The Colorado Matters team and CPR reporters left their usual digs on the Front Range two weeks ago to visit the Western Slope. From reporting in lavender fields to recording a live show from the Avalon Theatre, they accomplished a lot.
Alex Scoville (Digital Producer): Hi everybody! I’m excited to look back on our most recent trip to Western Slope. Reporting and broadcasting directly from Grand Junction was a treat. Something that some of our readers may not have gotten a taste of was the lovely intro to Main Street from @Stina and @Ryan Warner. I keep thinking about the affirmation button. @Stina, can you remind me what that was called?
Stina (Western Slope Reporter): The Affirmation Station!
I've actually indulged in a few affirmation button-pushings of late ... very calming and consistently surprising to passersby.
Alex Scoville: A very "Conjunction Junction," Schoolhouse Rock-style rhyme. What happens when you push that button?
Ryan Warner (Colorado Matters Host): You're told you matter.
In a bunch of different ways. By a bunch of different voices. A very sweet welcome to Grand Junction.
And a sign of its investment in public art!
Alex Scoville: Awhh! Like a lot of people, I love public art. It can say a lot about a place...but it doesn't always do that. Do you two think this piece, as affirming as it is, is representative of Grand Junction?
And if not, what's a better one?
Ryan Warner: My personal favorite is the nearby sculpture of Grand Junction's famous son ... screenwriter Dalton Trumbo -- writing contemplatively in his bathtub. Trumbo wrote the screenplay to "Roman Holiday" and was blacklisted during The McCarthy Era.
Stina: I think it represents what some folks want Grand Junction to be: changing, hanging out on the cutting edge of things, be it art, technology, outdoor recreation, etc.
StephRWolf (Arts Reporter): If I may chime in on the public art front... downtown Grand Junction's Art on the Corner program is something that communities around the country have replicated.
Alex Scoville: @StephRWolf, you may ALWAYS chime in on the public art front
Ryan Warner: Great perspective Steph!
Stina: Hey, @StephRWolf, does that mean GJ was a public-art pioneer of sorts? If so, awesome
StephRWolf: It was. There's a great story behind how Art on the Corner came to be in the mid-80s. The founder of it, Dave Davis, passed away last summer. The Grand Valley arts community is still grieving over his death. So that program has been around for decades. It's interesting too because some of the pieces that go up each year are for sale. You could buy a piece of public art!
Michelle Fulcher (Colorado Matters Producer): So I guess Grand Junction walks the walk when it comes to public art.
Alex Scoville: I love how even the art on the streets captures how dynamic and essential the news and culture is from the Western Slope. Moving on to that bigger picture:
@Michelle Fulcher, you coordinated this whole shebang. What's the big editorial takeaway from doing a project like this? We cover the state year-round. What's the benefit of being really concentrated like this for a week?
Michelle Fulcher: Concentrating in one place means we meet a lot of people and hear a lot of views we might not otherwise come across. And then, think of it like a quilt -- as you do different stories you begin to get a sense of how the community is woven together. Party bonus: We bring a lot of ideas back for future stories and we get to inhale the scent of lavender and browse the cool shops on Main Street for a couple of days.
Alex Scoville: I can definitely upvote the perks of browsing Main Street. Would we one day want to go more than once a year? Everyone can chime in here
StephRWolf: I would.
It was so great to have a whole week to meet members of the arts community. I also made it out to Palisade, Fruita and Clifton while I was on the Western Slope.
Ryan Warner: I had someone come up to me and say "you should do this every month!" Fortunately, Stina's coverage from The Western Slope means our presence is permanent. (And there's nothing to say we wouldn't grow out staff there more.) It is absolutely a goal of Colorado Matters to take the show on the road more often all across the state.
So stay tuned! Pueblo, Colorado Springs, we're looking at you!
Michelle Fulcher: Yep -- and touch on lots of other places along the way. As somebody pointed out there's not just 'one' Western Slope, there are lots of communities with different personalities and different challenges
Alex Scoville: Before we move on, I have to ask: Any good bird sightings out there, Michelle?
Ryan Warner: Do the chicken tacos at Taco Party count?
Michelle Fulcher: A bald eagle maybe an hour east of town. I knew it would be a great trip!
Alex Scoville: caw caw, indeed!
Stina: I will also say that a pair of very loud doves live in the tree above my house in Junction
Michelle Fulcher: Nah, more like sqquueeeeeek. Eagles have a wimpy call.
