Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community members and their families helped Talking Stick Resort celebrate its fifth anniversary with a celebration in the grand ballroom on April 18.
Casino Arizona’s Ramon Martinez was the evening’s MC. “Many of you remember not having air conditioning or running water. Many of [our] members had to haul water. [But] someone out there had a dream, a vision, a relative and or a leader who pushed for this dream (building a casino), and here we are today proudly celebrating five years of the Talking Stick Resort,” said Martinez.
Martinez noted that the Community is proud of the accolades that Talking Stick Resort has received from national organizations and media, such as being rated a AAA Four-Diamond Resort, one of the top 10 Native American–owned hotels in the country, best Scottsdale resort, having the best pool parties and hosting one of the best poker tournaments, just to name a few.
“We have had the casinos for 18 years now, and we have collected many awards and recognitions from around the state, country and world,” said Martinez.
Adding to the theme of dreams coming true, Martinez told the story of Olympian Billy Mills achieving his dream and what kept him going, which was his family. Mills was one of the first Native Americans to participate in the Olympics and win a gold medal.
“It is up to us to provide for our elders, children and grandchildren to support our dream,” said Martinez.
Community elder Barbara Johnson recited a prayer in O’odham, and members of the SRPMIC Tribal Council and Casino Arizona board were introduced and recognized. SRPMIC President Delbert Ray, Sr. thanked everyone who attended the celebration.
Ray recognized the Talking Stick Cultural and Entertainment Destination and its many businesses, such as The Pavilions, Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, Butterfly Wonderland and Talking Stick Golf Club.
“In 1999, Casino Arizona at the 101 and Indian Bend opened its doors for business, then in September 2006 this Community broke ground to build the Talking Stick Resort and Casino, and then in 2010 the Community would again open its doors for business to the new Talking Stick Resort,” said Ray.
Ray further outlined the many changes and opportunities that Talking Stick Resort has brought to the Community. “Community, you voted for Indian gaming, and should be very proud of all these opportunities you have created. I say thank you on behalf of those who cannot say thank you themselves. I would also like to thank the staff, board members and those that have and continue to take part in the resort.”
Crystal Banuelos, chairperson of the Gaming Board, said, “I am so honored today because Talking Stick Resort turns five years old, and this is a momentous occasion.” She discussed the amenities the resort has to offer and thanked the 3,400 employees of the resort for coming in and leaving with smiles on their faces. While Banuelos was talking, a video presentation showcased of the facility, employees and board members of the resort. The last speaker was Casino Arizona CEO Dennis Leong, who also thanked and congratulated the Community and Talking Stick employees.
After the speakers were finished, families enjoyed casino entrée selections to live music by the Onk Akimel Waila band. After everyone finished eating, Ray and members of Council, Leung and Gaming Board members participated in the cutting of the ceremonial cake. Then everyone enjoyed entertainment by the Bird Singing and Dancing by the River and SRPMIC Traditional Dancers.
Activities for kids took place outside the ballroom, such as facepainting, family portraits, caricature artists, balloon makers and also activities for youth in the showroom, including DJ Toney Santo spinning on the stage.
Onk Akimel again played a few more songs before the Texas Tornados took the stage, a Tejano band that plays country rock and Mexican style music.