Greeley, Colorado has, for a long time, struggled with its identity. Where other Front Range cities have a good idea who they are and what they stand for, Greeley seems to flounder a bit. It has been the butt of jokes that usually end with “the smell of money” or, more recently, “the exact opposite of Hawaii“. But there is so much good stuff going on in Greeley that it is a shame that we Greeleyites don’t share it more. All this good stuff is a bit of a secret that is finally starting to get out.
That is exactly the aim of the new PR marketing campaign Greeley Unexpected: to start a new conversation about what Greeley is and who and what makes it unique. It got me thinking about how much I really do love Greeley and how much I will miss my hometown when we move to Puerto Rico.
We know what it is like to live in Greeley. Both Britton and I were born and raised in Greeley (though I moved to a small rural town 20 miles away for about 10 years before moving back). We both went to public school here, got our first jobs here, went to college here at both Aims and the University of Northern Colorado, and we bought our house here, as well as a number of rental properties. Our families are here. Our friends. Our memories. Our life! Greeley has in so many ways large and small made us who we are, and so we are so thankful for it and will miss it greatly! Let me count the ways!
(Feel free to click around on the links provided to read more about each one. All photos in this post are taken by us from or for this very site, LifeTransPlanet.)
1) Indie Options
I know I will miss our favorite Greeley indie hangouts. Some of these include the Kress Cinema and Lounge, or Margie’s Java Joint (now the Blue Mug at Margie’s). At the Kress you can have a beer with your popcorn or food and watch a free cult classic on late Friday or Sunday nights, or watch a new indie film at other times. At Margie’s you can have a coffee and check out art and it even has a weird doll in the floor! We haven’t yet tried the Moxi Theatre, but that sounds cool too. We even have a local, independent brewery called Crabtree and a new one is slated to open up soon! The downtown Roma restaurant has a totally hippie/indie vibe to it with a loud, rowdy college crowd in a long-ago converted church. And Cafe Panache brings a touch of funky French sophistication. We will also miss all our favorite, local and inexpensive restaurants.
2) Beautiful Parks
Greeley really is blessed with some of the most gorgeous and abundant parks in any city I have visited. It has over 30 parks in the city limits from skate parks, to open space parks. All of them are beautifully landscaped and filled with many varieties of trees. We love Josephine B. Jones Park for its natural wandering trails, Bittersweet for its long path, memorial monuments and huge lake, Sandborn for its perched view around the lake and sand volleyball pit, Ramseier Farm Park with its farm animal footprints in the cement, sundial and access to the ditch trail and I have mentioned it before but Glenmere Park just has something magical and alluring about it that is hard to describe. And on and on. Greeley really has it going on with its parks and I will miss them treemendously!
3) Small Town Charm with Big City Amenities
Greeley is pretty cool because you can get nearly anything you would in a big city (nearly every chain and corporate store you can name), but it just doesn’t feel like a big city. There are nearly 100,000 people, but it still feels like Mayberry a little. We just know each other: our neighbors, our mechanic, our hairdresser, our grocery store clerk, etc. Maybe it’s because I have lived here so long, but it’s a rare occasion that I leave the house and don’t see someone I know. You can be a big fish here pretty easily or you can remain relatively anonymous if you want to as well. And being just on the edge where the prairie meets the front range, we get the most gorgeous 180 full view of the Rocky Mountains of any of the Colorado cities.
4) Greeley is easy and safe to live in
There are many pluses to living in Greeley for health, finances, employment and schooling. Greeley passed a smokefree law a full 3 years before the rest of Colorado. There have been huge strides in smart growth. The city has maintained a high standard of living with overall clean water, land and air, honest and effective police, fire and rescue teams, and many medical providers including a large hospital. The job market is shifting from primarily blue collar into a few more white collar, higher paying positions. Gang issues have been overall addressed appropriately and are no bigger a problem than in other large cities. Housing and cost of living in Greeley is dramatically lower than other places. The grid driving system is easy to navigate and parking is FREE nearly everywhere.
There are two Recreation Centers (the Rec Center and the Fun Plex), swimming pools and splash parks, and even an ice skating rink. We have a top of the line library system that we use extensively! There are many learning options including Aims, the beautiful campus of UNC and the vocational schools. Overall, you have everything you need to succeed in Greeley!
