Before several entities joined forces for the May 24 launch of a campaign to change stereotypes and misperceptions about Greeley, author and UNC faculty member Laura Pritchett felt compelled to write a letter to the city that found a place in her heart.
I'll be honest, Greeley, and acknowledge that before we met I didn't think I'd like you, but I didn't know much about you. You were that place with a Stampede thing once a year. And a university. But I decided to try you out. Kind of like a blind date that I could end early if I wanted to.
But Greeley, I am writing to let you know that I underestimated you. My year stint at UNC proved that. I came to be rather fond of you, and our time together turned out to be fantastic after all.
You showed me your Kress Theatre, where I loved to go after teaching to relax. You showed me your Union Colony Civic Center, which has seriously great acoustics and seems to emit echoes of all the dreams you have ever housed. Your downtown is funky and fun and your parks are beautiful.
You showed me the UNC campus, which is startlingly peaceful lit up at night under a deepening sky and snowflakes scattering. The same areas are hubbubs of chaos in the day, and I've never had so many doors held for me in all my life. In good weather, I sought out UNC's secret recesses, where I could sit in the sunshine and grade papers and be dive-bombed by the occasional aggressive jays, who wanted my sandwich as much as me.
When I was feeling low one day, you offered up your Lincoln Park to wander in.
When I was hungry, you gave me the Rio, Alberto's and Batter Up Cakes, a cute little pastry shop in a rock-walled basement. Indeed, I like that you feed me. Although I wish you'd use less water, it's true that you are Colorado's breadbasket. Corn, hay, sugar beets, wheat, milk, livestock. Your county is ranked in the top 10 in agricultural counties in the nation and your farmer's markets are clear evidence of how you excel in this regard.
Once, when I needed a night away, you offered up the Sodbuster Inn Bed and Breakfast, which had me worried because the named sounded, well, sod-buster-y. Instead I discovered a rather fancy-schmancy octagonal three-story Victorian. Lovely.
And speaking of old stuff, Greeley, I need to tell you that I like Horace. Once I even went to the archives at the Denver Public Library for no other reason than to look up his old letters, written in scrawly handwriting on fading paper. One reads: "Friend Meeker: You will have heard that we have a large sum of money for the colony—I believe nearly $30,000. [here] corn will grow, peaches ripen, and where grapes are not impossible." And in another: "Friend Meeker: Now as to Tom Beecher. He is the dearest, sweetest soul on earth, but utterly lacking in stability of purpose and clearness of comprehension." Ah, Horace. I'm glad you had stability of purpose.
Speaking of writing, you've had a lot of great literature produced about you. Or a town much like you. Or near you. Hal Borland's High, Wide and Lonesome, the ever-famous Centennial by James Michener, contemporary poetry by Lisa Zimmerman. Your wide plains and big skies inspire.
I like your Centennial Village, where I was accosted by the blacksmith for not knowing the temperature at which steel bends. I'm sorry! I didn't know! (And my kids are still talking about Rattlesnake Kate.)
I like your weirdo history: seashells and a petrified snake in the big weird Pioneer Fountain built in 1907. Potato Day. Your utopian dreams.
I like your people. You started out a homogenous lot that had an enormous influx of immigrants - and now you house folks descended from the Russian, German, Japanese, and Mexican populations, and anyone who has read Centennial can attest to, you are a hardy lot.
I like your contemporary life too, particularly your Art in Public Places. My favorite? The "Green Snapdragon II" thing, which I just stand and stare at from time to time. The statue of the guy reading the newspaper freaks me out. The two blond girls painted on the alley wall (visible from Grabo's) seem to be stargazing, and I like to look at them looking.
I worry about you sometimes, Greeley (because it is the case that when you become fond of something, you want to protect it). I worry that outsiders won't know of the little treasures you house.
In fact, I'll admit I have a crush on you. Thanks for showing me around and letting me into your vibrant heart. The date was a fine one indeed.
Laura Pritchett is an award-winning author and a member of UNC's English Department faculty, specializing in creative nonfiction, fiction and contemporary literature of the West. Her newest novel, set partly in Greeley, will be released by Counterpoint Press in 2014.
Click here to learn more about "Greeley Unexpected," a campaign supported by the University of Northern Colorado to change outdated stereotypes and misperceptions about Greeley.