When Durango’s new city manager, José Madrigal, moved to the Animas Valley in September 2020, the search for a house big enough to accommodate his family of seven proved quite the challenge—especially during a time when everyone else was also looking for a house in Durango. While they hunted, the Madrigal family kept busy getting to know Durango’s bountiful offerings.
“There’s not much small talk on Zoom, like there would be if we were at the office, so we’re having fun just finding places for ourselves,” says Madrigal.
Besides discovering their favorite pizza joints, beers (for the parents, obviously), and other local delicacies, the Madrigals have spent their days relishing Durango’s abundance of fresh air and open spaces. Skiing, fly-fishing, more skiing, and hiking the Sky Steps are just a few winter favorites for the Texas natives.
When he’s not exploring his new home with the family, Madrigal is working hard to push out this year’s strategic plan, which has a strong focus on the hottest topics, like diversity, equity, and inclusion across the spectrum of city programs and services; environmental and social sustainability; financial transparency; and enhancement of the elements that make living in Durango so fabulous, just to name a few.
Some of those enhancements include paying special attention to nurturing Durango’s vibrant arts and culture scene, which is experiencing a revival, thanks to our renewed appreciation for those treasures we largely missed out on last year. For one, the summer and fall events calendar is already bulging with the return of some beloved oldies—like the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic, Animas River Days, and, fingers crossed, Fourth of July fireworks.
In the North Main District, the Animas City Night Bazaar returns with its Passeggiata, a neighborhood promenade held on the last Wednesday of each month from June till October. This wellness-minded street party features bizarre phenomena—busking musicians, circus performers, pop-up art, flash-mob dances, a petting zoo, and more. Everyone is encouraged to attend, especially after enjoying happy hour at one of North Main Avenue’s bustling restaurants, bars, or ice cream trucks.
Also taking stage once again this season is the iAM MUSIC Fest, which features eight shows from May through October in Durango, with three shows in Pagosa Springs and one in Silverton. Venues include the Nugget Mountain Bar and in downtown Durango at Buckley Park and the Durango Craft Spirits lot. Each concert is a full-on stage production showcasing local and regional musicians and performing artists.
“After all we’ve been through, we’ve seen that there’s an even greater need for music,” says Jesse Ogle, professional musician and founder of iAM MUSIC. “We want to expand on that. Hopefully we can do something that will make people not take the arts for granted but rather see the value in this important part of our community.”
The creative juices aren’t just flowing for the artists and musicians in town; restaurant and business owners have also dug deep and uncovered innovative ways to not only survive these challenging times but to thrive. Many of last year’s outdoor gatherings that pivoted to accommodate social-distancing guidelines will resume with the warmer weather, including al fresco dining experiences, Main Avenue’s wildly successful bump-outs, and a Movie in the Park series, which will take place at Buckley Park on the first and third Fridays in June, July, and August.
“We know we can host these cool experiences outside that can be flexible in terms of seating arrangements and capacity,” says Ogle. “We live in this beautiful outdoor place, so we’re all just taking advantage of that.”
After spending so much time at home, it’s easy to see why people, and lots of them, want to live here. Economics teaches us that with this kind of high demand comes a low supply, an interesting puzzle to consider as we look to the future of Durango.
“People are latching onto the idea that they care more about quality of life rather than material objects,” says Dan Korman, broker and owner of Alpenglow Properties. “We are a community of community-minded citizens, which means people are thinking creatively about housing and mixed-use spaces. I can’t tell the future—that’s the caveat—but what we do know is that no matter what happens next, you cannot change our backyard, and that will continue to drive demand.”
Speaking of backyards, the Madrigals finally found a comfortable abode in February 2021. Madrigal knew that with a bit of patience, the right one would appear at just the right time—and so it did.
“There’s a lot of promise going into this year,” says Madrigal. “We’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, but everyone has been affected differently. This year will be great for listening and seeing how everyone in our community is doing. We won’t just snap back to normal, but Durango clearly knows how to band together. We’re not strangers; we’re neighbors. This community steps up to help one another, and we’ll see that boost a faster recovery. It’ll be a blessing to get back together and build on this momentum.”