By Katelyn Kulow

Photo source: Gunnison Country Times

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held on Wednesday, Sept. 15 for the newly overhauled International Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) park, renovated and overseen by Gunnison Parks and Recreation. On the corner of East Virginia Avenue and Main Street, Mad Jack, Western’s mascot, played hide and seek with children, while families crowded the street for Gunnison’s first-ever communal snow dance in the new park. 

The new park is equipped with a water fountain feature, as well as picnic tables and a green lawn. Mayor Gelwicks cut the bow signaling its official opening. The festivities included a 20-foot-high cow float with a gigantic camouflaged motorcycle hooked onto the back. Western Colorado’s Cheer Team walked with the float to promote community engagement and to help out with the snow dance. “Hopefully some awesome snow comes for the winter!” said Western cheerleader Emma Casey. 

Casey, along with her fellow cheerleaders, handed out beaded necklaces, snowflake kazoos, and winter themed goodies. Various booths lined the curbs, including the Wanderlust Hostel, who handed out free donuts and refreshing iced tea. Katie Dix, Executive director of the Gunnison Country Food Pantry, said she was “very thankful for everyone who has donated this afternoon to the food drive to help their neighbors in need.” 

The snow dance is intended to promote an abundantly snowy winter to fill the Blue Mesa Reservoir, the state’s largest, amidst severe drought spurred by climate change. According to the Bureau of Reclamation’s Draft Annual Operating Plan for Colorado River Reservoirs 2022, ”snow water equivalent for the Gunnison River Basin…was 89 percent of average” in 2021. Back in September, the Blue Mesa Reservoir Water Database reported Blue Mesa Reservoir was experiencing just 60% of average inflow for this time of year. 

But at IOOF, the mood was festive and hopeful, and the jazz band led the people in song. “Maybe we’ll start a tradition; we haven’t done it before but maybe we’ll do it from now on,” Mayor Gelwicks remarked of the communal snow dance.