Small Town

photo by Lydia Stern
photo by Lydia Stern

Despite what appeared to be record business and early season trailhead activity this past Memorial Day weekend in Crested Butte, we are still in the tail end of the spring off-season. And that time is marked by a few “small town” community events that help ground us for the coming summer season mayhem.

The first was last weekend with the traditional Memorial Day weekend old-timer dinners, luncheons and family gatherings. The small but poignant Monday morning parade comprised of veterans with Crested Butte ties marched to the cemetery, and an afternoon polka party at the Eldo capped the three-day weekend.

Monday also marked the opening of the Snodgrass trail that is a local classic. Ride or hike it now because it will only get more crowded. A big thanks goes out to the local Allen ranching family for allowing the complete trail to go across some of their property.

Speaking of trails, this Saturday is National Trails Day and, traditionally, scores if not hundreds of people show up to help the Crested Butte Mountain Biking Association improve nearby trails. It is a day of community and one we all appreciate. It is unfortunately timed with another great community event so choices will have to be be made this weekend.

That other big “small town” event that rallies the community is the Crested Butte Community High School graduation. This Saturday, June 4 at 10 a.m., the community will gather to watch 43 of its children end their CBCS careers. There will be speeches and music, laughter, hugs and tears.

The school is a treasure in this small town and one that hasn’t always been here. It was 20 years ago this spring that the official groundbreaking for the school took place on the old Eccher Ranch. Before that, kids either went to the private Crested Butte Academy or took an early-morning bus to Gunnison. The facility at the entrance to town has had a major expansion since then and the school district is today looking at another potential expansion to accommodate the growing numbers who want to attend a pretty top-notch school in this small-town community.

Riding the Lupine trails a couple of weeks ago we stopped before the downhill of Lupine 2 and a rider coming up hopped off his bike on the road. Friendly and cheery, he asked directions. He told our small group that he had just moved to the community and bought a house because of the school. “I have two munchkins getting ready to start,” he announced unprompted. His family is not the only one; I hear it all the time. Old friends and new make it clear that the school was a major determining factor in their decision to move to Crested Butte instead of some other mountain village.

As we reported a few weeks ago, the CBCS earned a gold medal on the U.S. News and World Reports’ Best High School’s List, scoring 12th place in Colorado. I believe people moving here understand they can provide their children with a private school education at a public school—and that is money in the bank. And then after they experience a little time inside this community center of learning, they begin to understand some of the uniqueness of Crested Butte. There are the teachers who are smart, athletic, empathetic, funny and dedicated. They know how to push the kids while respecting differences.

There is the administration that juggles a thousand balls in the air every day to make sure every kid is safe and appreciated. The Accountability Committee and the RE1J school board spend time figuring out how to enhance the student experience and pay for a high level of education. Town members volunteer and support the school all year.

Now, this is not to say the school is absolutely perfect. Some kids might not gel with the overall style of the Crested Butte school or the individual style of a particular teacher. Kids are kids and there are some who get picked on and others who rebel. As in every school, there are societal issues. A local mother recently wrote me to express concern over the availability of marijuana in the school. She voiced a very real concern about the chain that ends with underage students purchasing weed from other underage kids in school and she was very concerned about all the kids in the community. Some will fall into the dark hole of substance abuse—but overall the school and community do their best to keep a watchful eye on our children and try to guide them, not only with how best to read and write, but with how to make good decisions.

And that is a big reason why the entire community will celebrate another “small town” milestone this weekend. Young members of the tribe are taking a step closer to adulthood in a place where many adults proudly declare they don’t want to grow up. So Saturday will be a unique Crested Butte ceremony.

Congratulations to those who will walk across the stage for a diploma Saturday morning. Just as important, we send out thanks to those teachers and administrators at CBCS who make it such a unique community experience.

In so many ways, we as a town are truly fortunate—and now is the time to embrace that fortune and get grounded before the mayhem of summer.

—Mark Reaman

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