5) Progressive City in a Traditional/Conservative County
This is another rare combination that is hard to find in other places. While most of Weld County is very rural, conservative and very ok with things remaining as they had 50 or 100 years ago, Greeley, the county seat, is, by comparison, remarkably progressive and forward thinking. This combination makes for an interestingly diverse political and social dialogue. I think it has resulted in a city that is rooted in and values its history and what was good about the past, but ready and able to leap into the future as well.
6) Its People
What is a city without its people? Truly Greeley has some of the nicest and most interesting people who have lived here or are currently living here. Most are not flashy about living here, because Greeley is not about flashiness. Most are good, friendly, helpful and hardworking people. Some are extraordinary like the people highlighted by Greeley Unexpected: Connie Willis, the sci-fi writer, Amando Silva, the performance artist, or Ryan Mayeda the philanthropist chiropractor, but many are just honest, decent and living good lives. It’s hard not to like people from Greeley and I will miss them dearly!
A Private Quinceanera Party at Island Grove
7) Mexican Influence
Greeley has a large immigrant population, primarily Latinos and specifically mainly from Mexico. Some are second or third generation, but all have brought a distinct and awesome Latino flavor to Greeley. With this cultural influx we have authentic Mexican food, tiendas (shops), events and more. Often I think the general population doesn’t fully take advantage of this great opportunity!
Because of this influence I have been able to become fluent in Spanish and use it in my daily life. Britton and I cannot stand store-bought old Mission tortillas when you can have local tortillas fresh from the comal or made-that-day tamales or barbacoa from Los Comales or La Espiga Dorada. By simply getting to know our neighbors we have been invited to fun Mexican parties including quinceañeras. Because of this Mexican influence, we have also met a curandero (traditional folk healer), and our frozen confection of choice during the summer are those paletas sold from one of the men walking behind the ringing carts throughout Greeley.
Greeley is becoming more and more diverse as well with immigrants from all over the world. I will miss getting to know all of these cultures as well.
8) Cultural/Community Events
Greeley has such a plethora of community and cultural events it’s hard to know where to start. Most events occur in the summer like the Arts Picnic, the Blues Jam, Friday Fests, Cinco de Mayo events, and, of course, the Greeley Stampede, but there are also nationally recognized shows, performances and events at the Union Colony Civic Center like the Greeley Philharmonic Orchestra and sometimes at the University like the Canvas and Chocolate event I went to or the Gasland event there or at the libraries.
Other cultural hot spots include the Greeley Freight Station Museum, one of the world’s largest miniature model train set museums in Greeley as well as Centennial Village, a village museum of the late 1800s where kids can even have a summer experience as a child of 100 or more years ago, the City of Greeley’s main museum downtown and Nathan Meeker’s home/museum. We also have a summer farmers’ market and a few festivals and charity events like the huge Relay for Life.
9) Walkablity/Bikeability: This is sort of in the same vein as Parks and Community Events, but I think it merits its own point. Greeley is a very flat city that makes it very easy to ride bikes. Its bicycle infrastructure has improved dramatically as of late with the City of Greeley recently being awarded the Bronze Level as a Bicycle Friendly Community with its 85 miles of bike lanes. There is always a great Bike-to-Work Day event each June as well as the Moonlight Bike Ride in July put on by the Greeley PD. We are so thankful to have and will miss greatly the Poudre Trail that connects Island Grove in Greeley to Windsor and Fort Collins via a walking/biking trail and other trails like the recent ditch trail by our house. They are also adding more sidewalks and bus stops to encourage alternate forms of transportation than just by car.
BBQing in our backyard
10) The Summers
In Greeley, the summers are fabulous! There is so much to do. The evenings are cool and it’s sunlight until what feels like 10pm. It is never humid or muggy. People are out in the neighborhoods, going to events, parties, growing gardens, hanging out in their yards, BBQing, swimming, walking, biking. It is such a vibrant community that you really see in its full glory of the summers. For me, summertime in Greeley is the best and I am sure I will miss it a lot, even living in a tropical environment.
Many people enjoy the other seasons of the year in Greeley as well with changing leaves and crisper evenings of fall, the cozy indoor lives of warm foods, puffing chimneys and glistening snow of winter, and the new growth and excitement that comes with blooming flowers and trees throughout town in the spring, Some people say that the seasons help them appreciate each one more and they look forward to the (sometimes daily) change in the weather.
Overall, while Greeley has its share of problems that cannot and should not be just brushed aside, there is so much more good about it. I hope you enjoyed hearing about this wonderful place I will always call home.
What do you think? What do you feel are the best parts of Greeley? Do you ever miss your home town?