By Mike Rosso
May is my favorite month in Colorado. The creeks and rivers begin to swell. The trees are blooming and leaf outing and we can finally open our windows and let the fresh air in. Plus, no more messing about with kindling and ash. The temperature in my home naturally hovers between 66-68 degrees and the bugs have not yet come out in full force.
The end of May also indicates the beginning of tourist season in many Colorado mountain towns. The seasonal influx of RVs, campers, boats and bikes begins, and the local cash registers begin to chime with relief. Also, gas prices magically increase this time of year, seemingly without reason.
More folks are out walking dogs and young adults are out on bikes, towing children and tethered dogs on the streets of town. It is truly a rebirth and my only regret is that Springtime does not last longer. By the time you read this, June will have arrived, along with higher temps, more bugs, more slow-moving RVs on the mountain passes and other summer-related activities.
Except this year is going to be different. We’re all wearing mask now, mostly, and with the cancellation of so many big public events, I’m guessing the town will feel less busy. At the moment, most local businesses are holding their collective breaths, wondering if we will see an influx of visitors similar to past years. For a lot of small businesses, the next few months are going to be make or break. So much income has been lost due to the pandemic and several businesses have already shuttered their doors.
Will this change the face of Salida? It’s very possible. We’ve been going gangbusters here since I arrived in 2001 with little sign of slowing down. More businesses and homes have sprouted up, along with rents, and every year the city’s sales tax revenue increases.
Will the shutdown cause lasting economic damage? Some say it depends on whether there is another outbreak of coronavirus, which could be devastating to not only the town, but the state’s economy. We are all waiting anxiously, and the next three to four weeks will reveal exactly where we stand. My guess is, barring any flareup of the virus, tourists—housebound in their city dwellings for the past two months—are desperate for a change of scenery and some breathing room. Will they following County guidelines on social distancing and mask-wearing? From the looks of things so far, probably not.
As for myself, I will remain cautious while trying to return to a “normal” existence. One take-away I have had from this experience is to reduce my shopping trips, limited my visits to the stores. I miss my friends and group companionship, but have grown a bit accustomed to the concept of social-distancing and have turned to projects around the home and more hikes in the forest as a way of coping with the isolation.
Out of curiosity, we reached out to some random readers of ours from across the country, asking them if they could convey, in one sentence, something positive about the pandemic of 2020. Those responses can be found on page 19.
On a different note, Salida lost one of its more prolific and talented residents in May. Mel Strawn, a pioneer of digital art techniques and a member of the early Salida arts scene passed away at the age of 92. Ironically, he was scheduled to be our guest columnist this month, which was delayed due to the pandemic and that column can be found on page 33. We ran an article about Mel and his wife Bea in the July 2009 issue of Colorado Central and that article can be found at www.coloradocentralmagazine.com/the-art-driven-life-bea-and-mel-strawn
We hope to run an updated story about Mel and his many accomplishments to the local and arts communities in our July issue.
Also of note, one of our longest running readers, Louise Pace, died in May at the age of 98. She and her late husband Loren were subscribers since 1996. She was also the mother of our proofreader Mary Barton and my next door neighbor, Bebe (Betty) Plotz. Louise was born in Denver and lived in Leadville for many years before she and Loren moved to Salida in 1990.
Stay safe out there.