gazette logo rev 500

Festivals Fill Out The Summer Season

By Elisabeth Monaghan

With festival season in full swing, the Neighborhood Gazette wants to remind you there is a wide selection of activities to check out.

Carnation Festival

The 49th annual Carnation Festival returns Aug. 10 through 12 to spotlight the people and community culture that has helped put Wheat Ridge on the map. Check out the insert for details.

Colorado Dragon Boat Festival

Celebrating the Asian and Asian American Communities in Colorado, the Colorado Dragon Boat Festival (CDBF) will take place at Sloan’s Lake on July 28 and 29. The 18-year-old festival is the largest pan-Asia dragon boat festival in the U.S. In addition to the Dragon Boat race, the event will include Japanese dance, a scavenger hunt, an Anime Fest, the CDBF Marketplace. Food and drinks will be available for purchase. For more information, visit www.cdbf.org

Colorado Scottish Festival

  The annual Colorado Scottish Festival returns for its 55th year Aug. 4 and 5 at Citizens Park in Edgewater. Enjoy all things Scottish – from music and dancing, to food and whisky tastings. Visit www.scottishgames.org for more information.

BlissFest 333

Presented by Bliss Productions and Historic Elitch Theatre, BlissFest 333 is a multimedia cultural arts film festival taking place on Aug. 25 and 26. To purchase tickets, or for more information, visit www.blissfest333.com.

Jeffco Fair & Festival

Festival season would be incomplete without the Jeffco Fair & Festival, happening Aug. 10 through 12 at Jeffco Fairgrounds. With an art exhibit, 4-H displays, a CPRA Rodeo, a carnival, food and all sorts of live entertainment, the Jeffco Fair & Festival offers something for everyone. Read more about the event at www.celebratejeffco.com/.

West Colfax MuralFest

For art lovers, the fourth annual West Colfax MuralFest will be on Saturday, Aug. 11, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Lamar Station Plaza, 6501 W. Colfax Ave.  The event also includes live music, interactive kids’ activities, food trucks and a beer garden. http://www.westcolfaxmuralfest.org/

Performances In The Park

Don’t miss the final shows in the Performances in the Park series. Enjoy free outdoor, family-friendly concerts at the pavilion at Anderson Park (4355 Field St., Wheat Ridge). Bring your lawn chairs or blankets. Make it a family picnic!

Upcoming children’s shows (10 to 10:45 a.m.): Puppets & Things on Strings, July 25; and Lincoln Magic, Aug. 1

Evening shows (6:30 to 8 p.m.): The Michael Friedman Band, July 25; and Hot Tomatoes, Aug. 1.

Joe DeMott: Serving The Community, In Every Sense Of The Word

joe de mott 2WORKING FOR HIS FATHER AT PIETRA’S PIZZERIA SINCE HIS TEEN YEARS, public servant and community volunteer Joe DeMott now owns and manages the establishment, which his father opened in 1964. PHOTO COURTESY DEMOTT FAMILY.

By Elisabeth Monaghan

It is a safe bet to suggest that Wheat Ridge residents who have lived in the area for any length of time know Joe DeMott. At the very least, they’ve heard of his family’s restaurant, Pietra’s Pizzeria, which DeMott’s father opened in 1964 and which Joe DeMott now owns and manages.

DeMott will tell you he lives in Wheat Ridge because this is where he fits. He grew up in Wheat Ridge, attended Wheat Ridge High School and married a fellow Wheat Ridge native. His sister and her family live across the street from DeMott, and his parents live nearby.

One reason he fits so well in the community might be that since he was a teenager, DeMott has served his community in every sense of the word. Working for his father, DeMott literally has served food to his fellow Wheat Ridge residents and visitors to the area. As a former member of city council, he has been a public servant. In 2011, DeMott served as a member of the Carnation Festival board. Today, DeMott serves as chair of the Carnation Festival, a role he assumed in 2013.

As many of his fellow Wheat Ridge residents know, DeMott is a history buff and a great storyteller. Longtime Wheat Ridge residents may be familiar with the history of Wheat Ridge and its carnations, but DeMott’s rendition is both entertaining and interesting.

“We were called ‘the Carnation City,’ even before we were a city,” according to DeMott. “A lot of the old farmers say carnations became popular to grow in the area because both the air and the water that came down from the mountains were just right for carnation growth.”

DeMott goes on to explain that carnation growers in Wheat Ridge sent a bouquet of carnations regularly to the White House. (It could have been daily, weekly or monthly, but the point is, the carnations were delivered to and displayed at the White House, always in the same spot.)

DeMott also tells a story of how Buffalo Bill Cody and his love for carnations may have had an impact on the carnation industry in Colorado. As DeMott explains, Buffalo Bill Cody loved carnations and loved Colorado. When Cody died, it was a given there would be carnations at his funeral, but he died January, while in Denver. Carnations did not grow in Wheat Ridge, in January, so the funeral planners had to look elsewhere for carnations. It turned out a source in Colombia was able to deliver carnations to Cody’s funeral within days. As soon as people discovered they could get carnations year-round and could deliver carnations to Cody’s funeral, they became more interested in ordering those carnations instead.

