One of the biggest things to happen in Pueblo over the last twelve months was its decision to change its city charter. For decades, southern Colorado’s largest city was run by a City Manager. It worked, but work, that’s just not a ringing endorsement. Lots of things work. Certainly, cities want things to work, but also they want them to excite.
In January, Pueblo cashed out on its long-time form of government and opted to join the state’s fraternities of big cities and elect a mayor. Just three weeks into the new year, Puebloans chose Nick Gradisar to call the shots for the next four years. “Pueblo voters decided that the city needed a visible leader,” Pueblo Chieftain editor Steve Henson said.
One of the first things Gradisar did in his new job was order much needed infrastructure upgrades that will carry into the new year. “We got street repair enterprise up and running and budgeted $7 million for next year,” he said in a phone conversation from Las Vegas where he was attending a water conference.
Gradisar, who ran on a platform of introducing Pueblo as a place to do business, said he wants to share Pueblo’s downtown and its River Walk district with people who see the city as a place to put down roots. “The city has lots of amenities,” he said. “We’re recruiting jobs one at a time.”
La Voz Bilingue visited and wrote about a number of cities that are often missed in daily reporting. Monte Vista was a town we wrote about. Driving south and west of Denver, you can make it in about four hours. The town is already gearing up for The Crane Festival when thousands of cranes descend on the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge. They begin appearing in late February. The festival is in March.
“We have an amazing story,” said DeAnne Gallegos of Silverton when we spoke with her in May. Gallegos, Silverton’s Public Information Officer, boasts that “everyday is Saturday in Silverton.” From 1860 to 1929 miners hammered out millions in gold and silver from the San Juan Mountains. When the motherlodes were tapped, most went away. Today, the town’s population is around 700 but quadruples in the warm months. If you want an idyllic getaway, said Gallegos, come to Silverton. She recommends spending the day in town then taking a ride on the Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. It’s been running since 1862.
Ever heard of Jaroso? No one could blame you if you haven’t. It’s also one of the off-the-beaten-paths La Voz Bilingue wrote about. The name means ‘willows’ in Spanish. Jaroso, also a Valley town, once envisioned itself as a regular stop for trains carrying goods south to Santa Fe and north to Denver. Didn’t work out. But a handful of hearty Mormons, a few Seventh Day Adventists and, of course, the Spanish and Native Americans who were there before anyone all stuck around. Jaroso’s 25 miles from San Luis and artist Lynn Kircher, one of its full-time residents, says the place is almost heavenly, especially the night sky. “It looks like someone took dust and sprinkled it across the sky.”
And that brings us back to Pueblo, the hub of the region. It’s where the city’s Chile and Frijoles Festival has grown into one of Colorado biggest fall events. This year an estimated 150,000 people descended on the city’s Union Avenue for three days of celebrating Pueblo’s crown jewel, the Mirasol pepper. Puebloans call it the Mirasol because its growth pattern has it ‘looking up at the sun.’
The Colorado Lottery, headquartered in Pueblo, announced some big changes this year. “We have 28 different games,” said Lottery spokesperson Kelly Tabor. Tabor also broke the news that Lotto, the staple for Colorado’s lottery players, has changed to Lotto Plus. The one-dollar ticket has also doubled in price. But win or lose, she said, the state ultimately wins. After payouts and clearing overhead, Great Outdoors Colorado gets the money which goes to improving state’s parks and recreation. Since Colorado adopted a lottery, it has raised $3.5 billion dollars.
Finally, Pueblo made headlines for all the wrong reasons when an alleged neo-Nazi and skinhead was arrested by federal agents for attempting to plant explosives at the city’s historic Temple Emmanuel. The arrest took place before he could carry out his plan. His trial is set for July.
Gradisar said the way that Pueblo rallied behind the city’s small but vibrant Jewish population said a lot about the city. “I was really impressed by our resilience, but I knew about it before.”