One of the unique charms of living in Grand Junction, that seems to become more and more rare, is the “just right” size of the town.
For a little background on what I’m talking about I’ll tell you that I grew up in a small town in California called Paso Robles. It was not always the big time wine destination that it is today. When I was growing up in the 90s and early 2000′s there were about 30,000 people that lived there, and I grew up 20 miles out of town in an even smaller community. Everybody knew everything about you and you knew everything about them.
Having grown up in the country, it seemed only natural to go to college in the big city, so Los Angeles was my home for four years.
Having gone from 2 lane highways to 6, and morphing from a name to a number, I quickly learned to appreciate small town charm. When choosing a place to start a life, my knowledge of Grand Junction was limited, but what I did know and what I always tell people is , “it is big enough that you can meet someone new everyday, yet small enough that you can’t go to a major department store without seeing at least one person you know.” That’s what I call “just right”.
So, the past two weeks my wife and I feel like we’ve really experienced the heart of that phrase. I didn’t always work in oil and gas. When I first moved here I worked with KKCO Channel 11 News. There, I met many people I still stay in touch with, but one in particular is a man named Seth Schaeffer. He was a young entrepreneur that was just making his way from working with the news to owning his own video production company at the time. He’s since grown and now shoots promos and commercials with his employees for companies and organizations all over the country, but he and his young family love to call Grand Junction their home.
Well, he gave me a call the other day and told me that his company, Hoptocopter Films, was shooting some spots (TV lingo for commercials) to help promote the Grand Junction downtown area, and asked if my wife and I would like to help. Being an old friend I obliged and left work a little early, strapped the baby in the car seat, and headed downtown. We ended up being in the commercials, meeting several of the business owners who graciously let us wear some of their merchandise while we waited in the cold, and even met the Director of Downtown Development.
Since then, friends from church and work keep stopping us to tell us what a kick they got, watching the news or the game and seeing us on their TV screen. “You’re famous,” a woman from church told me recently.
Well, I don’t know about famous, but what struck me the other day is that folks in Denver, or LA or New York don’t really get to have experiences like that. Sure they may be at a Bronco’s game and if they sit behind the announcers they can be seen obnoxiously mouthing out, “Hi mom,” to the camera. But in those places you don’t have an old friend call you up for help with a local commercial, meet the person who commissioned the commercial, and then have an elderly lady get a thrill that she recognizes you from church on TV.
They have professional talent, and contracts and royalties and the like. Those things are great, don’t get me wrong, but one of the things I truly value from a community is the fact that I see my plumber at the store sometimes. He stops to ask me how my son is growing and if I’m having any more trouble with that leaky faucet. It’s not the annoying gossip of a small town that follows you everywhere you go, but also not the nameless, faceless anonymity that comes with the big city. It’s a growing and thriving community, with people bustling to wherever they need to be, and not a ‘sleepy’ town by any means. Yet it’s not the cutthroat, “if I can’t make money off of you right this second then you’re wasting my time,” busy of an urban area. People will stop to chat at the coffee shop and aren’t afraid of each other. And if you are open to it, you just might make a connection that can pay off years later, in business or just in friendship or both. In that regard, Grand Junction is “just right”, but we all knew that already, didn’t we?