As for his work with the Carnation Festival, DeMott says favorite things about it is the purpose it serves, which is to raise money for local nonprofits.

“Each part of the Festival benefits a different nonprofit,” says DeMott. “Last year we had 17 nonprofits that benefitted from the funds. Every year we have been able to bring in new nonprofits each year and make money for them.”

DeMott goes on to explain that a number of those benefitting no longer have to hold other fundraisers, as the proceeds received from the Carnation Festival are enough to allow them to focus on their service work.

Another aspect of the Festival DeMott appreciates is the volunteers who help. There are hundreds of people who show up every year.

“For the most part, we’ve been blessed with good weather for the Festival, but even when it rains, we always have enough volunteers to make it an enjoyable event for everyone.”

For the first time this year, the Wheat Ridge High School Quarterback Club will manage the Carnation Festival’s car show, as a fundraiser for the football team. A car aficionado himself, DeMott hopes that not only will the students raise a lot of money for the Wheat Ridge High School football team, they also will come away from the experience with a new hobby as car enthusiasts. (You can read more about the car show in Joe DeMott’s article on page XX.)

For most of the vendors, entertainers and volunteers, their work for the Carnation Festival will end when the last person leaves Anderson Park. But for DeMott and the rest of the board, it will be time to start planning for 2019, which will be the 50th anniversary for the Carnation Festival.

“Our goal has never been to make the Festival bigger,” says DeMott, “but community events have become so popular all over that the expectation is for every event to be bigger and greater.

“For the Carnation Festival, we try to keep that hometown, small vendor, local artisan feel, while balancing the cost of putting on the festival.”

Given that the Carnation Festival has thrived for nearly half a century, and that the nonprofits involved continue to benefit from the proceeds, it looks like the board, and all of those involved with putting on the event, have succeeded.

‘Investing 4 The Future’ – Are We There Yet?

By Mike McKibbin

In November 2016, Wheat Ridge voters approved ballot measure 2E, called “Investing 4 the Future,” a half-cent city sales tax increase to pay for projects to improve transportation infrastructure, create economic development opportunities and help attract more residents. The tax hike went into effect Jan. 1, 2017, and is to end in 2029.

The city earmarked $33 million of that revenue for four projects: Anderson Park ($4 million); transportation infrastructure for the Clear Creek Crossing project ($10 million); widening of a section of Wadsworth Boulevard ($7 million city match for a $45 million to $60 million project); and public infrastructure and amenities at the G Line Wheat Ridge-Ward light rail station ($12 million).

City Manager Patrick Goff provided an update on the four projects in his recent unofficial State of the City presentation and an interview.

Anderson Park

Plans call for outdoor pool locker room renovations; building renovations to replace a leaking roof, reconfigure space for more fitness and wellness classes; replace the baseball field with a multi-purpose sports field that will also host festivals; reconstruct and improve the soccer field; upgrade the park pavilion and small shelter. Additional needs are parking lot repaving and waterline replacement. Construction is scheduled to begin this fall with completion by May 2019 for the buildings and July 2019 for the park.

Clear Creek Crossing

2E funds will finance construction of westbound I-70 hook ramps for the Clear Creek Crossing project, removal of the 32nd Avenue off-ramp and a new street connection to 32nd Avenue. Goff said first phase contracts have been signed and work was to begin in early or mid-July.

A project subdivision plat has been approved and a public financing proposal to help the project proceed was to be presented to City Council on July 9, he added. That would include a $15 million bond issue through the Longs Peak Metropolitan District, a share of the city’s lodging, admissions and other tax revenue, and a $5 million bank loan through the Wheat Ridge Urban Renewal Authority with property tax increment financing.

“We think it will be a good investment because the city will get a significant amount of money when the project opens,” Goff stated.

The mixed-use project between 32nd Avenue and Highway 58 is to include multi-family residences, retail stores, entertainment facilities, restaurants, hotels, a large anchor store and a 35-acre office complex. A trail system will provide connections to the Clear Creek Trail.

Wadsworth Boulevard

In April 2016, the city began an environmental assessment and access management review to widen Wadsworth Boulevard between 35th Avenue and I-70 to six lanes. The major components are to widen the street; provide better bicycle, pedestrian, and transit facilities (two-way cycle track, continuous sidewalks, landscaping and improved Regional Transportation District facilities); manage driveway access to the street and provide enhanced amenity zones along the corridor, particularly between West 38th and West 44th avenues.

Goff noted a handful of historic properties had to be taken into consideration in the project design. The environmental assessment is to be finished by summer 2019, right-of-way acquisition will last through spring 2020 and construction would happen between mid-July 2020 and 2022.

