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The corner of Alameda and Federal was packed with people, flowers and dragons on January 22 to mark the beginning of the Lunar New Year.  Whether it’s called Chinese New Year in Chinese culture, Seollal in Korean culture or Tết in Vietnamese culture, it’s always a joyful time. This is the Year of the Rabbit based on the Chinese zodiac signs and should be full of peace and prosperity. Those born in the Year of the Rabbit are said to experience good fortune and patience. 

“The Year of the Rabbit is going to be full of good luck, good health, and prosperity and, you know rabbits are a little curious. So we’re gonna have like little curious bits here and there throughout the year,” said Mimi Luong of Truong An Gifts.

The Far East Center has been hosting Lunar New Year’s festivities for a decade.  Many who gathered to celebrate were buying last minute decorations and red envelopes at the gift shops, or getting food from the restaurants.

China Jade Seafood Restaurant, one of the eateries in the Far East Center, said pho and dim sum were flying off the tables.   Many were dressed in their traditional clothing for the celebrations, and were taking photos and enjoying family time. Those who were born in the Year of the Rabbit received a gift from Truong An Gifts. So did children who said happy new year or Kung Hei Fat Choy.  

Luong said “I feel that Lunar New Year celebrated at the Far East Center has been a cultural event passed down from my parents, and that we are able to share our culture with the community and let them know our traditions on how we celebrate with line dances, cultural performances, the different types of foods that restaurants are serving. Just to share with everyone our culture.”

During the celebrations Lion dancers performed.  The lion dancers are used during new year celebrations to bring good luck and help drive away evil spirts with the help of fireworks.  Children and family’s alike fed them red envelopes with money to bring good luck.


“I love to see how diverse our community is, just come to learn our holiday our tradition. And if you can look around in the shop you can see how diverse this community is. And it’s great that everyone wants to learn what Lunar New Year is about and how we celebrate.” 

With Lunar New Year celebrations being held all over Denver it is hard to ignore the tragic events that happened in Los Angeles when a gunman killed 11 people and injured 9 others at a dance hall in Monterey Park.  In a statement posted on its social media site, Far East Center said, “In light of what happened in Southern California we send our prayers to everyone there and we hope to continue to be a light to our community by sharing happiness and joy this Lunar New Year. Today we celebrated with our friends, family, and customers.  Thank you to everyone that came out to celebrate with us today.”

If you missed the celebration, Far east Center has another one with lion dancers, cultural performances, and vendors on January 28th and 29th.    

The corner of Alameda and Federal was

By Ryan Schmidt & Alexander Servantez/CU News Corps

The White City

Located just outside the limits of Denver lies the town of Lakeside. Home to just 17 people, all are facing Sheridan Blvd. just off Interstate 70. It’s a small community in such a fast-growing city. 

Most Denver residents pass through the narrow city lines of Lakeside daily without ever knowing. But the tall yellow Tower of Jewels and the white, wooden Cyclone ride that represents the Lakeside Amusement Park are recognizable to all.

Close to the town and park are Byron and Brenda Hamilton. They are lifelong Lakesiders. They haven’t just been to the park numerous times. They grew up around the park. They’ve maintained a relationship with General Manager Rhoda Krasner, daughter of Benjamin Krasner, who purchased the park in 1935.

“We see them about three to four times a year,” said Byron Hamilton. “But every time, it’s like we’re a part of the family. They trust us, and we wouldn’t do anything to break that trust.”

They speak about the times of their childhood at the park. Brenda’s grandmother was the official bookkeeper during the 1970s. Her grandfather was the Edgewater Police Chief around the same time. He went on to run security at the park before retiring.

Byron and his “delinquent parents” may not have had the association with the park that his wife did. But that didn’t stop them from sneaking through that loose hole in the wire fence across from the lake. They would hop onto the famous Lakeside train and ride to the park for a fun-filled day.

“Everybody at the park just felt like family. Rhoda was like everybody’s grandmother,” Byron Hamilton said. “Her mom, we called her Mrs. Kay. She was always riding around on a three-wheel golf cart. Stopping and hugging everyone. That’s the one thing we’d say made up the core of the park. Family.”

With such rich and touching stories, it’s not hard to understand how Lakeside grew to popularity. But what isn’t often mentioned is the park’s pure beauty and aura.

The park, first unveiled in 1908 to a crowd of over 50,000 people, was formerly known as the “White City.” When the sun went down and the night crept in, the park’s 100,000 lights would awaken to fulfill its early moniker. The Tower of Jewels and all of its bright, yellow and gold eminence could be seen from a mile away.

