Sunday, July 31, 2011

Cowboy up: West Wendover, Nevada's Wendover Will

This awesome photo of Will at night was shot by Dave Beedon.

This is Will in front of the Stateline casino, circa 1960. The photo comes from the great website Frank Busca's .

Here's Will's brother, Vegas Vic.

In 1952, a Mr. William Smith opened a casino in the small northern Nevada-Utah border town of West Wendover called the Stateline. He had the good taste to commission a Mr. Pat Denner, the designer of Las Vegas' famous Vegas Vic neon cowboy, to adorn his gambling parlor with a similar cowpuncher to give everybody a friendly "Howdy, pardners!" as they drove by and nudge them in the direction of his wagering temple. And thus Wendover Will, named for both the town and Mr. Smith, was created, and Mr. Denner made him an even taller galoot (63 feet) than his older brother, earning him the distinction of the World's Largest Mechanical Cowboy from the Guinness Book. Both of Will's arms waved, his eye winked, his cigarette flicked, and his 1,184 feet of neon tubing flashed day in and day out until 2002, when the Stateline changed ownership and Will was kindly donated to the town, who made him their good-Will ambassador and moved him to an even better location and gave him a lavish restoration. His white hat, yellow bandanna, red shirt, Levis, cowboy boots, and six-gun gleamed in the hot midday Nevada sun when we passed through town last spring, but, alas, we weren't able to stick around and see him all lit up and in motion after dark. If anyone out there has a video of Will at night, we'd love to add it here.

It's encouraging when a treasure like Will is recognized for the neon-tastic icon he is and a town revels in his awesomeness. Kudos to West Wendover for appreciating where there's a Will, there's a he-went-that-a-way. Happy trails to you.


roadsidewonders said...

Wow, I've always had a soft spot for Vic ... I didn't know that he had a handsome younger brother :)

One more for my western "to-do" list!

Val Nelson said...

Smiths were a great family.