The following is a column I wrote for the Glenwood Post Independent published June 6, 2014:
After a morning rain shower, I am basking in sunshine in my backyard, watching my neighbor mow his yard and listening to the hummingbirds zing by my head. Oh, how I enjoy summer — even more so now that I am a “mature” citizen! As I enjoy the warmth, it makes me think about everything that I love about summer, and in particular, summer in Glenwood Springs.
We have sped through Memorial Day weekend and are careening toward Strawberry Days, Glenwood Springs’ celebration about everything that is summer! Our community has come together since 1898 to revel in the bounties of the season with neighbors and friends. Much has changed about the festivities over the years, but much has also remained the same.
I have not always lived in Glenwood Springs, so my earliest memories were of a long drive through a winding canyon road to come and eat ice cream from Glenwood Creamery topped with fresh strawberries on the courthouse lawn. It was different then — no crafts fair — just a community gathering. As I remember, in my young eyes, the parade was marvelous, complete with my favorite part — horses, as well as queen contestants riding on the hoods of convertibles.
According to the Glenwood Springs Post Independent, as well as other sources, Strawberry Days, Colorado’s oldest continuously held civic festival west of the Mississippi, is now in its 116th year. So what are the benefits for holding this festival year after year?
FOUR BENEFITS OF STRAWBERRY DAYS
One is tourism. When my husband and I travel and let people know our home base is Glenwood Springs, many people who know our town talk about attending Strawberry Days, along with some of the other highlights such as the Hot Springs Pool, or Glenwood Caverns, or rafting. It creates lasting memories that are often shared with friends and co-workers. Since Glenwood thrives on tourism, this is critical.
Closely related to the first benefit is the second: identity and branding. Strawberry Days is the business card for Glenwood Springs. It gives visitors a clue to what we are about. A fun celebration, it also serves to educate and inform with booths and displays for projects like the Grand Avenue Bridge and entities like Colorado Mountain College. Local talent take the stage with well-known entertainers. Regional crafts are showcased along with art, jewelry and food originating from all over Colorado. Kids, dogs and horses trek the parade route along with politicians, local business floats, a band or two and of course, the Shriners. This is hometown America at its best.
Small-town character and sense of community is the third benefit. During many public meetings I attend, people often mention “maintaining small-town character” as a goal — and really a value — that Glenwood must preserve. While views differ on what constitutes “small-town character,” my perception is that it is people in the community working together to make Glenwood a better place than it was five or 40 years ago, and knowing that those who come after will continue to make it ever better than today.
Strawberry Days is a perfect example. It is a lot of work for those involved. It is not the same as it was 50 years ago, but it serves this community well, the way it is now. It has grown, just like Glenwood, but it still holds that sense of the community working and gathering together.
The fourth benefit — and perhaps the most important — is connection. It is connection with the people and this place. It is walking down Grand Avenue after the parade or strolling through the park during the weekend, inevitably meeting friends and neighbors and stopping for a moment to reconnect after the long winter. It is knowing that, even though you have moved to another locale, you can return and see familiar faces and places and take part in memorable experiences. It is our connection to generations that came before, and it will be the memories that our children and grandchildren remember when we are gone.
THANK YOU, GLENWOOD CHAMBER
Once again, the community will come together to celebrate all the goodness of summer and the best of Glenwood Springs, June 20-22. This year’s Strawberry Days theme is the “95th Anniversary of the Glenwood Springs Chamber — Celebrating Business and Community.” I extend a huge thank-you to the chamber and community volunteers for all their hard work to carry on this special tradition. The chamber also does a superb job supporting the local businesses — year-round — to make this a great place to live. No wonder it was named 2013 Chamber of the Year by the American Chamber of Commerce Executives.
It is the perfect time to enjoy summer in Glenwood Springs and reconnect with friends and family. Here is to 116 years of fun, parades, ice cream, strawberries and community.
For more information on Strawberry Days contact the chamber at 970-945-6589 or visit its website at http://www.glenwoodchamber.com/.