s, it took the cars, tourists, and much of the area's revenue with it.
Before long, Winslow was on the verge of becoming a ghost town. So in 1997, the city decided to capitalize on the hit song "Take It Easy," written by Jackson Brown and Glen Frey and recorded by the Eagles.
One verse of the song goes, "Well, I'm standin' on the corner in Winslow, Arizona, and such a fine sight to see. It's a girl, my Lord, in a flatbed Ford, slowin' down to take a look at me."
"Take It Easy" was a long-lasting hit and continues to be played constantly on classic rock radio stations, and the residents of Winslow saw it as a way to breathe new life into their town.
So a local foundation formed a committee to come up with ideas and request proposals from artists and sculptors. In 1999 "Standin' on the Corner Park" opened to national acclaim.
When travelers get about 20 miles from Winslow in either direction, they see highway signs suggesting that they tune their radios to a local station for town information. When they do, they hear about the site, get directions to the park, and are invited to have their photos taken with the girl in the Ford truck.
Now, that's not an invitation that comes the vacationer's way every day!
In the center of town, the first thing you notice is a large trompe l'oeil mural covering the western wall of an aging brick building that shows what appears to be the reflection in a window of the girl in the flatbed Ford slowing down to take a look at a bronze statue of a young man – wearing jeans, shirt, boots, and vest – on the corner with his guitar.
A street sign reads "Standin' on the Corner," and the lyrics from "Take It Easy" play from several loudspeakers. Looking down on all this is an eagle perched on a second-story window. It is the song brought to life.
On any given day, even when the heat is oppressive, anyone wanting to stand on the corner to have a photo taken must first stand in line, as there is a steady stream of tourists waiting to become part of this piece of Americana.
Aging hippies stand shoulder to shoulder with Japanese tourists, mothers from Kansas with small children, and hipsters from New York, who all wait their turn with cameras in hand. To stand on the corner in Winslow is to re-enter the 1970s.
Naturally, businesses in town have capitalized on Winslow's bit of fame: Shops sell everything from reproductions of Route 66 highway signs and newly mastered DVDs of the old television series to Eagles CDs, hats, key chains, shoulder bags, and refrigerator magnets, as well as prints of the mural. Every store in town sells "Standin' on the Corner" post cards. Business is once again booming in Winslow.
And never more so than each September, when, for the past eight years, the annual Standin' on the Corner Festival has brought thousands of tourists to town. This year's festival will take place Sept. 28 and 29 and features the tribute band "Hotel California, a Salute to the Eagles."
Thanks to all this activity, the earlier situation has been reversed – many people now choose to bypass the Interstate highway and drive along old Route 66 through the Southwest to take in attractions such as the Winslow park. It has become part of a grass-roots movement to revitalize the old highway as an important piece of American history.
Sometimes song lyrics become catch phrases, making their way into the daily lexicon of the American language. But in the case of "Take It Easy," they have given new life to a desert town that seemed on its way to vanishing.