Westcliffe, Colorado- nestled in a broad valley between the Wet Mountains and the Sangre de Christo range- is on a mission to attract more tourists. I hate to mention our attractions because someone will write to tell me that I forgot to mention their favorite, but I’m thinking along these lines because when I was in London, I saw promotional ads for Las Vegas.
The ads run horizontally above the seats and parallel to the ceiling in the subway cars. Unless you come prepared to take the Tube with a book or a newspaper at-the-ready, the only way to void eye contact with the person sitting opposite is to look up and read the ads. On my most recent visit, I was tickled to read ads marketing tourism in Las Vegas.
All the ads sparkled with glitz, and the message was saucy. (My goodness! “Saucy”? How dated is that! You would think that my mother was writing this blog, not me.) The ads vary, but the tagline always titillates: “What Happens Here, Stays Here.” Another poster read: “Visit a place where your wild side has a wild side.” A third ad read: “The holiday you won’t write home about.”
A few days after seeing the ads, I passed four or five blokes standing on the corner. They were back-slapping and fired up about their up-coming Stag Party… in Las Vegas… where “What happens there, stays there.”
As for Westcliffe, I don’t think the Las Vegas tagline fits: No one would choose Westcliffe for stag party.
If you climb over 14,000 feet up the Crestone Needles, go ahead… tell your friends. If you hook a prize-winning trout… be sure to share that with your dentist. If a good-looking girl driving a beat-up truck offers you a ride to the post office… you can tell your wife. This town is so small your wife probably knows her. (And if you don’t tell her, your neighbors will.)
I’d say that we are more “wholesome” than “saucy.” Although “wholesome” sounds… wholesome. (When did “wholesome” come with negative connotations?) We have hiking, boating, fishing, a skateboard park, a dog park, a bowling alley, a community gym (to include a swimming pool), a thriving art scene, music festivals, non-stop, Summer Theater and more. We have more, but we don’t have glitz.
Maybe we should be marketing life in the slow lane. We wave to passing cars; we talk to strangers; and we stop neighbors in the middle of the street to inquire about the number of newborn calves and the state of their mother-in-law’s gall bladder.
Writing of the general population, we carry too much with us. There’s our computer, our smart-phone, our car keys, the demands of our jobs, the needs of our family, our volunteer obligations, dozens of passwords, and identity theft anxiety to say nothing of job security, politics, and environmental concerns. We are weighed down with “stuff.”
Maybe we should promote a visit to Westcliffe as a respite from “stuff.”
For the most part, those of us who choose to live here feel a deep connection to the landscape, the quiet, and our dark skies. As of March 4, The International Dark-Skies Association recognized Westcliffe/Silver Cliff as the ninth dark skies community. At that point we joined the other dark skies communities of Sedona and Flagstaff, AZ; Beverly Shores, IN; Dripping springs, TX; Homer Glen, IL; Borrego Springs, CA; and farther afield, The Channel Islands and the Isle of Coll, Scotland.
Those of us who choose to live here are can-do, creative, outdoor folks who love the land and want to preserve it and our lifestyle. We have no intention of bringing in gambling, showgirls, or the current equivalent of the “Rat Pack.”
As outdoor enthusiasts, we are thrilled that Westcliffe has been chosen as the final destination for the 30th anniversary of Ride the Rockies– a seven-day bike ride that covers 465 miles and climbs 40,537 feet. It is a serious ride for 2,000 seasoned riders. Registration opened and closed in less than a week. This year the ride will start June 13 in Grand Junction and make its way east to the finish line in Westcliffe on the 20th.
It is a thin line we are walking. We want the tourists, but we want to maintain our small town vibe. How do we do that?
Maybe the answer lies in the tagline. When Westcliffe has promotional ads posted inside the cars of London’s Underground, our tagline should capture our ethos. I’m open to suggestions. Off the top of my head, I’d submit, “Lay Down Your Cares and Woes – Take a Deep Breath.”