Ryan Warner: My favorite wildlife sighting. The bronze pig they feed actual corn downtown.
Alex Scoville: When the early planning document for this trip came out, one pitch inspired dread in our digital editor Dave. He’s allergic to lavender. Luckily, the beautiful photos @StephRWolf: took do not trigger allergies. And as it turns out, he’s not the only sneezing-prone person, right?
Michelle Fulcher: Who?
StephRWolf: Ha. Nope. I learned that one of the master gardeners responsible for bringing lavender to the Grand Valley is allergic to it!
Stina: That's so poetic!
StephRWolf: She sneezes like crazy around fresh lavender. She said, thankfully, she's ok with essential oil and lotions.
Alex Scoville: The irony!
StephRWolf: I felt pretty relaxed after spending a large part of a day roaming through lavender fields.
Alex Scoville: Here’s something I didn’t know before our freelancer Nancy Lofholm started reporting on it for this trip -- Grand Junction has a large Hawaiian transplant population! @Ryan Warner, what were some of your favorite moments from that interview (at a very delicious Hawaiian restaurant might I add)?
Ryan Warner: I love languages, so it was a treat to hear our two Hawaiian guests speak pidgin to each as they ate poke. Colorado Mesa University in Junction is part of a network that offers tuition breaks to students from other western states (including Hawaii).
A bunch of them have flocked there. A Hawaiian graduate from decades ago now sits on city council. And the restaurant where we met is a fascinating story unto itself. It's part of a family-owned chain of Hawaiian eateries that got started in GYPSUM of all places.
Alex Scoville: I got the poke there, and it was so so good. Very similar to what I've had when visiting Hawaii
Ryan Warner: The restaurants got started during The Great Recession. A Hawaiian family had moved to Colorado for economic opportunity. They were in the construction trades. The real estate market here crashed. So they started cooking Hawaiian food and it caught on big time in Colorado. This was before poke proliferated.
StephRWolf: This place is on my list for the next time I'm in Grand Junction.
Stina: This is dangerous knowledge, because I live about three blocks from there ...
Alex Scoville: @Stina, you’re our full-time Western Slope reporter. What was it like to have a mini-newsroom out there for a few days with you? I know you were essential in making our coverage feel less fly-by.
Stina: Oh, thanks 😊
It was slightly embarrassing, because now my coworkers know that it looks like my desk is home to 10 raccoons. But most of all, it was fantastic, both to show them around and to be surrounded by all their creative, kinetic energy. Also, it was great to have events that gave the community a chance to give us feedback on our work. I really got a sense of how much folks appreciate coverage of the Western Slope.
Also, @Ryan Warner is a total rock star out here. It was fun seeing how people flocked to him after the live Colorado Matters show
Ryan Warner: (Thank goodness my mother handed out all those checks beforehand!)
Stina: Hey, it totally worked! 💰
Michelle Fulcher: Hey @Stina how many photos did you take for folks?
Stina: Ha ha I couldn't even get close enough to Ryan to be the picture-taking person
Alex Scoville: Public radio folks ARE rock stars! It's real, people!
Finally, (as hinted at above) we here at Colorado Matters are big fans of the restaurant Taco Party in downtown GJ. What was everyone’s favorite bite (or sip) there on our most recent visit?
I, for one, have been craving those tempura-fried nopales ever since
StephRWolf: I really liked the mushroom taco. And the guacamole is super yummy.
Michelle Fulcher: Ditto the nopales, They were a revelation!
Ryan Warner: Triple love for the nopales. I'd tried them in eggs years ago and was sour on them. Taco Party changed my mind.
Alex Scoville: 🌵🌵🌵
Stina: Their Black Magik cocktail makes any night better
Or afternoon ...
Alex Scoville: We don't judge!
Michelle Fulcher: Aha...so there are things we didn't learn about Stina while we were there!
Ryan Warner: Easy there Stina. Alex, can I wrap up by pointing to one of my favorite stories from GJ?
Alex Scoville: Please do! I loved revisiting our time together
Stina: Ha. I didn't even get into the $1.50 craft brew pints across the street from CPR!
Ryan Warner: My late aunt lived in Clifton. When I visited her, I was always perplexed and charmed by the street names of Mesa County. Here's the story behind them!
Alex Scoville: Yes, I loved that story! And how appropriate to end on it, considering reporting from the Western Slope was ... a time and a HALF
ba dum tss