Grand Junction is the largest city located on Colorado’s Western Slope. (Estimated US Census 2014 population- 60,210) People traveling along I-70 between Colorado and Utah will oftentimes consider making a stop. I have gotten off of the interstate for gas twice and have also visited Colorado National Monument. While attending a 3-day literacy training program in Grand Junction last week. I had numerous opportunities to explore Main Street.
As a former suburbanite from Chicago, I am immediately struck by the quaintness of most Colorado towns. “Small Town” attitudes are filled with notable layers of friendliness.
After driving for more than 4.5 hours, I couldn’t wait to check into my hotel. I was hungry and thirsty. I immediately sought out a local restaurant on Main Street. Disappointingly, many of the restaurants near my hotel were not open for business or were in the process of closing. Even though Pablo’s was technically closed, the kind and outgoing staff was willing to provide a carryout meal. As a solo traveler, I didn’t care if I ate in a restaurant or in my hotel room. I was thrilled that the kitchen staff was willing to prepare a small salad and an appetizer.
I was in Grand Junction for a Motheread/Fatheread training program that was sponsored by the Colorado Humanities organization. Instead of driving the short distance to the Mesa County Public library, I chose to walk. On my way to and from my class, I passed a wide variety of shops that catered to the needs of locals and tourists. I was surprised to see restaurants that catered to a diverse clientele- Nepal and Indian, Japanese, Italian, pizza, French, Mexican, sweet treats, sophisticated and seasonal American food, and health conscious menus. Main Street Bagel’s fulfilled my caffeine fix each afternoon with a delicious skinny latte. Even though I had thoroughly enjoyed Engstrom’s chocolate before, I chose not to be tempted by this local family business.
I couldn’t help but notice the wide assortment of statues that dotted the roadway. On the grounds of the Mesa County Court House, I found this child engrossed in reading.
While some of these pieces of art were lighthearted, they did not match the whimsical and colorful nature nor the magnitude of the Chicago’s 1999 Cow Parade. Nevertheless, I found myself repeatedly pausing and admiring the artistic expression of the sculptors.
Some of the art was labeled while others offered no explanations. A few had hefty price tags. Most were constructed of durable metals.
The above sculpture was constructed of white marble.
A couple of statues melded into the landscape and were more challenging to spot.
On my second day, I found a sign that described this noteworthy Art on the Corner project (AOTC). I was surprised to learn that it started back in 1984 (31 years ago) and that the streets of Grand Junction host more than 100 sculptures.
Grand Junction’s history was acknowledged and aptly illustrated by highlighting some of its notable figures. William J Moyer (1859-1943) is remembered as a successful merchant and philanthropist even though he lost his fortune during the Great Depression. Moyer started The Fair Store in 1890, was a founder of the Grand Valley National Bank, and donated the 1st public swimming pool to the city of Grand Junction after a local boy drowned in a nearby river.
James Dalton Trumbo (1905-1976) was one of Grand Junction’s finest natives. He graduated from Grand Junction High School in 1924. His first novel, Eclipse, was set in a fictional Colorado town but closely resembles life in 1920’s and 1930’s Grand Junction. Trumbo is remembered as an Academy Award winning screenwriter, author, playwright, and blacklisted member of the 1947’s infamous Hollywood 10. Despite his blacklisted status, he continued to write award-winning and notable scripts from his bathtub in Mexico.
Abstract art always is open to interpretation. This one is not an exception.
If you visit or live in Grand Junction, don’t hesitate to share your favorite piece in the comment section of this blog.
On my second night, I looked over Trip Advisor’s reviews before I chose a place for dinner. Number four, Il Bistro Italiano, was at the top of my list. I was in the mood for Italian food and this appeared to be a “good fit.” On any other weekday night, a table would be readily available at 6 pm. Tonight, a pharmaceutical conference had reserved most of the restaurant until 8:30 pm.
Carryout became my unintended choice for the second night in a row. Within 25 minutes of ordering, I was walking out with a made to order pizza. Once again, the staff was cordial and accommodating.
Main Street took on a totally different personality on Thursday evenings when vendors came for the weekly Farmer’s Market. Several blocks were closed to traffic and visible security personnel weaved in and out of the crowds. Merchants sold a variety of prepared foods, locally grown fruits and vegetables, and handmade merchandise. Information booths for different organizations catered to the local population.
Instead of just one musical group, several entertained the people who filled Main Street. A posted sign showcased these musicians:
- 4th and Main- Bobby Walker Band
- 4th and Main- 7:00-7:30pm Absolute Dance
- 5th and Main- No Outlet
- 500 block of Main- Palmas Guitar Duo
- 7th and Main- Michelle Moonshine Trio
Merchants who sold peaches and peach related products were everywhere. Several of my colleagues indulged in one or more peach dessert concoctions. It was tempting, but I chose not to consume the extra calories.
A local veteran sold handmade wooden objects.
While I was sitting and enjoying one of the local bands, a woman with a solid blue mask and straw hat approached. She asked a simple question, “Have you done a good deed today?” As I redirected my attention and thought about my day, I soon recalled a pertinent episode. After sharing my “good deed”, I was handed a Colorado lotto ticket. It was the Humanist Doing Good organization’s understanding of how to “pay it forward.” I never anticipated receiving anything for responding to a stranger. It’s amazing how a kind gesture can brighten one’s day.
The young woman casually mentioned that the Humanist Doing Good organization makes an appearance at the Grand Junction Farmer’s Market 3 times a year. Acknowledging good deeds with a lotto ticket is just one way that they try to improve people’s lives by improving the lives of others. This woman’s actions supported my initial impression of Grand Junction as a welcoming community.
If you are traveling on I-70 between Colorado and Utah, consider getting off at the Grand Junction exit. In order to appreciate nature, follow the signs to the Colorado National Monument or bike rental shops. Head to Main Street if you want to experience a slow paced Western Slope city with a notable artistic expression.
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Sandra Bornstein is the author of MAY THIS BE THE BEST YEAR OF YOUR LIFE. It is available on Amazon. Sandra’s memoir highlights her living and teaching adventure in Bangalore, India. She is a licensed Colorado teacher who has taught K-12 students in the United States and abroad as well as college level courses. Sandra is married and has four adult sons. The memoir was a finalist in the Travel category for the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, the 2013 International Book Awards, the 2013 National Indie Book Excellence Awards, the 2013 USA Best Book Awards, and received an Honorable Mention award in the Multicultural Non-Fiction category for the 2013 Global ebook Awards.