Premier attractions blended with incredible craftsmanship made Lakeside feel grand. The horses on the merry-go-round feature wood that is all handcrafted. The horses’ tails featured real taxidermy fur from horse specimens. Luxurious.


Every year, a carnival would come into town and set up shop in the park bringing a whole host of new, beautiful, and festive attractions for a short time. The carousel and the famed Lakeside train come from World’s Fair. And don’t forget the annual fireworks show that Byron and Brenda Hamilton each described as the “baddest show in the city.”

This level of focus and attention to detail doesn’t just attract Denver natives but amusement park enthusiasts worldwide. Taylor Finn, a Lakeside park visitor from Pennsylvania, raved about his childhood experience at Lakeside and the unique architectural style that set it apart from other parks.

“The park immediately transports you to a different era,” Finn said. “The fondest memories I have aren’t even of being on the rides, so much as just walking through the park, basking in the art-deco lights and seeing families have such a good time.”

The Ghost Town

The park closed for the winter season on Sept. 19. There are no crowds of joyous families to analyze when the threat of snow is at the wake. But with even just a couple of laps around the park’s perimeter, it’s hard to imagine those same spirited crowds packing the grounds even if the park was open.

The sidewalk facing Sheridan Blvd. and the park’s front entrance is hardly a sidewalk. Every footstep is met with the crunch of gravel and dirt. Occasionally, you might have to step over a crushed beer can—an empty bag of chips. Or trudge through vast piles of dead, unkempt leaves.

Make your way to the park’s fence. Enormous weeds and thick foliage inside the park’s boundaries stand taller than the fences’ barbed wire. Tree branches and roots are growing in between the steel material.

A tourist might approach the fence hoping for a good look at the park’s interior. Maybe a picture. The vegetation has grown so wildly and without attention that it’s almost impossible to see some rides and attractions.

The white, art-deco style that once glazed the park is now no more than just chipped and unpainted wood. The Casino Theater is reminiscent of an old, abandoned ballroom, and almost half of the rides are inoperable, including Lakeside’s most popular ride, The Cyclone.

If you had no clue what Lakeside was, you would think it was a ghost town.

So then, why is Lakeside falling into such a bottomless abyss? What’s causing another one of Denver’s most storied landmarks to a deathly fate? Byron and Brenda Hamilton say that it was a disaster, amongst other things, that launched the park into a state of disarray. 

“A lot of people don’t know this, but a few years ago, there was a massive hailstorm that completely destroyed the park,” Brenda Hamilton said. “Even the tower that you see when you walk in. It had thousands of light bulbs that glowed bright, and it destroyed them all. Too much damage for Rhoda and them to pay and replace.”

They also spoke of the car wreck in 1988 that killed a young girl. Insurance rates after that accident were driven so high that Lakeside was forced to close down the incredible speedway.

An even more recent incident was referenced, involving a hand injury on the world-famous Cyclone ride. Lakeside visitor and Florida truck driver Daniel Depaola sued the park, hoping they would pay his medical bills after being struck by a wooden beam when he was holding his hands up on the ride.

“I’ve held my hands up on that ride a hundred times, and I’ve never gotten hit,” Byron Hamilton said. “I don’t know how he did it, but he forced that ride to close. That ride will probably never open, either, because it won’t pass a safety inspection without a lot of money going into it.”

However, it’s not all just a series of peril holding the park back from greatness. It’s almost as if the family-friendly identity is also hurting development.

“Rhoda hires cheap,” Brenda Hamilton said. “There was a time when they had a worker stealing from them on the job. Instead of firing him, Rhoda kept him on because they wouldn’t have anybody else to work if they let him go.”

“They also don’t like to get rid of things, either. I love them to death. But they are generational hoarders. There is so much history and beauty in that park that they refuse to get rid of, but something is holding them back from restoring it.”

According to the Hamiltons, a lack of trust keeps Rhoda and company from entrusting others with the restoration and identity of their park. Not once was Rhoda or any other figures of management able to be reached or contacted.

Byron himself foresaw this coming. “You can leave a message and tell them to call you,” he said. “I can tell you they probably will not.”

Losing Our Landmarks

This isn’t the first time the great city of Denver has seen a popular entity fall from grace. In April 2021, a legendary restaurant named Casa Bonita, located at 6715 West Colfax Avenue in Lakewood, filed for bankruptcy and closed its doors to the public. 

