Arizona City's Year-Long Free Food Promo Ends; Not a Bite Served

The Pilot Knob Hotel in Yuma, c. 1905. Image: Arizona Historical Society Yuma.

Call it sun-believable.

The city of Yuma, Arizona calls itself "the sunniest place on earth." To prove it, they promised last year that hotel guests would dine free every day the sun didn't shine there.

On Wednesday, the town marked 365 consecutive days of sunshine. Nary a taco was served.

The promotion was to commemorate the town's 100th anniversary. The "free board every day the sun doesn't shine" was common back when the town was young.

"In some ways, we're a little disappointed we didn't give away any any free meals, because we're in the hospitality business and like to make people happy," said Linda Jordan, executive director of the Yuma Visitors Bureau, the campaign's organizer. "But as we got closer and closer to the end, we got really excited about making it a whole year without a single sunless day.

"There's no bad news either way," Jordan said. "No free food means no gloomy days. It's a big win no matter what."

Yuma, located near the border with Mexico, holds the Guinness World Record as the sunniest place. It claims an average of 350 sunny days per year. Not surprisingly, it's a popular destination for snowbirds - the population nearly doubles in the winter months.

Here's how it worked, according to the web site:

    • A guest would check in to a participating hotel.
    • If it was sunny, it was just another beautiful day in paradise.
    • If it was cloudy, a special committee of Yuma Visitor Bureau staff and board members and local meteorologists would start monitoring the weather.
    • By 5 p.m., the committee would determine if the sun did not shine that day.
    • An official "Code Gloom" was in place in case of clouds, where participating hotels would place life-size cutouts of Mayor Alan Krieger in their lobby areas.
    • The cutout of the mayor would hold an umbrella and a proclamation announcing that the sun did not shine, so "free board" was on the town.
    • Hotel guests would receive a date-stamped coupon good for a free meal at participating restaurants (limit two meals per room).
    • The "free board" coupon would be good for a meal valued at $10 on that date only.

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