*Note: This essay was published in the Pikes Peak Bulletin print edition on August 8, 2019. It can also be found online here, an image of the column is included below, as well as the text of the essay.

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John W. Kriger was full of humbug. In 1901, he was the Manitou Springs city attorney and prophesied that by 2001, “there would be no saloons in Manitou proper,” city folk would learn that “additions to a beautiful resort are a detriment and not an advantage,” and that Manitou and Colorado Springs would be “united under one government” (Manitou likely being gobbled up by its mammoth next door neighbor).

Yeah, Kriger was kind of lame.

Because what would Manitou be without a little booze, some fun things do to, and, above all, this city’s quirky independence?

And if you care about keeping Manitou creative, funky, magical—you know—keeping Manitou Manitou, then you are part of a team that’s already fairly large and growing. The Manitou Springs Arts, Culture, and Heritage Initiative (“MACH,” but we say “match” for short—more details at ManitouACH.org), led by Natalie Johnson, director of the Manitou Art Center, just turned in 426 signatures (330 were required) to place a measure on this November’s ballot that’s designed to keep Manitou Springs as Manitou as it is for generations to come.

The MACH is grassroots all-the-way to our red rocky soil, with sixteen individuals and local non-profits helping collect signatures. Having read announcements in the Bulletin, people wandered in off the street to sign the petition and then to go gather other signatures, which shouldn’t be surprising because roughly 98 percent of residents asked were keen to sign in support of the MACH. It took 80 hours of volunteer work to accomplish.

For a quick recap, the MACH does three things: dedicates sustained funding to support Manitou’s arts, culture, and heritage by putting back in place a recently lapsed part of the City’s sales tax (30 cents of every $100 spent); it’s intended to fix our crumbling, tiny, non-ADA compliant Carnegie library building, as well as to provide support to Manitou’s largest, long-serving non-profits with legacy capital expenses, like the Manitou Arts Center; and it includes an ongoing grant program that’ll solidify Manitou as an artsy-cultural island in a sea of same-same.

In short, this is the stuff that Manitou’s really made of. And it’s why, now that we’ll soon officially be on the ballot, we’re going to need your vote this November.

Why does this matter so much? What makes the MACH important—necessary, even?

Because it’s at the heart of what makes a place worth living. What is a community, really, but a collection of people that’ve dedicated themselves to some common cause or commonwealth? And around here, from what I can tell, this community doesn’t exclude others by blood or circumstance—instead, Manitou includes others by belief and commitment to this community.

That’s why it matters that we fix the Carnegie library building—because as it stands, it excludes those with physical difficulties.

That’s why it matters that we sustain the local non-profits that tell Manitou’s tale—because they include all of those that’ve made and built and kept this town going through some truly tough times.

That’s why it matters that we provide some small yet significant investment in our artists and historians—because they include the talent that’ll rise to make Manitou proud and recognized as a unique artistic community (something we’ve learned recently with the passing of a local icon).

What it all comes down to is that the MACH supports those that tell Manitou’s story, which matters if you’re a resident, a citizen, a tourist, or a business owner. We’ve all got a stake in Manitou’s story.

And it’s a story that needs to be told, especially as we get closer and closer to Manitou’s 150thbirthday. Over in Colorado Springs, the mayor just kicked off a campaign to prepare for the city’s sesquicentennial celebration in 2021, which he said would be “quite a party” and would include three new exhibits at the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum (a heritage non-profit that’s partially city-funded and received roughly $1.2 million from Colorado Springs last year). How can Manitou compete?

The MACH. That’s how Manitou Springs prepares for its own 150thcelebration and tells its story on this momentous occasion. Support the storytellers and they’ll tell the stories.

When they do, the saloons will be full. There’ll be plenty of fun things to do. We’ll all celebrate that this funky little city is still going, is still cool, is still a little weird, was never swallowed by Colorado Springs, and that it never will be.

Mr. John W. Kriger—the man who bet against Manitou—would be so disappointed.


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