In a year that brought a fiercely contested election, a global pandemic and life’s annual hardships, 2020 has put the world through a kaleidoscope of emotions.
Our Chronicle-News team has ridden the ups and downs of this year alongside our readers from the opening of Fishers Peak State Park to the woes of COVID-19.
We look back at the good, the bad and the ugly of 2020 news, as we launch into 2021.
Here is our 2020 year in review:
— Jan 9: Las Animas County commissioners officially oppose state’s gray wolf reintroduction efforts.
In early Jan., the Las Animas County commissioners heard the arguments to oppose the reintroduction of wolves to Colorado.
The Commissioners cited the role of outdoor recreation and agriculture production in the county as they announced their opposition to the effort.
“Outdoor recreational activities and livestock production are two of the primary components of the Colorado economy and are a major contributor to the economy and social wellbeing of Las Animas County,” said County Administrator Phil Dorenkamp in the announcement.
— Feb. 7: Colorado preservation declares Corazon District in downtown Trinidad as ‘saved.’
The Colorado Preservation Inc. announced the “El Corazon de Trinidad Distinctive Commercial District” had been “saved” due to extensive revitalization over the past 5-7 years.
The Corazon de Trinidad District’s recent refurbishment and renovations of historical buildings saved the “architecturally rich” area according to the Colorado Preservation Inc.
The organization awarded Trinidad Mayor Phil Rico the position of keynote speaker for Colorado Preservation’s 2020 Saving Places Conference.
— On Feb. 24: The Colorado Department of Local Affairs announced Trinidad State was awarded a conditional grant of $200,000 for improvements and updates to the school’s Massari Theater.
— Feb. 27: Trinidad State lands $200,000 DOLA grant for improvements at Massari Theater.
The College matched the funds breathing $400,000 of new life into the dated performance space.
— On Feb. 29: Thirty-five people braved the icy cold waters of Trinidad Lake in the city’s first ever polar plunge.
The event benefitted Special Olympics Colorado and raised more than $9,000 in sponsorships.
— March 6: Super Tuesday results: Sanders wins Colorado Democratic Primary – was also top vote getter in Las Animas County.
Las Animas County primary results strongly favored Democratic candidates Bernie Sanders (687 votes or 31.18 percent) and Joe Biden (638 votes or 28.96 percent) in Colorado’s Democratic primary.
Voter turnout in the county was strong for the first year of Colorado’s new primary system with 2,665 votes cast in the Democratic primary and 1,979 votes cast in the Republican primary.
A strong voter turnout for the incumbent president Donald Trump amassing 1,872 votes or 96.10 percent of the Republican primary votes.
— March 13: Former Trinidad City Councilman Carlos Lopez embarks on bid for State Senate SD-35
Former Trinidad city councilman Carlos Lopez announced his candidacy for the Colorado State Senate seat for District No. 35.
Lopez, running as a Democrat faced opposition from political newcomer Republican Cleave Simpson from the San Luis Valley.
— March 24: Area school districts adapting rapidly, stepping up to challenges amid COVID-19 interruptions.
On Wednesday, March 18, Governor Jared Polis signed an executive order suspending in-person schooling statewide through April 18.
Polis made a grim prediction that it is “increasingly unlikely” that schools in Colorado would reopen with pandemic closures.
— April 3: First confirmed case of COVID-19 reported in Las Animas County.
The Las Animas Huerfano County Health Departments received confirmation on April 2, that a 24-year-old woman who had traveled out of state tested positive for COVID-19.
The Las Animas County patient is isolated at home as she continues her recovery announced the Health Department.
“Our top priority is the health and safety of our community and we are tracing all contacts of this individual,” said public health director Kim Gonzalez.
— May 12: Recent study suggests Las Animas County ‘best place to own a home’ in Colorado A recent study by SmartAsset claimed Las Animas County to be the best place for homeownership in Colorado.
The financial technology company measured median monthly rent for a three-bedroom home in each county as well as buying a home with an annual 30-year fixed mortgage, an annual interest rate of 4.5 percent, closing costs of $2,000 and a down payment of 20 percent.
In the study, Colorado’s average monthly mortgage payment was $1,742, while Las Animas County’s averaged just $1,062 per month.
— June 3: Freedom takes action: Trinidad residents join together to exercise rights, hold peaceful protest in Central Park.
On June 1, many protesters took to Central Park in Trinidad waving signs reading “Black Lives Matter” and “Justice for George Floyd” following his death which many attribute to police brutality.
The protesters emphasized their feelings of frustration and outrage at those who have been wronged or killed by those tasked with service and protection.