Wheat Ridge-Ward Station

With 2E funding, the city will address traffic growth and encourage redevelopment and economic development surrounding the G Line station at 52nd Avenue and Ward Road: Reconstruction of the adjacent streets (Ridge Road, 52nd Avenue, Tabor Street); a traffic signal at the Ward and Ridge roads intersection; a pedestrian bridge over the rail tracks, pedestrian access improvements and other public amenities.

Goff said RTD and Denver Transit Partners, the company hired by RTD to develop and operate the G and A light rail lines, expected to receive Federal Railroad Administration approval to begin a 21-day testing period on the G line. Testing will ensure the rail crossings along the line function correctly. No opening date for passenger service between Wheat Ridge and Union Station in downtown Denver has been set, Goff added.

Other projects

Goff’s presentation also included updates on several projects not receiving 2E funds:

The Jolly Rancher New Towns project still needs city approval, Goff said in the interview, but is progressing. It could include around 200 townhomes, live-work units, 6,000 square feet of commercial space and more than two acres of open space.

Financing is being sought by the developers of the TRAX at Ward project, Goff said, with the possibility of some remaining 2E funds involved. The project could include 221 market-rate apartment units.

The Hance Ranch Townhomes project has been scaled back slightly to 63 townhomes, but is “ready to go,” Goff said.

A Starbucks coffee shop is open in the Applewood Shopping Center and work on a Hacienda Colorado restaurant is to begin at the end of this summer, Goff added.

Four stores are planned for the former Walmart site at 38th Avenue and Wadsworth as the Corners at Wheat Ridge project, Goff said. Those include a Lucky’s Market, which could be open around the middle of August, he added. More than $6 million in city TIF money helped the project proceed.

The West End 38 project now features a new Vectra Bank building, with the old bank building and other structures set for demolition, Goff noted. The project could also include 150 units of multi-family housing and 8,000 square feet of retail space. The city used  $2.4 million in TIF money to help the project.

The renovation of the Fruitdale School building, 10803 W. 44th Ave., now called Fruitdale School Lofts, was a $6 million project. The city loaned nearly $2.6 million, the city housing authority loaned $570,000 and the city was repaid $1.5 million. Other funding sources were developer equity, a Citywide Banks loan, federal and state tax credits, federal funds through Jefferson County Community Development, Xcel Energy solar power production credits and a state historic fund grant. The Temple Buell-designed building is on the National Register of Historic Places and has 16 mixed-income, loft-style rental housing units.

The $4.1 million renovation of Prospect Park is funded by grants, open space tax and the Great Outdoors Colorado program through the Colorado Lottery. Goff said new football and baseball fields are complete, work on pickleball courts was underway and new playground equipment was to be installed.

The new Swiss Flower & Gift Cottage, 9840 W. 44th Ave., is close to completion, Goff said, with an eventual 19,800 square feet of retail and maker space. The city approved approximately $650,000 in TIF funding for the new building, with $500,000 of that directly associated with public improvements to and around a four-lot, two-acre subdivision with a large detention pond.

Wheat Ridge Is Full Of Art, Both Fine And Fun

By Nancy Hahn

Several years ago, Wheat Ridge created an opportunity for residents to tour the studios of a host of Wheat Ridge artists. Wheat Ridge residents became aware of the many talented artists throughout Wheat Ridge and excited about the variety of wonderful works being produced. But while there are no studio tours in the works, Wheat Ridge is still full of artists and wonderful artwork.

The new mural at Anderson Pool is the newest piece of public art in Wheat Ridge, but there is public art all around town. City Hall features “Red, White, and True,” a bronze sculpture of a fox and kits, and “Symbols in Stone” on the outside west wall. There are also carved tile boxes at the Recreation Center. “Symbols in Stone” and “Seasons” are found near the front desk and “Natural Impressions” upstairs. Outside, there is a bronze sculpture titled, “She Ain’t Heavy.”

Hooper Hollow Park has a beautiful bronze sculpture representing the balance between choices, called “Truth.” Discovery Park holds a stunning, Kevin Robb sculpture, titled “Discovering the Stars.” A tour of our parks would be a great way to enjoy a variety of wonderful art.

Kevin Robb is one of the most renowned Wheat Ridge artists. For 30 years, his sculptures have been created and shared. His beautiful metal sculptures are found not only across the United States, but around the world.

His sculptures curve and twist. They shine and glow. They give you the sense that when you look away they probably move. Maybe, they dance.

Robb does not have a careful, detailed and measured plan for each sculpture. As the work grows, the twist and bends are developed. The sculptures are created in stainless steel, bronze and even bright colors. They are created in any size from table-top to mammoth.

You have, no doubt, seen several of them. This spring, a sculpture that appears to be blowing in the wind was placed at the Denver Tech Center; “Kite Festival” was created to be viewed both from the ground and from the high windows of the Tech Center office buildings.

While Robb suffered a stroke that restricted his movement, he continues to create sculptures full of apparent movement.

Brandon Finamore is a young artist who grew up in Wheat Ridge. Growing up surrounded by an area full of wildlife, he enjoyed painting from nature. His paintings remind many viewers of Audubon, because he paints birds with detail and accuracy.

