Is Yakima Really the Palm Springs of Washington?
The infamous "Welcome to Yakima, The Palm Springs of Washington" sign --the one that graces the view as you drive Interstate 82 from the north or the south -- is known to many as a reminder of how great Yakima is. But others in the valley consider it an embarrassment.
Although many assume the sign was erected by the city, it, in fact, was erected by a local man named Gary Lukehart in 1987. Lukehart put up the sign to celebrate Yakima's centennial. After the centennial, Lukehart modified it to say "The Palm Springs of Washington." Lukehart also owned Trail Wagons/Chinook, which manufactured upscale Class C RVs/motorhomes. Sadly, Trail Wagons/Chinook went under in 2006 and the land and buildings were foreclosed on. Lukehart was able to keep the sign, though.
In the past, local government officials and citizens have attempted to reason with Lukehart to remove the sign, but Lukehart continues to ignore the requests -- much to the dismay ofo the sign's opponents. Lukehart's reasoning for the sign? "Because we have a lot of sunshine... That's what we have in common with Palm Springs," as he told NBC Right Now in a 2013 interview.
Although Lukehart makes a valid point, many have disputed it. The nearby Tri-Cities (Pasco, Richland, Kennewick) get more sunshine, sit near the Columbia River, boast warmer temperatures and offer tourist attractions that are similar to those in Palm Springs. Though Yakima does have some tourist attractions and nice weather, it's nowhere near that of the Tri-Cities or Palm Springs. The Tri-Cities is more of a desert town like that of Palm Springs. Yakima, though a dry climate with desert-like qualities, lacks the features that the other two cities offer. So wouldn't it make sense for Tri-Cities to be considered The Palm Springs of Washington? You could say Lukehart's reasoning for the sign is moot.
Still, the sign has become a tourist attraction, prompting visitors to take selfies in front of the sign. It could be classified as a local oddity -- like the Fremont Troll in Seattle. The sign has been a conversation topic among locals and out-of-towners for three decades. T-shirts have been made and sold featuring the sign. Bob's Burgers and Brew, a regional restaurant chain has a replica neon sign gracing the bar of their Yakima location, which is right across from the Fairfield Inn Hotel ... owned by Lukehart.
So is Yakima really "The Palm Springs of Washington?" If you're comparing it to Tri-Cities, the answer is no. However, the sign is actually good for the city of Yakima. Tourists love it, people talk about it, and it should be embraced as a local oddity that stands as a part of Yakima's folklore.
You can either love the sign or hate it. But the fact remains, the sign is a part of the fabric that makes Yakima unique.