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In Yuma, sun is always shining so no free lunch

PHOENIX — For 365 straight days, Yuma officials waited for the chance to give away food to strangers.

And for 365 straight days, their tourism promotion, free food “every day the sun doesn’t shine,” went unclaimed by hotel guests.

But city leaders aren’t complaining.

“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 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.”

The promotion harks back to an early 20th-century promise from the city’s Pilot Knob Hotel, which promised “free board every day the sun doesn’t shine.”

Present-day city officials were ready. They devised a “gloom code” and ordered life-size cardboard cutouts of Mayor Al Krieger, complete with an umbrella, to be displayed in hotel lobbies should clouds hide the sun.

There were stipulations to claiming the prize. On the gloomy day, guests would receive a date-stamped coupon good for a free meal at participating restaurants. They were limited to two meals per room, so the Brady Bunch would have been out of luck.

Also, the value of the meal topped out at $10. No lobster dinner, folks.

The odds were in Yuma’s favor. The city, along the Colorado River near the California and Mexico borders, has been in the Guinness records book as sunniest place on the planet.

The campaign earned a Governor’s Tourism Award.