His source for subjects now, though, is not the wide outdoors, but natural history museum collections. Viewing the collections at the Denver Museum of Natural History helped him recognize the detail and small differences that identify different varieties of birds. This visit encouraged the artist to develop his photo-realistic style. He wants experts to be able to recognize not just that the bird in his painting is a finch, for example, but to recognize the variety and the region the bird once lived in.

Recently, Finamore had a first and very successful show in Denver’s River North District. He credits his art teacher at Wheat Ridge High School for recognizing his art talent, encouraging him, and helping him build his skills. He returned to Wheat Ridge High School for his student teaching and now is an art teacher in an Adams 14 middle school. Finamore hopes he can provide the same encouragement and skill building for his students.

Marie EvB Gibbons is an artist who took part in the Wheat Ridge Studio Tours. She has become busier than ever with her enlarged studio at 3735 Ames St., and more students and classes than ever.

Gibbons is a unique clay artist and sculptor. Rather than the way many artists work with clay in a process of sculpt, fire, glaze and fire again, Gibbons does not like to use glazing, then firing. Glazing can produce lovely surprises, but she prefers to paint her work after firing without being surprised. Painting allows the artist to be in complete control of the color.

Always trying new ideas, Gibbons is creating a new type of sculpture. Creating these flower sculptures includes a long process before firing. The sculptures use artificial flower blossoms and liquefied clay called slip. Water is mixed with clay to produce the slip and then artificial flower blossoms are dipped into the slip. The blossom dries and is dipped again. Over and over. Again, and again. When a thick enough layer of clay has been created the flower can become part of a sculpture, be fired in the kiln, and painted. New ideas and experimentation are a big part of this artist’s work.

Melanie Lunsford’s Metro Frame Works, at 5310 W. 38th Ave., is a great place to stop if you want to look at some great art or you are looking for creative ideas to display your artwork or photographs in your home.

Traditional frames of every pattern, size and style can be created in Lunsford’s workshop. She can help you discover the perfect way to create a display. The shop’s walls have artwork displayed in groupings and creative ways to inspire customers. If you visit the shop, you will go home with great ideas.

If you want to try something new with art, the Wheat Ridge Recreation Center has art classes from “Making Bead Soup Memory Bracelets” to pottery.

Teller Street Gallery, also, offers Paint and Vino classes and Painting and Mimosa classes. The gallery, also, offers open studio days when you can come and pick from a wide choice of projects to create.

Clearly, Wheat Ridge is full of both fine art and fun art.

Take A Book, Leave A Book At Little Free Libraries

By Nancy Hahn

Is there anything better than Little Free Libraries? If you aren’t familiar with them, Little Free Libraries are usually wooden boxes of some sort on a post. They have a door that opens so that books can be put in and books can be taken out. They are often in front of a house with a reader, who reads a lot.

Little Free Libraries often say, “Take a book. Leave a book.” Readers with one in front of their house fill the library with books they have finished. They can look through the books that people have left and find something they haven’t read before. Free book to read right in your front yard!

The Little Free Library nonprofit began in 2009. If you build a library and pay to register it with them, you will be given a number plaque for your library and it will be shown on the maps on their site. There is, of course, an app now to search and guide the user to the registered Little Free Libraries in his or her area.

The reality, though, is that many Little Free Libraries aren’t registered. In fact, many aren’t even wooden boxes. Anything that has a door that opens can be a Little Free Library. Microwave ovens, old mailboxes, picnic baskets and coolers have been used as Little Free Libraries. Anything that can be attached to post or a fence has probably been used successfully as a Little Free Library. There are, also, many plans for building Little Free Libraries online.

In the Wheat Ridge area, there are approximately 20 Little Free Libraries. Most of them are not registered, but all are kept pretty busy. Kullerstrand Elementary on 38th Avenue has a nice big one that is quite busy during the school year. Right now it is very full. If there are elementary-aged children in your home you might want to check it out. There is one on Miller near Compass Montessori that would be a great stop for end-of-summer reading, also.

Every Little Free Library has a personality that has grown from its owner. Two owners who take the responsibility of a Little Free Library quite seriously are Chelsey Pas and Bryn Gelaro.

Chelsey gave her daughter, Bryn, her first Little Free Library for her eighth birthday. Actually, they built it together for her birthday. Their Little Free Library has a roof covered with moss, a tiny ceramic cat for a handle, and an upper and lower shelf. Because they live close to Wilmore Davis Elementary School, during the school year they keep the lower shelf stocked with small books just right for small hands to grab on the walk home to or from school. The top shelf is for paperbacks and other books for grown-ups. Without the school children walking past each day they have changed their selection for the summer. There are just a few books for youngsters, but they have added career and college information for the high-school graduates in the neighborhood.

The Mountain View City Hall and Police Station, at 4176 Benton St., is just a perfect spot for a family visit to a Little Free Library. There is a nice Little Free Library and there is nice little playground with a big shady tree, too. While the little ones play on the playground, mom and dad can relax at the picnic table with their new books. Once the little ones have enjoyed the playground, they can settle back and enjoy their new books, too.

