You can’t put just one brand on Durango

Friday, Sept. 7, 2018 7:14 PM

In my last column, I asked readers what Durango is best known for. As is typical of the independent, individual spirit of Durango folks and visitors alike, I received a variety of responses. “Hip” was a word that recurred several times but in different contexts.

“Durango is a hip, old-Western town” was one. When I dug deeper, I discovered that these people meant that Durango has the look of an historic, cowboy town. But underneath, you find all types of modern shops, restaurants, beautiful galleries and breweries, all catering to more trendy, modern tastes.

Ok, I had no objection to Durango appearing that way.

One millennial saw Durango through her own eyes and said it clearly was a town for young, hip people. She liked the casual dress (“casual dress” was a nice way to describe our citizens) and outdoorsy attitude of the residents.

I guess she didn’t realize that she was speaking to a baby boomer. On the other hand, when I participate with older hikers and bicyclists who are active athletes, I realize that these participants, despite their age, act and play like they are young. So I guess, somehow, we actually fit in with the hip, young folks in town.

A few visitors said they came here primarily for the archeological treasures found all over the Southwest and that Durango was an excellent base camp from which to discover all that the Southwest has to offer in terms of ancient ruins.

Depending on how you look at it, they are pretty accurate. After all, we are pretty centrally located to the three World Heritage Sites of Mesa Verde, Chaco Canyon and Taos Pueblo.

Still others marveled at the “buzz” that seems to be always present in our town no matter what the season. Durango is not just a typical tourist destination that opens up in summer and boards up in winter.

On the contrary, real people live and work in this real town, year-round. There are shop owners, artists, doctors, nurses, teachers, police, firefighters, lawyers and real estate agents – all providing valuable goods, services and entertainment demanded by townsfolk and visitors alike.

For me, that kind of buzz is also found in large cities like San Francisco or Chicago, but without the more complex and undesirable attributes like serious traffic or crime.

Durangoans deal with each other every day and find that common courtesy and friendliness go a long way. At times, they vigorously disagree with what their neighbors or local government is doing.

Durango folks are not afraid to express themselves. Just read our local newspaper if you’re not sure about that last one.

The good news is that we usually find a way forward, despite our differences. There are few ideas that have not been vetted to the point of extinction in Durango before they actually manifest into reality.

Before moving to Durango seven years ago, I wondered if there was enough to do in this small town that would prevent me from getting bored. I now wonder what I was thinking.

Durangoans have somehow mastered the art of combining business with pleasure, with all the nonprofit fundraisers and beautiful venues in which to discuss serious subjects. We are so active that it is many times difficult to choose a date for an event that does not end up conflicting with something else you would like to attend.

But that is much better than the alternative.

In the “off-season,” starting with Labor Day, we have a motorcycle rally, a cowboy poetry gathering, a balloon rally, an arts festival, a mountain biking competition, gallery walks, a “chili chase,” music almost every night somewhere in (or near) town, and the tours to see the amazing fall colors.

I truly understand why it is difficult to brand Durango. We have so much.

Contact Durango Area Tourism Office Executive Director Frank Lockwood at