Since the 1970s, the iconic eatery has given the Denver community festive decor and sopapillas filled with joy. It was one of the nation’s top 10 roadside attractions. It was a landmark. But it was also a place filled with love. A place that gave Denver families a night of belonging in a city that has changed so much since the restaurant’s inception.

Residents wondered how an establishment like Casa Bonita could be gone for good. How could it possibly come to this? What is left in the city of Denver to replace it?

It took two men, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, to save the restaurant from the verge of obscurity. The co-creators of the hit animated television show South Park were avid Colorado enthusiasts not ready to see the “pretty house” die. They purchased the restaurant and are planning to restore its staff and attractions back to all of its glory. The reopening is set for May.

For Lakeside, there is no Trey Parker, no Matt Stone, waiting to save the park from imminent collapse. Instead, Byron and Brenda Hamilton hope the Trey Parker and Matt Stone for Lakeside are the community.

“I always ask myself one thing,” Byron Hamilton said. “If there was an opportunity for the community to volunteer and help restore the park, would Rhoda do it?”

A New Beginning?

There are plans in the near future for the town of Lakeside to turn its sights toward bringing the park back up to speed. The idea is a beautification project headed by Lakeside resident and city council member Henry Schueller.

“I want to bring back some of the beauty within the park,” Schueller said. “ It starts with a presentable image. Big open sidewalks that are safe and wheelchair accessible to open the city up for everybody.”

“Another thing that I am proposing is bike lanes. I think it would be great to see bike lanes going down 44th. Down 48th, possibly connecting Berkeley Park to the Green Belt. Community parks, gardens, solar. It starts with doing our part here in the city.” 

But even Schueller knows that a spring cleaning is only the first measure. As the owner of AVLancer, an audio and visual technology company in the town of Lakeside, he believes there have to be some risks taken along the way.

“We built this company by taking risks,” he said. “We put our savings on this company multiple times, so we know all about taking risks. I hope to see a few risks taken, and I hope I can jump in and contribute, as well.”

He’s also taking notes from recent and widespread development in the Highlands area of Denver. A wave of gentrification is knocking at the doorstep of Lakeside along Sheridan and I-70.

“With the growth we’re seeing in this area, I really think the risks that this community and the park need to take are low on downsides and have massive upside potential. It’s really just about connecting that growth to our town.”

And so the final question is this: Where does Lakeside go? What does Lakeside do to keep this park from closure?

Byron Hamilton doesn’t think the land will ever be sold. He believes if the park were ever to shut down, the ground would sit as it does now. Empty, with untapped potential and a firm grip on the glory days of the past.

According to other town sources, there are some talks of selling. Some think Lakeside could become a more mainstream tourist area, similar to the Belmar shopping center. Others believe that restoration efforts are in place, and with the interest and help of the Denver Film Festival, the park could be turned into a historical walk. A place filled with Lakeside history. 

But the consensus remains. Lakeside natives and enthusiasts alike don’t want to see the park die. They won’t let the park die. And they need help from the people of Denver to keep the park alive.

“It could be a GoFundMe. It could be anything,” Schueller reaffirmed. “Even if it’s just to show Rhoda and the people at the park how much the community cares and wants to see it succeed. It could go a long way.”

“It’s sad what’s going on over there. I’m sure I and everyone else want to see it doing better. I think some things must be done before it’s too late.”

By Ryan Schmidt & Alexander Servantez/CU News

Christopher Cruz, a dog trainer from Puerto Rico, hurls a frisbee through the air. With incredible speed his Dutch Shepherd, Poison Ivy, zooms in pursuit. She moves so quickly that her lean body becomes a blur. Ivy leaps! Over 6 feet off the ground and snatches the frisbee out of midair and the crowd surges with excitement. This is Xtreme Dogs.

“I found my passion through training my dogs.  My favorite part of this is that we get to show people our bond, the relationship, and the communication that we have created with our dogs,” said Christopher Cruz, a dog trainer with Xtreme Dogs. “You get what you give. Anybody can create that relationship with their dog as long as they are willing to put in the time. Ain’t that right Ivy?” 

This past Tuesday the National Western Stock Show invited Xtreme Dogs to showcase the amazing athletic feats of these animals and also the special relationship between trainer and canine. The Xtreme Dogs performance is a hallmark family activity in the National Western Stock Show. Mom, dad, and the kids can be sure to witness some of the most impressive and unlikely behavior ever witnessed from a dog. Rest assured; these dogs are not just the average stay at home pets. These dogs are champions, athletes, performers, Hollywood TV stars, and heroic service animals. 