Near 44th Avenue and Yarrow Street, there are some Little Free Libraries designed with children in mind. One is covered with images and phrases from Dr. Seuss. Another decorated with Maxfield Parish’s “Where the Wild Things Are.” If Little Free Libraries reflect their owners, there are some happy people in this part of Wheat Ridge. Nearby, there is a special friend of young readers. Ronetta Archuleta-Seldon makes lots and lots of colorful, cute, sticker-decorated bookmarks to tuck into the Little Free Libraries.

“I just want to make it a little more special,” Ronetta explains. Bookmarks make little ones feel like real readers. What a nice idea!

A little south of Louise Turner Park on Parfet is a cheerful Little Free Library with a bright roof of painted paint sticks. The assortment of books will interest any fantasy or science fiction lover. An occasional Stephen King has been added for fun.

Check out Little Free Libraries around your neighborhood and see if you can find one that mirrors your reading taste. Wouldn’t that be perfect for both the owner and for you? If you can’t find one that is just right, create one yourself.

Local Farmers’ Markets Offer Freshness, Variety And Fun

By Nancy Hahn

Summer weather brings out farmers’ markets with fresh produce, freshly made breads and other foods, and sometimes unique handmade goods. Lakewood, Wheat Ridge and Edgewater host a variety of markets for every interest.

Heinie’s Market

Heinie’s Market, 11801 W. 44th Ave. in Wheat Ridge, has featured fresh Colorado produce since the family business began in 1950. Produce is always brought directly from farms to the market without a middleman to insure that Heine’s fruits and vegetables are fresh as possible.

Colorado Olathe sweet corn and Peaches and Cream corn arrive in July, as well as Grand Junction tomatoes. In late July and August Rocky Ford cantaloupe and watermelon come in. August also finishes the summer with Colorado pears and plums.

Heinie’s has a changing display of fruits and vegetables all summer long. In September and apples announce the fall. Heinie’s also carries a variety of Colorado-produced food products that preserve our summers’ flavors throughout the year. Colorado fruit syrups, jams, jellies, relishes, and honeys are available year round.

Heinie’s is open every day of the year from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Young’s Market and Garden Center

Young’s Market and Garden Center, 9400 W. 44th Ave. in Wheat Ridge, is now a popular source for garden plants. Young’s has plants of all kinds, including plants to grow your own fresh Colorado fruits and vegetables. From cherry trees to watermelon vines, the Becerra family at Young’s Market can help with it all.

Young’s Market has been selling Colorado produce since 1952. Back then, drivers on their way to Denver could stop at Young’s truck full of farm produce at the side of the road. Eventually, he built a stand that grew to become Young’s market.

As soon as harvest begins, Young’s Market will carry Western Slope peaches and tomatoes, Rocky Ford cantaloupe, green beans, wax beans, and other Colorado and local produce. Young’s also carries Colorado cherry cider and a variety of jellies, salsas, syrups and pickles throughout the year.

Young’s is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sundays until 6 p.m.

Four Seasons Farmers and Artisans Market

Four Seasons Farmers and Artisans Market, 7043 W. 38th Ave. in Wheat Ridge, is open all year. Margaret and Dick Barkey’s market has both an indoor space and outdoor space making the weather less of an issue than it is for outdoor-only markets.

Four Seasons and its vendors sell a wide variety of Colorado produce and, often, flower and vegetable plants. Vendors also sell farm eggs, goats’ milk and cheese, and a variety of meats. A huge variety of handmade products are available, too. Soft wool products from alpacas from a Colorado alpaca farm, local honey, and scented soaps are a few of the artisan goods.

Market hours are Saturday 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Sunday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday the indoor market is open from noon to 6 p.m.

Edgewater Market and Music

Edgewater residents and visitors will again enjoy Edgewater Market and Music this year. Edgewater’s market is held on West 25th Avenue between Sheridan Boulevard and Ames Street every Thursday evening from 5 to 8 p.m., through Sept. 8.

Market and Music always features local bands and fresh produce, plus activities and crafts for family fun. The market also features a variety of vendors so there is always something new to see. The location is always beautiful. The market is just off of Sloan’s Lake, which makes a perfect spot for a market and a lovely to visit on warm summer evenings.

40 West Farmers’ Market

40 West Farmers’ Market has returned to Lamar Plaza for its third year. This season the market will be open Saturdays through Oct. 6 – 20 weeks.

Lakewood, the Art district, and Gene Kalesti of Pure Colorado created the market, bringing a variety of fresh produce to the community. The market sells produce, fresh baked bread and flowers, all Colorado produced. New vendors must sell only products that fit within these categories.

CC Yoga again offers free yoga from 10 to 10:30 a.m. at the market, so you can start your day feeling good. This year a nice addition is a new drive-up coffee shop located next to the market.

