How do you describe Spokane to someone who's never visited? We've got Hoopfest, you might say. It's not a Seattle suburb, you might clarify; we have, you know, actual sunshine.

The quick overview is the goal of the special section devoted to our Lilac City that will be in the seat pockets of all Alaska and Horizon planes this month. As a local, it's always fun to gauge how our city would look to a fellow American — even if they are being held captive until their plane lands.

To start with, the section inside Alaska Beyond looks great — after all, Inlander photography, courtesy of our staff photographer Young Kwak, is featured throughout. The publishers tapped local journalists, too.

Of course there are those amenities we've long been proud of — the Spokane Symphony, Manito Park. But something different shines through — Spokane has lots of new things to talk about. We're not just treading water.

The package introduces frequent fliers to, among other things, Huntington Park, the Cork District, "Spokane Style" beer, the new stretch of the Centennial Trail through Kendall Yards, recent additions to the dining scene like Clover, Ruins and Durkin's, along with events like Terrain and Spokefest.

Local leaders in culture and business are interviewed as well, talking about how we are capitalizing on local institutions and homegrown ingenuity. The people who stayed, instead of being lured to shiny Seattle or Portland, are reaping the rewards of making something of Spokane. Others who came, saw the possibilities and put down roots have brought fresh vitality, too — people like Walt Worthy, who came in 1967 and never left, or Don Kardong, who first came to Spokane to work as a counselor at Camp Reed, or Lisa Brown, who came to visit friends in the 1980s and decided to make it her home. "Spokane's current generation of leaders," Brown told Alaska Beyond, "focuses more than before on emphasizing Spokane's inherent strengths rather than imitating some other place."

Then there are those who have seen — and helped guide — all these changes for their entire lives, like Scott Morris, Avista's CEO, who was born and raised here. There's Phil Haugen, general manager of Northern Quest Resort & Casino, who grew up on the Northside and recalls riding his bike over to NorthTown when traffic was light and it was an open-air shopping center.

Jess Walter built his celebrated writing career in Spokane. "I'm inspired and defined," he says, "by the place where I grew up."

Spokane is looking pretty good from 30,000 feet — even better when you take a closer look.♦

Into Africa Auction @ CenterPlace Regional Event Center

Fri., Sept. 30, 5:30-8 p.m.
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About The Author

Ted S. McGregor Jr.

Ted S. McGregor, Jr. grew up in Spokane and attended Gonzaga Prep high school and the University of the Washington. While studying for his Master's in journalism at the University of Missouri, he completed a professional project on starting a weekly newspaper in Spokane. In 1993, he turned that project into reality...