As businesses reopen and foot traffic picks up in the Old Town area, residents might notice a facelift on the northeast corner of Scottsdale Road and Main Street.
The iconic “Most Western Town” cowboy sign received a fresh coat of paint by southern Scottsdale resident Patricia Badenoch over Easter weekend.
“The weather was perfect,” she said. “Lots of families on bikes, strollers and even children with their training wheels still on now roamed the sidewalks and streets of Old Town taking advantage of no traffic.”
Badenoch spent six hours repainting the sign Easter Sunday.
While she used the same colors — red, blue, and tan for the chaps — what she did differently is repaint the original design for the rope around the lariat, which she discovered while scraping the old paint off.
“That was fun seeing that original rope design,” she said. “And because I was raised on a ranch and had my own horse and so forth, I had a sense of a Western look.”
Badenoch said, “It was evident much of the painting needed attention.”
“About a year ago, I noticed that the paint was fading, particularly the one that faces out to the street because the sun hits it. The red was turning pink,” she added.
Badenoch knew the quarantine was the best time to pack up a ladder, her paint and her brushes and paint the sign while the streets were unusually quiet for spring.
This wasn’t Badenoch’s first time touching up the sign.
The first time she repainted it was in 2006, with the help of Darlene Peterson, and again around 2013.
Last May, Badenoch also spent about 50 hours repainting the weather-beaten fiberglass horse propped on the second level of the historic Porter’s Tavern building on Brown Avenue.
“I was a little intimidated and felt challenged by it because this is kind of an icon. It’s like the cowboy, because it’s been there for years and years and years. Lots of people have energy on this, especially the people in the historic Old Town. So, I was a little nervous,” Badenoch told the Progress at the time.
The cowboy sign has been a symbol of The West’s Most Western Town since the first version was erected by the Scottsdale Chamber of Commerce in 1952.
Its purpose then was to easily, cheaply and frequently promote community events on the chalkboard inside cowboy’s lariat.
“It quickly became the ‘iconic’ photo backdrop for many individual tourists and convention groups coming to Scottsdale – and continues to be,” said local historian Joan Fudala.
Fudala added that what many might not know is that the cowboy had a “kinfolk” starting in 1956.
Replicas of the cowboy sign were posted in 15 locations throughout Scottsdale and the surrounding area to indicate the direction and mileage to Scottsdale.
Today, however, only one cowboy remains: the one in Old Town.
After the sign was remade from its original Masonite into sheet metal in the late ‘60s, it received its first facelift in late 1995, just in time for the first Super Bowl in Arizona.
“I think the Cowboy sign, now 68 years old, is one of the most beloved symbols of Scottsdale,” Fudala said. “It’s a touchstone to the past and a familiar face as we look to the future. Multiple generations have been able to have a ‘Kodak moment’ — can we still say that in the digital photo op and selfie age? — next to the sign, and millions of motorists have driven past the Cowboy’s friendly welcome to Old Town.”
It’s this very reason Badenoch has been so committed to preserving the sign over the years.
“I realized that ... there was always people photographing themselves with it. It was almost more sought after then the Love sculpture; it’s amazing icon,” she said.
Badenoch said while some want to “morph out of the ‘Most Western Town’ look” and make room for more businesses and high-rises, she still considers Old Town an attraction.
“Not only is it an attraction for people coming from out of town, but it’s also an attraction for people who live here, even the younger generation, especially with the referendum thing. That was a major symbolic gesture on the part of the citizens of Scottsdale wanting to maintain some kind of authenticity to the downtown area,” she said, referring to the 17,000 signatures on a petition for a now-moot referendum on the now-scuttled Southbridge Two project.
“That was an amazing accomplishment to get that and that led credence to my sense of the importance of maintaining some sort of historic character and the heritage of that area; and a cowboy is symbolic of that to me,” she said.