Mile Hi Church Farmers' Market

Mile Hi Church hosts their Farmers Market from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Saturday at 9077 W. Alameda Ave. in Lakewood. This market has been in business for 38 years and is the oldest farmers’ market in the Denver area. Many of the farmers are part of families who have brought their produce to this market for generations.

Sweet cherries and hot house tomatoes are available now, but available produce changes quickly, so you may want to come back often. This market includes fresh produce, fresh-baked bread and jellies. Area artisans sell a variety of work, so visitors can be assured they will see something new each time they visit.

Community Booster Grant Babb: Promoting Edgewater Community

Grant at Joyride2GRANT BABB OPENED JOYRIDE BREWING in 2014 to promote community in his Edgewater home. PHOTO BY LAURIE DUNKLEE

By Laurie Dunklee

Edgewater is a real small town, where neighbors know each other and each other’s kids,” says Grant Babb, owner of Joyride Brewing and an Edgewater resident since 2009. “My kids are safe riding their bikes down the street.”

Babb is president of the new Edgewater Business Association and he ran for mayor of Edgewater in the fall of 2017. He opened Joyride in 2014 to promote community, he says.

“We’re built around community. The place has long tables instead of two-tops because we want people to talk and get to know one another.”

The Midwest transplant is digging his roots in deep in Edgewater. Babb’s two daughters, ages 9 and 16, attend Lumberg Elementary at 24th Ave. and Otis St., where his wife teaches preschool.

“I’m grateful for the rare opportunity to live, play and own a business all within a few blocks, so I try to give back to the community,” Babb says.

Babb graduated from Earlham College in Indiana and started his career as a chemical engineer. He developed environmentally friendly detergents before turning his interest to brewing beer. In 2005, he moved to Denver as a consultant for a large beer company.

“I was advising them on the chemicals used in their brewing process and I fell in love with brewing. After I moved here, I got kicked to the curb during the great recession. Then I decided I could start my own place.”

The son of an Air Force officer, Babb spent his growing-up years living around the world. He was born in Las Vegas and his family lived in several U.S. cities and overseas.

“We were in Germany when the Berlin Wall came down in 1989. I remember the clash of cultures and the poverty of the people coming across the border. It takes the shackles off your eyes when you see people standing in line for bread,” Babb said. “I came to appreciate small towns where people take care of each other. It made me want to put down roots and give back.”

Joyride, at 25th Ave. and Sheridan, celebrates its fourth anniversary this month. Babb said it’s a success because “people need a place to hang out. It’s not a bar. The place is full of light and it’s not dive-y. Kids and dogs are welcome.”

The brewery occupies a 1910 building.

“This building was the first meat market west of Sloan’s,” Babb said.

Joyride’s logo features Roger the elephant, brought here in the early 1900s by the owners of Manhattan Beach – the original Sloan’s Lake amusement park – from Central Park in New York. Roger had a wicker basket on his back that the kids could ride. One day a hot air balloon went up and scared him, so he reared up and the kids fell out. One boy was crushed under Roger’s foot when he came down.

“The boy’s family, the Eatons, didn’t prosecute Roger because they knew it was an accident. So Roger lived a long life,” says Babb.

This month, Joyride will be closed for several days while a new 2,300-square-foot rooftop deck is constructed.

“The bedrock is 20 feet deep, so they’ll dig into that to support the deck,” said Babb.

Joyride has become a central meeting place, where conversations run the gamut and can get political.

“The place became like a built-in soapbox, where people discussed their issues with the city,” said Babb. “I heard a lot about problems with starting new businesses in Edgewater. I also heard from people who didn’t appreciate the buildings being scraped and replaced with construction that didn’t fit the town’s character. Families were moving away because the city wouldn’t allow them to expand their homes, and people were taking their kids out of the local schools.

“I saw the city rushing to conclusions and I thought those decisions needed more review and input. That’s why I ran for mayor in 2017. It was a wake-up call to the city that people are paying attention, that we want to grow responsibly.”

After losing the election, Babb started the Edgewater Business Association (EBA) in May of this year. He says the association has 20 member-businesses so far. According to the EBA website, “As Edgewater continues to grow, the business community must educate and connect residents, government and nonprofits about upcoming issues. By working together, all those who live and work in Edgewater will benefit.”

“We’ll work with city council to attract healthy, diverse businesses – not too many of the same kind of businesses because that drives some of them out,” Babb said. “We’ll work with the city on communications with citizens and businesses, to allow for more buy-in on important decisions. Sales tax pays for everything in Edgewater, so businesses should be consulted.”

One of the first changes needed, he said, is to start live-streaming city council meetings.

“Citizens miss the important discussions if they can’t attend city council meetings. It’s time to live-stream and post the meetings, like the cities around us do.”

Babb said progress is being made already.

“We have a beautiful blend of old and new residents on city council now, and they work well together. So, we’re moving forward.

“Edgewater is having growing pains. It’s less than one square mile in size, sandwiched in between Denver, Wheat Ridge and Lakewood. It’s fighting to keep its identity while welcoming the new.”