Protesters emphasized their demonstration was not aimed at all police officers, many saying they believe “good cops do exist” and they stand in support of those upholding the law.
— June 12: Historic Temple Aaron hosts virtual tour of now 131-year-old synagogue.
On June 10, Temple Aaron, Colorado’s oldest continually operating Jewish synagogue, presented a virtual tour of the premises via Zoom, sharing the history and structure of the building.
Designed by regionally famous architects, the Rapp brothers, the structure boasts stained-glass windows, enormous pipe organ on a balcony overlooking the 200- seat sanctuary and elevated wooden bimah.
The temple has undergone fundraising efforts in Trinidad and Denver aiming to grow the endowment to help preserve the history of the synagogue.
— June 18: Drought expands rapidly – Trinidad has driest start to the year ever recorded.
Trinidad recorded just 1.66 inches of precipitation between January 1 and June 9, the driest start to the year since 1948 when record keeping began according to the National Weather Service (NWS) and the National Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC).
Extreme drought conditions stretched to consume all of Las Animas, Bent, and Baca counties while all of southeast Colorado has had soil moisture levels dropping into the fifth percentile.
The United States, along with much of the world recorded the highest May temperatures since record keeping began 141 years ago, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced on June 12.
— July 1: Polis signs bill providing $1 million to Fishers Peak State Park efforts in Trinidad.
On June 29, Governor Jared Polis stopped in Trinidad to sign Senate Bill 3 into law which provides $1 million to support the development of the Fishers Peak State Park.
Polis called the funding critical to opening the 19,200-acre park to the public, hoping that the state park would be an engine driving the Trinidad and surrounding region’s economy.
Dan Prezlow the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Director said the organization was committed to opening the park by 2021, accelerating the design and construction process to just one year.
— July 14: City reinstalls bronze placard on tombstone atop Simpson’s Rest.
In early July Trinidad’s Public Works along with the Power and Light departments placed the large bronze placard back on George Simpson’s monument tombstone that rests atop Simpson’s Rest.
Situated next to the glowing Trinidad sign atop the city’s Simpson’s Rest park is the grave of the legendary frontiersman and Las Animas County’s first county clerk.
City Project Manager Tom Beach said getting the placard replaced was an empowering display of teamwork by the Public Works and Power and Light departments.
“This project has been a long time in the making,” said Beach. “It was a group effort and I’m really proud to see the placard back on the monument.”
— July 27: Somebody Cares Project recognized as “Brawny Giant.”
Elaine Martinez, local founder of the Somebody Cares Project, was acknowledged this past June as a “Brawny Hero Giant” after being nominated as a “Brawny Giant.”
The non-profit based out of Trinidad, which supplies food pantries, will become part of the Giants Take Action campaign, which was set up to support those doing the most to assist their neighborhoods during the pandemic.
— August 5: County fair a success, according to officials.
Aug. 1, marked the completion of the 110th Las Animas County fair, which gave local 4H and FFA students in the county the ability to showcase a years’ worth of hard work.
The 110th County Fair looked different amidst COVID-19 restrictions, but the event moved forward with variations to the norm.
Las Animas County 4-H Director Lori Arnhold expressed her appreciation for all the support from the community through the event and said although this coming year may also look a little different moving forward, members of 4H can still count on having their clubs.
— August 12: Trinidad students to begin fall semester via remote learning.
On August 7, Trinidad School District No. 1 announced it would be commencing the fall semester through virtual learning beginning September 8.
“Las Animas County is currently considered to have a high incidence of transmission based on the state standard,” said Trinidad Superintendent Dr. Bonnie Aaron. “It was brought to our attention that no other school district in the state with similar enrollment numbers will be having inperson instruction this fall.”
Aaron added that regardless of the difficulties, the district would continue to do everything they are able to ensure the education and wellbeing of Trinidad students are well taken care of and continue to evolve and transform with ongoing guidance from the local health department and the state.
— September 15: Frozen in time, the Great Fox West Theatre is reawakening.
Fall 2020 saw the Fox West Theatre on Main Street in Trinidad host a season of performances for the first time in nearly a century.
The theatre’s Project Manager Christopher Smith and videographer Elizabeth Holloway are capturing stage performances and beginning October 31 will be releasing some of them to raise awareness about the historically significant structure on their YouTube channel.
Smith said they are also working to capture the unveiling of a few places that haven’t had people in them since the 1930’s as well as filming several other unique and rarely seen areas of the theatre in hopes of raising the public’s interest and curiosity.
— September 25: Trinidad State sees drop in enrollment amid growing, ongoing COVID concerns.