Deirani Collazo is the lead trainer of Xtreme Dogs which is a traveling dog show production group bringing together trainers and their dogs from all over the world to perform and compete. 

“Our main goal is to showcase the bond between handler and dog and show people how incredible this relationship can be,” said Collazo.


The dogs have a wide range of activities and athletic performances from disc, agility, tricks, racing, and even water sports. Collazo took the main stage towards the end of the show to perform a freestyle with her Border Collie, Rogue. The two danced in perfect synchronization. Rogue weaved in between her legs, leaped up onto her shoulders, and would catch discs while jumping up and over Collazo’s head.  

While the performance looks almost effortless, the process to train a dog to perform in such a manner is a long and committed journey. With thousands of people in the audience cheering and multi-colored spotlights bouncing around the arena, it would seem inevitable that a dog would get distracted. Yet through almost inaudible vocal cues and subtle body movements, Collazo and the rest of the trainers are able to instill perfect discipline in their animals. 

It’s basically getting to know your dog and finding out what your dog likes. It could be toys, food, affection, and then you know, using those things to teach the dog behaviors. The more you praise the dog for behavior that you want, the more likely it is to be repeated.”

It sounds simple, but this is a full-time job for these trainers. These dogs are their lives. 

“We want to show people that no matter what you know, either adopted or purchased, any dog can be amazing. If you put in the time and energy it requires with patience and love, you could have an amazing incredible partner for life,” said Collazo. 

Alex McNeil is an outdoorsman and dog trainer of fifteen years from Calgary. He is the owner of Bleve, a five-year-old female German Shepherd.  Bleve sits right on McNeil’s hip.  Her eyes never leaving him.  When she’s not in a dog show, she’s up in the Canadian Rockies doing search and rescue and has just recently began filming a role in the new HBO show, “The Last of Us.” 

“She has a full role with Pedro Pascal (Joel) and Bella Ramsey (Ella). I can’t tell you exactly what she’s doing, but it will be later on in the season of the show,” said McNeil. 

Through this bond the two have created, they are able to perform seemingly impossible search and rescue jobs to bring peace to victims’ families. Bleve and McNeil are equipped to spend days in the backcountry looking for lost hikers, climbers, skiers, and more. Using Bleve’s exquisite sense of smell, they can look for bodies buried in snow, underwater, and in all kinds of hard-to-reach places. 

“We do cadaver. The training is constant, we are always training. But they have such good noses that it is imprinted on them, she will remember that scent forever,” said McNeil.  “Her deepest find is 350 feet. We are on a boat doing grid searches and when she picks up molecules from the cadaver floating through the water column she will start barking.” 

Alex McNeil and Bleve

The most important aspect of the Xtreme Dogs show to the trainers is showing off the relationship they have established with their animals. They showcase what a dog is capable of but also why they are man’s best friend; they are willing to give anything to their owners if the owner is willing to give everything back.    

Poison Ivy had a collar with a tag that read, “Ready When You Are.” Which summarized her demeanor perfectly. She never left Cruz’s side and was ready to do anything he asked of her in a second’s notice. Not begrudgingly, but with love and excitement in her eyes. 

“I am super grateful and blessed for everything that dogs have taught me. To be more confident, to be more assertive, to be disciplined, to just be a leader, you know?” said Cruz.

Christopher Cruz, a dog trainer from Puerto

Damon McCleese is the Executive Director of Access Gallery on Santa Fe which helps those with disabilities explore the creative process. He is also the curator of an art exhibit called 70 Something which runs from January 20 through February 26 at Niza Knoll Gallery at 915 Santa Fe. The exhibit showcases the work of artists who are in their 70s, 80s, even 90s, including Niza Knoll, who is 80 years old. He answered our five questions.

What was the inspiration for your 70 something Exhibit and what do you want people to take away from it?

My mother passed away in 2015. She was 90 years old and had fallen and broken her hip. She lived the last six months of her life in a nursing home with her only creative outlet being a children’s coloring book. This really bothered me. I did what I always do, I threw myself into something I knew nothing about. I started teaching people with Alzheimer’s and dementia to do graffiti. I had no idea this reaction to my own grief would lead me to challenge my own assumptions about aging and creativity. I have since also turned 60 and realized that I am in a unique position to maybe do something where someone else’s mother in a nursing home may have a different experience than my mother did. Since then, I have learned a lot about how older brains process creativity. I find artists who are older still working are extraordinarily engaging.  I hope people will see these artists who have expressed a lifetime of ideas and craft into some remarkable work. I wanted to really focus on contemporary artists and am thrilled with this show.

