The lighting is terrible in the Fred Field Center.
I typically find myself somewhat dreading taking photos there. The yellow-tinged, stale lighting and bleak background aren’t exactly the most inspiring surroundings for photography.
But, I guess I didn’t feel that way Dec. 16 as I cranked up my ISO, waiting to capture the first COVID-19 vaccinations being given in Gunnison County.
It was the first time in months of the pandemic that I felt a little lighter, a little more hopeful. And I’m just the journalist.
Being on the sidelines of this time in history is strange to say the least. What’s the word they use to describe it? Unprecedented? Yeah, it feels unprecedented.
When it became very clear COVID-19 was going to hit our tiny little town, there was a part of me that was fascinated. Watching a novel virus unfold in my third month with the Times? What more could this rookie journalist want?
That feeling quickly passed, and I still feel naive.
Like probably everyone in this community now, I’ve had friends who have suffered through their bout with COVID-19, and may still be feeling the lasting repercussions. We’ve grieved community members we may not have known everything about, but felt like a close friend.
And that’s only the surface of the pandemic. There’s been job losses, financial struggles, political animosity, mental health struggles.
It’s been tough. It’s been heavy.
Personally, I’ve been trying to celebrate the small wins when I can.
This community has certainly been cracked by the fallouts of the pandemic, but there’s been plenty of uplifting moments that I’m positive are distinctly unique to Gunnison.
Watching locals and regular valley visitors rally together to keep alive the tradition of Cattlemen’s Days — which of course is the longest consecutive Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association event, now not even deterred by COVID-19 — was incredible.
Fans managed to raise over $150,000 toward the event, which some did with the understanding that they wouldn’t have the opportunity to sit in the stands.
4-H participants got to see their favorite time of the year play out, too.
Though the events were outside, and seemed to land on a particularly hot weekend in July (the squeals of those overheated pigs still ring in my head at times), the 4-Hers didn’t seem to mind. They beamed with the same pride.
The fact that the Gunnison Watershed School District has managed to remain in-person for the entire fall semester is incredible.
Districts across the state and nation have struggled to crack the code of avoiding online instruction, but Watershed remained strong. District officials have largely credited the same reason for their successes — the community.
Speaking of, what an experience the Gunnison High School graduation parade was.
I’m not one to get emotional during moments of celebration, but seeing the majority of Gunnison come out to line the streets for the 2020 grads was so incredible. I’d be lying if I didn’t shed a few happy tears behind my camera that day.
And then, of course, the historic day of vaccines.
I hope I’ll always remember waiting for the caps of those needles to be popped. Originally, the shots were planned to be given all at once after the administering nurses gave a countdown.
But Gunnison County’s Health and Human Services Director Joni Reynolds had other plans, unceremoniously giving the first vaccine to Shay Krier, catching us all off guard.
But that’s what Joni has been doing, getting it done. That’s what Gunnison has been doing. Getting it done.
To be honest, I’ve never been much of a community-minded individual. But I’ve never felt more connected to a place and people like I have this year. It’s a bit unprecedented too, I guess.
We’re of course not out of the woods yet. There’s still a long road ahead of us.
But however you do it, keep getting it done.
(Roberta Marquette can be contacted at 970.641.1414 or at email@example.com.)