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If pedestrian traffic in downtown Salida this past weekend was any indication, visitors from the Front Range and beyond are flocking to the Colorado mountains after being cooped up for weeks due to the coronavirus known as COVID-19. The streets were filled, not just with happy people, but dogs of every type and color, all “socializing”, with only a few minor tiffs.

The llamas got away before they could be photographed. This image is courtesy of Deposit Photos.

They were joined by a pair of llamas; one brown llama and one white llama sporting “Andrew Romanoff for Senate”¬† and “Lori Boydston for Colorado House of Representatives” banners.

According to City Treasurer Merrell Bergin, “There were almost as many people and animals as the usual 4th of July parades…what will it look like next weekend?”

Even in summer, dreams of fun days to come at Monarch Mountain, Salida’s own for over 80 years. Monarch Mountain Salida Outpost at 123 North F Street offers a place to rest and all the gear and tickets you need. Merrell Bergin photo

He described a happy scene, with people of all sizes, shapes, ages, and ethnicities. Some people out and about were locals, but most of the pedestrians were visitors.

He noted couples and young families with strollers, kids on skateboards, multiple cyclists, “including one talented young (helmeted) guy riding his ‘wheelie; all the way down the 100 block”, said Bergin.

Unmasked pedestrians in Salida stroll south on F Street in front of Sweeties Sandwiches and Deli and their expanded streetside seating

While so much organized arts entertainment has been postponed or canceled due to the pandemic, there are still many ways to have fun while being outside enjoying the summer season.

Just in the past weekend, there were pottery demonstrations in front of Maverick Potter, art for sale on the sidewalk, ice cream everywhere and of course, restaurant patios were packed.

Kayakers were trying their skills at the riverfront, and people appeared happy to be out-of-doors and delighted with the extra space provided by the closure of F Street from Sackett up to Second Street. There were plenty of shopping bags and take-out boxes in evidence, indicating much-needed support for the local business community.

Image courtesy City of Salida

The sign of people out enjoying the weekend is encouraging, but one impression has grown over the past week. While some people, mostly local, have been observed wearing the facemasks mandated by Chaffee County Public Health Orders, many, mostly visitors, are not wearing facemasks.

In fact, locals have reported to Ark Valley Voice that standing in take-out lines in downtown Salida, they have been jostled by out-of-town visitors not wearing facemasks (they knew the people were visiting from other states because they asked them), When asked why they weren’t wearing them, they said they didn’t need to wear facemasks “because you’re wearing one so I’m protected.”

Many states surrounding Colorado are seeing surging COVID-19 cases — states from which our visitors have come.¬† Our main protections are social distancing, washing hands frequently and wearing facemasks, which are proven to slow the spread of the virus.

The question should be asked: How do we keep the happy scenes Chaffee County saw this weekend going, if people, including our visitors, don’t understand the social responsibility we all share to do our part to protect each other, and our fragile mountain economy?

Editor’s Note: Witten by AVV Managing Editor Jan Wondra, with observations from Salida resident Merrell Bergin.