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Creative coalition offers explanation, assurances

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Susie Kaldis, board president, and Spencer Lightfoot, program director for the North Fork Valley Creative Coalition, recently updated Hotchkiss trustees on the status of the North Fork Creative District, which now encompasses only Paonia. The creative coalition, however, continues to promote events in the communities of Crawford, Hotchkiss and Paonia.

When the North Fork was established as an "emerging" creative district in 2012, Kaldis explained, where were no guidelines or restrictions on geography. Since then, Colorado Creative Industries, the state agency that certifies creative districts, has narrowed the definition of creative districts as "walkable and contiguous."

Because Paonia has a high concentration of galleries, studios and restaurants within its historic downtown, Paonia was the focus of the application for recertification.

"We know this feels like a hit to the residents of the town of Hotchkiss, but we felt if we didn't shrink the district, there would be no creative district in Delta County," they explained.

Kaldis said it is somewhat of a relief to be able to focus on just one community, although she stressed the NFVCC is not giving up on Hotchkiss or Crawford. Programs will continue to be developed to strengthen and enhance the creative labors of the entire community. On Labor Day, NFVCC member artists and agricultural producers throughout the area are invited to participate in an Art & Ag Tour that NFVCC promises to market extensively. The goal is to attract more visitors to the area by showcasing cultural and artistic organizations, events and amenities.

Turning to practicalities, Kaldis and Lightfoot addressed the NFVCC banners hanging from light standards in Hotchkiss. They have not held up well, and at the recommendation of Hotchkiss public works director Mike Owens, both banners and brackets will be removed by coalition representatives.

Trustee Sheila Maki thanked the NFVCC representatives for the update. She said the trustees had no idea what was going on until Linda Tullis with the Creamery informed them Hotchkiss had been dropped from the district because the of walkability issue.

On a more positive note, the town has received a $38,000 REDI grant through Region 10 to conduct an economic survey and diversification plan for the area. The town and Hotchkiss Community Chamber of Commerce are partnering on this effort, which will begin with a survey of merchants.

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