Come for the history, stay for the community

by Mike Wiggins

mike@ouraynews.com

I never wanted to be in a club.
As a shy kid, I didn't join the Boy Scouts or the school Drama Club. As a less-shy 20- and 30-something, I had little interest in service groups. They didn't appeal to me. So I stayed away.
And then Erin and I moved here last month and found a stately, 114-year-old building in the heart of Ouray — and the friendly, unassuming people within it.
A quick tour of the Ouray Elks Lodge revealed all sorts of gems in a history-rich place — the grand lodge room with its original 18-foot, pressed metal ceiling, the club room's bar and back bar that date to the 1890s, the decades-old slot machines that serve as museum pieces for lack of a gambling license. And where else can you find a two-lane bowling alley where the pins are set manually by teenagers to earn a little spending money?
But the real charm is found in the members who invited us to stuff Easter eggs for the annual hunt in Hartwell Park, then welcomed us back for a Cinco de Mayo feast. No askew looks. No wondering who these whippersnappers are. Just a firm handshake, a smile and a glad-you're-here. You know the trepidation that washes over you when you walk into a room filled with people you've never met? At the Elks Lodge, you can check that feeling at the door.
At the end of the Cinco de Mayo night, I rose from the table to settle my tab at the bar. My hosts stood up with me.
"We'll take care of it," they said.
I gently protested, pointing out to them that they had already been generous enough by allowing me to be their guest for the night.
But you were our guest, they said. And guests don't pay, do they?
I didn't really have a good comeback. So I simply thanked them. It's clear that there are no strangers at the Elks Lodge.
The membership application is in the mail.
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Welcome to Ouray County.
Those words have greeted us in person, over the phone and via email on several occasions in our first month here. Thank you to those who have shared them with us. You're helping make this place feel like home.
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One of the reasons we invested in the Plaindealer and came here is we believe strongly that every community, no matter the size, deserves a vibrant newspaper.
We take seriously our responsibility to monitor what your elected officials are up to and how they're spending your money. We intend to cover important issues in Ouray County — affordable housing, water, infrastructure shortcomings, workforce and tourism, to name a few — with the depth and breadth they deserve. We plan to tell an abundance of personal, human-centered stories. We will do it all as fully, fairly, accurately and ethically as possible.
And now that you have a sense of our values, we want to know what you want from us.
In the coming months we plan to host meet-and-greet events in Ridgway and Ouray. We'd love to see as many of you as possible, introduce ourselves and get to know you. We'll have more details about those events here in the newspaper, so keep an eye out.
What do you like about the newspaper? What do you want more of? Less of? What would you change? Start letting us know now. Call 970-325-2838. Email us at mike@ouraynews.com and erin@ouraynews.com. Or stop by our offices in the old Ridgway School House at 1075 Sherman St., No. 210, behind RIGS Fly Shop.
Come start a conversation. After all, this is your newspaper.