You talk about combating ageism through art. How does ageism reveal itself in the art world?

Much like our entire society the art world is always looking towards the young, the up and comer, what is new and fresh. I am more drawn to experience and how artists who have navigated a longer time on this earth process the world. I first was aware of an artists ability to adapt to changing mental and physical aspects of themselves when I saw an exhibit of Matisse cut outs. He could no longer manage the brushes the way he used to. Or Miles Davis who took up painting after a stroke. There are countless examples of this. But I am also drawn to the idea that we are all creative and many people revisit their creativity later in life. Most of the artists in this show have been practicing art for decades and the work is stunning. I say let’s celebrate this not try to hide it. 

The elderly are often portrayed as washed up, over the hill, put out to pasture, but you believe they’re bursting with creativity. Can you explain that?

There was a famous study by NASA that showed 90% of six year old’s test as creative geniuses but by the time we are adults less than 10% of us test as creative geniuses. I say this is more to do with our education system confusing creativity with conformity. By the time we reach a certain age there are a good number of people who return to their creative interest, and as I learned in the Granny does graffiti project, most older people are open to trying new things and are very interested in communal creativity and are able to better use both sides of the brain when they create than their younger counterparts. Further older people who are engaged in creative outlets take fewer medications, are less likely to fall or experience depression or anxiety – both of which are not part of the normal aging process. We are all creative geniuses. Picasso said it best. “Every child in an artist, the problem is how to remain one as we grow up.” I believe the surest way is to provide as many creative outlets to older adults as we do to children. By the year 2030 there will be more 60 year old’s than six year old’s in this country.

What do you recommend for someone older who is interested in getting into art? 

Just do it. Do something everyday – draw, doodle, take a picture, write a haiku – you do not need anyting fancy just start with what you have handy. I tell people to do something creative every single day – take a photo and write a story about it, draw the same thing every day. I once drew Delicate Arch everyday for a month. I still cannot draw worth a crap but the exercise is about rediscovering your creativity and how you put things together. Remember there is a difference between creativity with artistry. Give yourself permission to play, to explore. Where else in your life are you encouraged to make mistakes?  

What do you say to people who think they are too old to try something new?

Grandma Moses was 77 when she started painting.

The average age of the Rolling Stones is 74 yet their biggest grossing tour was 2019.

Artist Carmen Hererra was 93 when she got her first major show.

John Glenn went to space when he was 77.

Wang Deshun is an 80 year old Chinese male runway model.

Patti Smith is 76 and just published a book of photographs.

Damon McCleese is the Executive Director of

Space captures our imagination because there’s so much to explore and so many possibilities.  As we look towards the future, space resources and asteroid mining could become a lucrative field here on Earth. George Sowers, a professor in the space resources graduate program at the Colorado School of Mines, remembers the moment he was intrigued by what lies beyond our planet.

“I remember [the Apollo Launch], I was at summer camp and during the first moon landing, we all gathered in the dining hall looking at a black and white TV. But I was a kid, and it didn’t make a huge impression on me,” he said. “Once I got into the space business, as a fresh out of college physicist, I loved it.”

George moved to Colorado from his hometown of Atlanta, Georgia, and worked for decades in aerospace.

“I did thirty years in big aerospace,” Sowers said. “I started out with Martin Marietta, which kind of tells you how far back that goes. Eventually, I became part of the United Launch Alliance, which was a spin-off of Lockheed and Boeing.”

At ULA, Sowers helped build rockets and began looking into asteroid mining. He said ULA made some contracts with newly formed asteroid mining companies around 2010. Those companies’ business models centered around pursuing metallic mass asteroids for precious metals.  

“They were going to mine platinum group metals, bring them back to Earth, and sell them on the commodity markets,” he said.

Asteroids can contain iron, nickel, aluminum, titanium, platinum, and gold. Some companies pursue asteroids rich in these metals to sell those resources for the highest price. But water was the priority for Sowers as water is used for rocket propellent.

“I got involved with those companies because at United Launch Alliance, building rockets, we had gotten interested in refueling our rockets in space,” Sowers said. “I was talking to them about sources of propellant. In 2016, I think I became the first person ever to offer to buy space resources. As the Chief Scientist of ULA, I offered to buy propellant in space for a certain price.”

