Clarinda Vail was born and raised in Tusayan, the smallest town in Arizona by its population of 560 residents, located about seven miles from the Grand Canyon’s south entrance. The town houses several motels and hotels, restaurants, an IMAX Theater, a general store and several eateries.
Vail is the property manager of the Red Feather Properties and her family’s holdings in the town. She is the granddaughter of R.P. “Bob” Thurston, one of the first hoteliers in Williams, circa 1929, and one of the original families to pioneer the town of Tusayan in the early 1950s.
With fondness, Vail recalls riding her tricycle all around Tusayan, picking up food items for the family. “When I got older, my dad dug ditches behind the gas station, the Red Feather Lodge and around our house so I could ride my dirt bike,” she said. “I wasn’t very tall so the ditches allowed me to stop and go.”
These days, when Vail’s not working, she is hiking the trails of the Grand Canyon, boating on Lake Powell, river running on the Colorado and attending as many concerts as possible. Her husband, John, is a member of local band Exit 64.
Red Feather Lodge General Manager Julie Aldaz has known Vail for 30 years and worked for her for 20.
“Clarinda is a very caring and generous person. She gives of her time with many committees and organizations that she is involved with. She will always work to find common ground and she is always willing to give that helping hand to someone in need.”
Plaza Bonita Restaurant owner Miguel Arceo agrees. “She is one of the nicest people I know. She’s very understanding and always there for you, working on your behalf.”
Vail attended the Grand Canyon School, currently the only school in a national park that has kindergarten through 12th grade. She spent her junior and senior years at New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell. “I loved that school and it was good for me to leave for a bit because I had recently lost my parents and I wanted a change of scene. It’s also where I met my husband.”
With a deep affection for the Southwest, Vail is eager to share her knowledge of the region with visitors. “While they’re here, I enjoy telling them about the area and making suggestions for [visiting] Monument Valley, Arches or Canyonlands, for example. I love the Grand Staircase. It takes my breath away.”
The dark skies of Tusayan and Grand Canyon are among Vail’s favorite topics. “I like taking people out into the woods and showing them the stars. There was one woman from Taiwan who had never seen the Milky Way before. She thought it was all made up.” QCBN
By V. Ronnie Tierney, QCBN