Fighting Fireworks With Fire

By Tawny Clary

With all the wildfires this year, the entire state was on edge in the days leading up to Independence Day. Although illegal in the city, fireworks could be heard in the middle of the night for weeks before the holiday. As it happens every year, for every firework fuse lit, another fuse gets lit – under an aggravated citizen. This keeps the phone lines plenty busy for local police stations, and this year was no different. As long as counties continue to allow the sale of fireworks and individual cities outlaw the use of fireworks, this will keep police busy. Naturally, calls will continue to ring in and violations will continue to be made.

“If we catch you lighting fireworks, we’re gonna’ write you up for it….” said Agent Ty Countryman of the Lakewood Police Department, days before the 4th of July.

Countryman has been with the Lakewood Police Department for 26 years and believes there have been many positive changes over the years to help with the load of calls and violations that take place in the days leading up to the 4th and thereafter. One extra tool has been a whole extra group hired specifically for the holiday.

Countryman says they “send out a group just for firework enforcement [usually] on the 3rd, 4th and 5th.” He points out the specific days can vary per year depending on what day of the week the holiday falls on. According to Countryman, the group/department is typically put together to handle complaint calls, patrol neighborhoods and basically let the community “know we are out there.” While the additional help is brought in for those days, Countryman says the calls tend to last for weeks through the end of July.

It has been around 10 years since the additional 4th of July help was added. Countryman feels as though the call load has not changed much, which makes the extra hands really useful. However, he does think that having both organized defense and events planned by the cities has helped the numbers go down some. One example was the Big Boom Bash put on by Lakewood this year. And social media has been a great platform to getting the word out about fireworks.

Blissfest333 Returns To North Denver With Art And Indie Films

Michael at Blissfest 2017MICHAEL BLISS, LEFT, WITH RALPH GIORDANO, Blissfest333 Program Director, at the 2017 opening reception. PHOTO BY LAURIE DUNKLEE.

By Laurie Dunklee

Michael Bliss finds his, well, bliss, by gathering people together to enjoy the arts. His Blissfest333, celebrating its fifth year in Denver, is an art and film festival with events in North Denver on Aug. 3, 25 and 26.

Blissfest333 features art exhibits and 30 films by independent filmmakers.

“It’s a festival about creativity and individuality,” Bliss said. “We are about the community and the arts.”

The free opening reception is Aug. 3, 6 p.m., at Tenn Street Coffee, 4418 Tennyson St. Featured will be photos by Scott Wilson and the Colorado Photography Learning Group, as well as an opportunity to meet the 2018 filmmakers.

Scott Wilson is a Scottish photographer living in Denver and a colon cancer survivor. During his 40-week chemotherapy treatment in 2016, he was told to avoid direct sunlight. The result is his “Through the Window,” a wildlife portfolio shot entirely from the shade of his car.

The Aug. 3 “block party” will continue at Future Drawn oneLINE Gallery, 4420 Tennyson St., with Jonathan Applegate and Ralph Giordano’s “The Body as Art: Inked... Skin Deep.”

The film festival, Aug. 25 and 26, includes 30 films by independent filmmakers from all over the world at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, 4255 W. Colfax Ave. This year’s featured filmmaker is Steven Sabell, who has written, produced, and directed over a dozen short films and one feature-length fan film, “Suicide Knights Saga: REAP” (2015). He received a Pikes Peak Arts Council Rising Star award (2017-18). Sabell is a Colorado Springs police officer.

Film festival tickets are $30 for one day and $50 for both days, available at filmfreeway.com/Blissfest333. A portion of ticket proceeds goes toward restoring the Historic Elitch Theatre and its children’s events and classes, including the Children’s Day International Film Festival at the Bug Theatre, 3654 Navajo St., Nov. 10 and 11. Elitch Theatre is currently closed for repairs because of wind damage.

Bliss started the festival in 1999 as a celebration of life for his friend Gary Pedon, who died of AIDS. Blissfest was held annually between 1999 and 2001 and then returned in 2013. Beginning in 2014, the festival was dubbed Blissfest333.

“The meaning of 333 is a union of mind, body and spirit. It signifies truth and that we are all one,” Bliss said.

Other 2018 Blissfest333 events include a televised open mic every third Friday at Denver Open Media, 700 Kalamath St.; and a day of workshops, panels, art and live music on Sept. 8 at the 1101 Event Center in Littleton.

For more information see Blissfest333.com.

Little Free Libraries Help Spread The Wonder Of Reading

M Lyster and CharlieWEST HIGHLAND RESIDENT MICHAEL LYSTER AND HIS DOG Charlie next to The Groucho Marx Memorial Library, one of many Little Free Libraries scattered throughout the Edgewater and northwest Denver neighborhoods. PHOTO BY KEN LUTES.By Ken Lutes

Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend.Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read. – Groucho Marx

West Highland residents Michael Lyster and Nora Morgenstern retired in the spring of 2014 and made building a Little Free Library (LFL) their first project. They named it The Groucho Marx Memorial Library.

