Paonia is a peaceful little town on the western slope of the Colorado Rockies. A town with no traffic lights, it’s a place where the pace is slow but there’s always something going on. Its residents, about 4,000 if you include the surrounding mesas, are a diverse population of farmers and artists, musicians, writers and ranchers. It’s a small town with big-town culture.
Paonia’s lively main street, Grand Avenue, is lined with historic Western buildings and family-owned shops. The historic Paradise Theatre has been beautifully renovated and hosts world-class musical acts and current movies. The Blue Sage Arts Center and our local public radio station are also on Grande Ave. KVNF is a state of the art “green” facility housed in a newly renovated building that was the focus of a dedicated community effort. Paonia also has a busy, brand new library, video store, an organic market and cafe, and restaurants where the chefs take pride in serving up local food.
Paonia hosts several festivals each year, the most famous being the Cherry Days celebration on July Fourth which has been a yearly event here since 1947. The Mountain Harvest Festival in late September is a four-day community celebration of the art, agriculture and music of Western Colorado.
The town park encompasses an entire block of Paonia and its picnic tables are shaded by a canopy of massive old trees. Paonia has been a Tree City USA for the past seven years. There is a series of concerts during summer called “Music in the Park” which features talented local musicians.
Many acclaimed non-profit organizations reside in Paonia including Solar Energy International and the award-winning environmental magazine High Country News.
At an altitude of 5,645 feet Paonia’s climate is warm and dry in the summer and moderate in the winter. The sun shines here more than 300 days a year. This high-desert country is home to sagebrush and cactus, cottonwood and cedar trees, elk and deer, bald eagles and great blue herons.
The variety of fruits and vegetables grown here is extraordinary, including lemons in my neighbor’s greenhouse. Paonia boasts the largest organic acreage under one association in the US, the Valley Organic Grower’s Association. Its climate makes it ideal for fruit-growing and Paonia is famous for its peaches, apricots, cherries and apples. The first fruit trees arrived on horseback in the late 1800′s.
Lately, vineyards and wineries have been springing up as it has been discovered our climate is also ideally suited to growing grapes.
Visit Paonia Chamber of Commerce for more information.
Some of the most spectacular scenery in Colorado is in our backyard. The Black Canyon National Monument, Grand Mesa, West Elks Scenic Byway, historic mining towns of Redstone and Marble, and Kebler and McClure passes are all within an hour’s drive. Not much farther is the Colorado National Monument. Also close by is the scenic mountain town of Crested Butte, the Maroon Bells near Aspen, and the hot springs of Ouray, known as the Little Switzerland of America.
Whether relaxing or taking in the sights, always with good, healthy food on hand, this is an area of Colorado that shouldn’t be missed. There’s plenty to do and see but it’s also the perfect place to rest and relax, soak up the sun and enjoy the views.