Locals are noticing a LOT of new people in town... Used to be that we recognized almost all of the people we'd see in Don's Market -- now it's less than half who seem familiar. So, welcome all newcomers and here are some tips to integrate into our wonderful community:
The most important tip: make eye contact with your new neighbors and say "Hi." Readily engage in casual conversations with people and be friendly.
Get a post office box. When you go out of town, you won't have to put a hold on your mail but mostly, you will see your new friends and neighbors more often -- especially if you pick up your mail between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. This is one place to connect with the community, check the postings, and engage in casual, friendly conversations.
Volunteer with one of our many nonprofits or your new local church. This is the best way to show your commitment to building a vibrant Paonia. When you sign up for a task, surprise people by doing what you said you'd do and finish ahead of time.
Be fashionably late. Many (some say "most") events and meetings in Paonia start late. Many people in town like to make a big deal about how busy and/or engaged they are ... a fact proven by their unsuccessful attempts to show up on time.
Always, always, always yield to any reverse lights on cars as people back up onto Grand Avenue. Our inside joke is: "Must not be from around here" when we see a car who won't yield when we try to back up, a fact usually supported by out-of-state license plates. Yielding also applies to pedestrians, dogs and unattended children. Paonia is still a safe enough town for kids to gather, play, and walk downtown.
Avoid the "Paonia Shuffle" which is defined as taking on so many volunteer commitments that you have absolutely no free time and even worse, don't give fully to the organization(s) you're volunteering for.
The "Paonia Shuffle" also has to do with people trying to make a living here. Your first priority is to ensure you have resources needed to survive which is a huge challenge for many newcomers. As one astute local said: "DMEA will not take a trade for my electric bill." Newcomers need to either extract money from sources outside the valley or figure out how to make money here. Paonia can divert you from making a living with the many requests to get engaged in volunteering.
Spend every possible dollar in town. We've gone through a lot of ups and downs with Chaco Sandals and the mining closures. Online purchasing and shopping in Junction or Montrose shut down our only clothing and shoe stores in Midway. Don't let that happen to our critical remaining businesses, especially Don's, Dependable Lumber, Hays Drugs, and our downtown shops.
We are really glad to see the growth and new people coming to town. Rick at Dependable says it's the most building activity he's seen in two decades. Help us keep what is most precious about our Town, commit to become integrated, be friendly, and welcome to Paonia. We're glad you're here.
(Editor's note: Dave and Jill Knutson moved to Paonia in 2003. He started out working at Chaco Sandals and now does HR consulting. Jill is a pastel artist. Both love living in the North Fork and Paonia.)