When Valarie Smith approached the board of the Windsor Hotel to present her proposal to be the last photographer to shoot photos of the hotel before it was renovated, she had no idea that the project would evolve into a full length documentary.
"I pitched them two ideas," Smith said. "One where I just take photos, and one where I would shoot some video and do some interviews too. They picked the second one."
Smith spent one week in the hotel in November of 2012, then interviewed six Garden City community members who all had a connection to the hotel in some way; Don Harness, Brian Nelson, Gary Whitehorse, Ross Miller, Florence Wilson and Tony Harris.
"I filmed every nook and cranny of that place," Smith said. "By the time I was done, my hair smelled like the Windsor, my shoes had Windsor dust all over them. I was the Windsor Hotel."
Smith then spent the winter editing all her footage into a documentary.
The documentary tells the history of the hotel, includes a tour though the building, and has plenty of facts about the hotel. Through the personal interviews, Smith was able to add character to the documentary, and help the story come alive.
"I think the stories I got, even though they don't necessarily directly relate to the Windsor, help show what it means to be 'a part' of the community, not just 'in' the community," Smith said. "And the Windsor was definitely a part of the community."
The goal of the documentary, as with any project Smith works on, is to inspire and educate people.
"I hope people get a better understanding of this relic we have here," Smith said, "and hopefully will be inspired to get involved and help make sure this icon remains in our city for another 100 years or more."
The Finney County Preservation Alliance is currently renovating the building to make it structurally sound, to open the hotel to new possibilities. What the final outcome of the hotel will be however, no one's sure yet.
"The Windsor Hotel, a Documentary" will premiere this Saturday, April 13, at the Pauline Joyce Fine Arts Auditorium on the campus of Garden City Community College. Show time is 4 p.m. After the movie there will be an artists' reception in the Mercery Gallery from 5-7 p.m. It will feature photos and artifacts from the hotel. On Sunday, April 14, the documentary will be shown at the State Theatre on Main Street. Show time is 2:30 p.m. with opportunities to tour the hotel following the showing for $5. Both showings are free and open to the public.
"Everyone seems really excited about the premier," Smith said. "I think this will be a good event, and hopefully create a lot more awareness."