“I Googled ‘Little Free Library plans’ and found one I liked,” said Lyster. “I got about halfway through building it and decided to make it look like our house.”

In Edgewater, Mark Donaldson discovered an untapped artistic talent while building his LFL.

“I had never painted anything, artistically, but I figured if I paint one library with flowers, that makes me an artist. So on the LFL national registry it states that my library was painted by a local artist – and that’s me.”

Sloan Lake resident Shelly Lira’s love for reading led her to ask her brother-in-law to build a little library for her. He did, from recycled materials.

“He loves to dumpster-dive, and builds all sorts of things,” Lira said. “The LFL is made from completely recycled materials, and he made it to match our house.”

The love of reading is the common glue binding these three LFL “librarians” to their dedication of maintaining them. If you don’t have one in your neighborhood, chances are you will soon. More than 60,000 have been built since 2009, worldwide, according to the Little Free Library website.

“We see them all over town,” Lyster said. Commenting on the effect of having built one, he added, “I think it’s like when your wife’s pregnant, everybody seems to be pregnant; or you buy a new car, and everybody’s driving your make and model of car.”

“I didn’t realize that children’s books would be so popular,” said Lira. “Those turn over really well, especially in the summer, when we get two to five visitors a day.”

Lira remarked that when she and her husband first moved into the Sloan Lake neighborhood 22 years ago, they were the only family on the street.

“Everybody else was retired, there were no kids at all – and now there are so many young families. The bottom shelf is the children’s section.”

Donaldson also built his LFL with children in mind.

“Our house is near a school, and my hope is that people on their way to or from will stop and pick up a book. I built the bottom shelf purposely tall, so [oversized] children’s books would stand up in there. I think I get a couple visitors a day.”

Lyster, too, maintains a small area for kids.

“The remaining space is for ‘high quality’ novels and nonfiction. We’ve had people drop off paper bags full of books. Someone dropped off a bag of about 30 Agatha Christie mysteries in paperback – maybe the product of somebody’s beach vacation habit – but we only put out a few at time.”

When Lira erected her LFL, which is rooted into the ground through an old oak whiskey barrel, she had envisioned her collection would be dominated by sci-fi books – her favorite reading pastime. But now she says, “it’s taken on a life of its own and is pretty much a mish-mash of genres.”

Keeping LFLs stocked isn’t a problem for these three librarians, who say that, after the initial stocking, the neighbors are pretty good at helping with the rotation of books. Lyster says they pulled books from their shelves when they opened their library four years ago.

“It was an opportunity to get rid of some,” he said. Donaldson keeps an eye on his stock and says, “If things start looking a little lonely, I stock from a collection I keep in a closet, or run to the thrift store to find books that appeal to me, hoping they’ll appeal to somebody else.”

Lyster says his wife Nora does a better job of maintaining the selection than he does.

“If she sees books that aren’t moving, she’ll take them out and distribute them to other LFLs in the area, and there are several. Once in a great while, it’ll get stuffed with some type of cultish religious track, which we take out. Is that censorship? I guess it is. Books that are judgmental of other people we tend to remove.”

So, what is the appeal of these little book-sharing boxes that seem to be popping up on every street in town? The consensus among these three librarians is that they’re good for the community.

“I think of it as a community service,” said Lira. “I’ve never heard anything negative about them. Whenever someone hears we have one, they say, ‘Oh! You have a little library,’ with a sense of wonder.”

Donaldson says he especially likes when people stop their cars and hop out to take a quick look.

“If they take something, it makes me think that they have found a prize.”

“It’s a little neighborhood community builder,” said Lyster. “I’ve never heard anybody say, “[Gosh darn it], what am I supposed to do with another book? Everybody’s very enthusiastic about taking a book, leaving a book. There’s a little motto, ‘We all do better when we all read better.’”

Visit littlefreelibrary.org for more information.

Interested in building your own Little Free Library?

Here’s how, along with some helpful tips:

Visit the Little Free Library’s official website, littlefreelibrary.org, to learn about the history of this fast-growing phenomenon. The site is packed with inspiring stories by LFL “librarians” and useful tips for building and maintaining your library box. Here are a few basics:

  • Locate a suitable area near a sidewalk, bike or walking path
  • Determine your customer base. If mainly for children, consider making the lowest shelf easily accessible to them
  • Use recycled, salvaged and found materials if you can
  • Use green building techniques whenever possible
  • Use Plexiglass for the window
  • Build it to last, using screws, not nails
  • Make it weather-resistant and water-tight, with caulking and several coats of paint or stain
  • Consider a strand of solar lights inside the box for winter months and nighttime
  • Make sure signs are easily read from five to 10 feet away
  • Consider installing a counter on the door, to record the number of visits
  • Be creative! Visit existing libraries in your community for ideas
  • The name “Little Free Library” and its common variations are trademarked and you must register with the LFL website to use it.

    –Ken Lutes