Communication, collaboration key to GRIT mission

The Hilltop Summer Music Series at the Bookcliffs Arts Center returns in June. The series in on the first and third Thursdays each month through August.
Courtesy photo |

As Rifle begins to find its footing after decades of ups and downs, a group of local leaders are hoping communication and collaboration can help things along.

“Our city sales tax is up in a year where natural gas has pulled out. I think in Rifle that’s a first, and it’s really promising,” observed Nathan Lindquist, Rifle planning director. “People are looking to what else the town can be.”

To help maintain that momentum, several Rifle organizations have come together to form the Greater Rifle Improvement Team (GRIT), with an eye toward the economic and cultural future of the community. Most of the hard work is behind the scenes, but you may start to notice some changes.

“We’re trying to coordinate a lot of the same things on the same weekend so it’s a bigger bang for your buck,” explained Rifle Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Andrea Maddalone. “We want a reason to come to town and stay in town and play in town.”

It turns out a lot can be accomplished with just communication and collaboration.

“We’re gathering the information for everybody,” Lindquist said. “It’s a platform for people to use how they want.”

At the center of it all is Cathleen Anthony, who moved from Maryland to serve as GRIT assistant last August.

“I had never been to Rifle before,” she said. “It didn’t look the same as it did on a laptop screen. There’s not the most flattering image out there on the Internet.”

That’s part of what GRIT is trying to combat.

“We’re such a diverse, unique community,” Maddalone said. “To define Rifle? We’re still trying to figure that one out.”

Lindquist agreed.

“It’s got the classic West elements and the new West elements. You can go target shooting in the morning and then go get a show at the Ute at night,” he said. “It’s kind of like choose your own adventure.”

Anthony has had a first-hand look at that variety.

“I go to a lot of meetings,” she said. “I think that strengthens the communication, and they feel more inclined to come to me.

Outreach and organization seem to be the essential elements of the role, which also syncs in with the city’s involvement in the Colorado Main Street program. Both come down to basic organizational efforts to revitalize business and entertainment — which can be surprisingly interconnected. Historically, the economy defined the culture, but these days it can be the other way around.

“People are moving to a place first and then finding or creating a job,” Lindquist observed.

That’s not to say Rifle didn’t already have its fair share of attractions.

“We already have some great established events,” Maddalone said. “We didn’t need to reinvent the wheel. We see it every day.”

Still, as the summer season approaches, expect to see more from your old favorites, particularly “signature events” like the Rifle Rendezvous.

“We’re revving up, trying to brainstorm what will attract people and how to make it better,” she said.

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