TSJC has seen their headcount drop 15 percent and full-time equivalent (FTE) is down 7.5 percent, said TSJC President Dr. Rhonda Epper.
“A big factor is concurrent enrollment, which is down 36 percent due to uncertainty of scheduling in the high schools,” said Epper.
TSJC Vice President of Student Services Kerry Gabrielson explained that Concurrent Enrollment saves Colorado families hundreds of dollars and opens doors for high school students that might not otherwise attend college.
It is also one of the larger impacts to TSJC’s lower fall headcount.
— October 15: Colorado Attorney General Weiser tours TSJC, checks out new trade programs.
The state’s Attorney General’s Office has granted $5 million in funds to Trinidad State and fellow southeast Colorado community colleges Lamar Community College and Otero Junior College, TSJC received one third of the funds at $1,666,000.
The funds are to be used specifically for supporting construction trades programs at the colleges to help spur housing development.
The funds were received from the national mortgage settlement; a settlement reached in 2012 after 49 states sued mortgage servicers after the 2008 financial crisis.
Before the launch of this program, none of the funds obtained in this 2012 settlement were used in southeastern Colorado.
— October 21: Local Trinidad comedian pro launches new live stream show from Main Street window
C.O.U.G.A.R. Nights is a unique show live-streamed every evening Monday through Friday via Facebook and YouTube and the show’s creator and host, Jay Gillespie said he’s excited to bring another element of creative expression to a town known for such.
The show itself is a series of 30 to 40 segments at one minute to a minute and a half and airs Monday through Friday around 8 p.m.
The show is largely a fast paced, entertaining improv routine and Gillespie added that he pulled the majority of his content, “strait out the dome.”
— November 4: Las Animas County sees huge voter turnout in fiercely heated presidential race.
County Clerk and Recorder Peach Vigil announced the unofficial election results via Zoom, which coronated Incumbent president Donald Trump’s Las Animas county victory.
Both local referendums 1A, a boon for Las Animas County and Referendum 2, a funding measure for the town of Cokedale, achieved voter approval.
Local candidate Carlos Lopez narrowly won the bid for District 35 Colorado State Senate seat in his hometown Las Animas County, but later lost his bid to Cleave Simpson from the San Luis Valley.
Voter turnout was a lot higher than in past races. Out of 9,845 registered voters, some 7,611 or 77.31 percent made the effort to cast their ballots in this heated race.
— November 17: Trinidad State cancels annual high school basketball tourney due to health concerns.
The Trinidad State Basketball Tournament, the longest running high school basketball tournament in Colorado, cancelled its 2020 competition amid growing COVID-19 concerns.
The tournament has been held annually in early December at TSJC’s Scott Gym and has been played for the past 84 years.
TSJC Athletic Director Mike Salbato plans to return to normal tournament competition in 2021.
— November 20: Chronicle-News Editor escapes to safety Weds. night after Commercial St. apartment erupts into flames.
On Nov. 18 at approximately 10:30 p.m. Trinidad Fire Department with assistance from Trinidad Ambulance District and Trinidad Police Department responded to an apartment fire above Wilklow & Associates, CPA, PC located in the 200 block of North Commercial Street.
Francesca Villani, a local real estate associate with Town and Country Estates Realty, Inc. is also the owner of the several buildings that line that portion of North Commercial Street.
Her own businesses, Tutti Scoops and Francesca’s Unique Gifts are housed in the historic complex.
The only tenant in the building, Eric Monson, made it out of the apartment sustaining relatively minor injuries.
— December 2: Las Animas County records first two deaths due to COVID-19.
In late November, two men from Las Animas County, one in his 50s and one in his 60s, died from COVID-19 according to district health department.
The pair died in hospital care, marking the first two COVID-19 related deaths in the county.
— December 3: Lady Trojans make history at half marathon competition – take home national title, national coach of the year.
The Trinidad State Lady Trojans claimed the National Junior College Athletics Association half marathon National Championship on Tuesday, Nov. 17.
In what turned out to be a double win for the Trojan Ladies, following their title win, Head Coach Lauren Masterson was named the 2020 Half Marathon National Coach of the Year.
The championship marks the college’s first national championship team since TSJC joined the NJCAA 81 years ago.
— December 3: LA County Commissioner Felix Lopez appointed president elect of Colorado Counties, Inc.
On Dec. 1, Las Animas County Commissioner Tony Hass shared that Commissioner Felix Lopez had been chosen as President elect for Colorado Counties, Inc. (CCI).
“Representation is paramount not only at the state level but for all of us,” said Felix Lopez. “Rural counties in a lot of cases are not often considered.”
He expressed that he looked forward to representing rural counties at the state level.