TUSAYAN, Ariz. - Residents in and around the Tusayan area will get a chance to visit the Western Discovery Museum free of charge Aug. 23 when officials host a locals appreciation day designed to bring the community to the town's newest attraction. The appreciation day will feature guided tours starting at noon and free food from 5-7 p.m., according to organizers.
The Western Discovery Museum, which opened to the public July 24, will host a grand opening celebration Sept. 13.
Designed to highlight the history of the Old West, and the Colorado Plateau in particular, the Western Discovery Museum is home to a number of attractions, including Buffalo Bill memorabilia, historical artwork of the Grand Canyon, Canyon river-rafting artifacts and much more. The museum came to the Tusayan area as part of a partnership with the Martinson family, contractors for the museum, the Halvorson family, and members of the Stilo Group based in Italy. The museum, which broke ground in March and brought an estimated 25 new jobs to the area, is located along Highway 64 opposite the IMAX Theater. The large, two-story building was erected at the site that once housed Papillon Helicopters.
Western Discovery Museum Director John Dillon said the museum was a result of a shared vision between the Stilo Group, the Halvorson family and the Martinson family. "They thought that the museum would be a fantastic new addition for visitors at the Grand Canyon, to offer something more for visitors to do, especially in the evenings, and something to try and keep the visitors here longer. Our goal is to provide more things for people to do and hopefully keep that guest's stay from 3.2 hours to a couple of days," Dillon said.
The new attraction, he added, is the first of many projects the group hopes to accomplish.
"The museum is a tribute to their vision," Dillon added.
Part of that vision, Dillon said, is to improve the look of the community and attract visitors to stay in the area for a longer period of time, creating what he calls an "internationally recognized gateway community."
"This is just a taste of what they have in mind as far as far as the quality of what the visitor can enjoy here," he said. "The ownership is very supportive of the incorporation efforts. They're in support of Tusayan and the residents who live here making Tusayan into the place they want it to be. With the election coming up, there are nine candidates running and we think there is a clear distinction between those that are in favor of the things that people in this community want and those that are not. There are candidates that are land owners and candidates that want to be land owners."
The Western Discovery Museum, besides being owned by the partnership, is managed by the Scottsdale Museum of the West under the direction of CEO Mike Fox.
"The Scottsdale Museum of the West is really the management company of the museum," Dillon said. "They're the ones that helped develop all of the exhibits, they helped partner with the A. P. Hays collection, which is one of the world's greatest collections of early prints and paintings, of all mediums, of the Grand Canyon from the late 1800's to the early 1900's."
The art collection includes oils, pastels, and even original paintings from famed Grand Canyon artist Thomas Moran.
"The Scottsdale Museum of the West was crucial in all of these partnerships, to bring the exhibits and the content to the museum. Mike Fox does a terrific job," Dillon said.
Members of the Stilo Group, from Italy, the Halvorson family, and officials with the Scottsdale Museum of the West will all be in attendance for an official ribbon cutting ceremony Sept. 13. The grand opening is slated to begin at 4:30 p.m.
The Western Discovery Museum is open from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Cost to enter is $8 for adults and $5 for youth 7-18-years-old. Children under $5 are free.
"We want everybody to see it and we want all the locals to see it," Dillon said. "It's their museum as much as anyone's. It is the newest building in a decade and the newest attraction in 10 or 11 years. We're anxious to engage the community in any local events, to sponsor or host any type of civic or community events."
Officials are already planning to host the upcoming Rotary Chili-Cookoff this year on Sept. 20, Dillon said. A mixer will be held at the museum, featuring a western-themed poker night, will be held next week on Aug. 25 beginning at 5:30 p.m.
For more information on the Western Discovery Museum, visit their website at www.westerndiscoverymuseum.org.