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People We Should Know

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.

Community Booster Grant Babb: Promoting Edgewater Community

Grant at Joyride2 GRANT 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.”