Paonia, CO Hosts TEDx Event
The TEDxPaonia team invites you to celebrate Paonia as a place that ignites creativity, curiosity, and connection. Our theme for our conference on Feburary 6 is “Pushing Through the Pavement.”
Before the white man settled here, Paonia was the sacred home of the Ute Indians. Eventually, like much of Colorado, trappers and miners came, and Paonia became a farming and mining town during the 1800s. In the 1960s, hippies, artists, and other creatives showed up, eventually making the town known amongst certain groups for its free thinkers and Rainbow Gatherings (and a strain of marijuana called “Paonia Purple”).
Today, Paonia is attracting digital nomads, millennials, environmentalists, more artists, and people who embrace healthy living. Located at the foot of towering 11,400-foot Mount Lamborn, the north fork of the Gunnison River runs right through town. This, along with the neighboring Grand Mesa (the largest mesa in the world) creates a microclimate suitable for high-altitude farming known as the “North Fork Valley.” It’s at the top of a nearly-pristine watershed—so far. Area residents fight a constant battle to protect the lands from oil and gas development as much as possible.
Paonia has a robust agritourism industry and is dubbed the “farm-to-table capital” of Colorado. Peach, apricot, plum, cherry and grape orchards dot the countryside, and the region has the highest concentration of organic farms in the state, most of which are family owned and operated. It’s in the heart of the West Elks AVA, and with its many unique vineyards and tasting rooms, is an oenophile’s dream vacation destination.
The interaction between all of these interests makes Paonia an interesting place to exist. We are vocal. We are activists. We are fifth-generation conservatives and rainblow-flag flying liberals, all co-existing together in this enclave of a mere 1,500 citizens. We are located in one of the poorest counties in the state, yet we produce much of Colorado’s agricultural and energy bounty. We are 80-year-old farmers and 20-something newlyweds recently relocated from San Francisco. Somehow we make it work. When one of our own is in an accident, we raise money for his or her family. When neighbors are sick, we make them soup and check on their children. If someone’s dog is lost, bet your bottom dollar there will be an announcement on the Facebook message board within minutes.
Some of the innovative organizations that call Paonia home:
Solar Energy International is a nonprofit educational organization that provides industry-leading technical training and expertise in renewable energy to empower people, communities, and businesses worldwide. Students from across the world come to Paonia to study solar, wind, and hydro power, and to develop solutions that will help fuel the sustainable development of the world. You can often find members cooking up snacks for the community in their solar ovens during the summer.
TEDX – The Endocrine Exchange (no relation to TED talks): An international nonprofit devoted to compiling and disseminating information about how chemicals interfere with human function and development.
High Country News is a leading environmental newspaper covering human and environmental issues in the American West. KVNF Community Radio has been serving the western slope of Colorado since 1979 with news programs from National Public Radio, alternative news programming, local news and current affairs and an eclectic mix of musical genres with an emphasis on independent recording artists.
The Hive Paonia is a mecca for the area’s many digital nomads and entrepreneurs. An innovative co-working and meeting space which also houses Paonia’s Community Supported Art library and community meditation space, The Hive also offers classes on everything from marketing to how to communicate more effectively. It is a hub for community meetings and many of its members are on the planning committees for TEDxPaonia.
The area’s many artists congregate at the historic Paradise Theatre, which sponsors an annual film festival; and the Blue Sage Center For The Arts, which was started by a group of teachers and offers dance, movement and art classes to the community. Elsewhere Studios hosts a prestigious artist residency program in a funky, ever-evolving structure that is itself an art installation and rumored to have been built on a vortex.
Indeed, you will hear many of Paonia’s residents speak of being drawn, pulled, or gravitating here under random and unexplainable circumstances—maybe it’s the vortex!
The TEDxPaonia team looks forward to sharing more about the North Fork Valley with you over the coming months as we select speakers and plan the event. We know that our little valley has much to offer the world, and with TEDxPaonia, we now have a chance to do just that.
We hope to see you at our TEDx event (or on the web!) on February 6, 2016.