After retiring in 2017, he was approached by Dr. Angel Abbud-Madrid who was starting up the space resources graduate program at the Colorado School of Mines. Sowers jumped at the opportunity and has been teaching at Mines since.

“I love it, it’s great,” Sowers said. “It’s a lot less stressful than being a corporate executive, and it gives me a chance to pass on some of my knowledge!”

Asteroid mining is very complex and has not been fully developed. Although, the theory is you have a spacecraft that launches and goes to rendezvous with an asteroid. One recent example of this was a NASA mission called OSIRIS-REx. According to NASA:

“OSIRIS-REx traveled to near-Earth asteroid Bennu and is bringing a small sample back to Earth for study. The mission launched Sept. 8, 2016, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The spacecraft reached Bennu in 2018 and will return a sample to Earth in 2023.”

Sowers said that they visited a c-type asteroid, so this one would be targeted for water production. What they learned is that the asteroid is a loosely consolidated rubble pile. The challenge is how to interact with these asteroids in a way that enables extraction.  Sowers explained that essentially NASA used a cup-shaped device that impacted the surface of the asteroid and pulled out a sample of the material. Then, the device detracted into a door that sealed the material into the spacecraft.

“Nobody’s mining them,” he said. “Everything is still in the planning stages, early stages. There are scientific missions that have gone to asteroids. The Japanese have done a couple, the US has done a few,” says Sowers.  “One of the things that makes it challenging is that these objects are really too small to have gravity, everything’s happening in zero G,” he said. “So, if you push on it, you’re going to go backwards.”

As companies have studied how to conduct asteroid mining missions, the most viable option seems to be extracting water from asteroids to use for rocket propellant. The water gathered from asteroids can refuel rockets in space and can help support ongoing space activities and even lead to manufacturing in space.

“If you can make things in space you can start to open up possibilities that are not currently feasible,” Sowers said. “One of those that I really like to think about is space solar power.”

Sowers said that on Earth, we are pushing to rely on renewable energy sources like solar power. Although it faces limitations because you cannot capture solar energy at night, clouds prevent solar capture during bad weather, and solar panels do not work at all if they are covered in snow.

“There’s huge limitations, but if you can put your solar collection hardware in space, then you avoid all those problems,” he said. “The idea is that you build big solar collectors in space, and then you convert that energy into microwaves that are very diffuse and you can beam that energy back to Earth to receive it. So, suddenly, you have an inexhaustible supply of energy that has no carbon emissions whatsoever.”

In Sowers’s aerospace career, he has spent countless hours working on space projects, with applications that could help solve problems here on Earth. Now semi-retired, he relishes the opportunity to work with college students at Mines and provide an optimistic outlook on a future. 

“I really enjoy interacting with students, that’s the fun thing for me is to try and get the new generation excited about space and the amazing future that it holds,” he said. “One thing that is kind of disconcerting for me is [the younger generation] has been indoctrinated to be pessimistic about our future, and I find that to be very disturbing because I think the future is awesome!”

He said that we are truly on the cusp of breaking the bounds with our attachment to Earth and feels asteroid mining and space resources can create an out-of-this-world future for humans.

“Asteroid mining is going to be one activity that’s part of a really cool future for humans in space.”

Space captures our imagination because there’s so

Crime is difficult for the entire community but being the mother of a felon is a unique hell that Isabelle Macias does not wish on anyone.  While her son “A” was incarcerated she is locked in her own prison of guilt and shame, forgiving her son but unable to forgive herself.  

“It was a fairytale for me to be a mother. I don’t know what it is now. I feel like I should’ve done more. I should’ve been more responsible. I feel at times that I failed him as a mother. I know I did everything I could, but was it enough for him?”

Isabelle was the eldest of five and took care of her siblings.  She couldn’t wait to be mom to her own children and raised three kids in North Denver.  From the age of four years old, she worried about her middle child “A’s” behavior. He was combative and resorted to violence when he felt upset. Macias tried speaking up about her concerns but was assured he would grow out of it. “Boys will be boys.” 

“When I put him in preschool that’s when I knew he was not like other kids. He was violent. He only lasted three days until the teacher called me saying she couldn’t handle him,” says Macias.  He was four and already showing this personality. I was worried.”

Her worst fears became reality when “A” was in grade school.  He had thrown a classmate off the swing and proceeded to kick him, leaving him unconscious. 

“I was worried and scared of dropping him off at school. I was terrified of him hurting someone, and my fear came to life. He only lasted three days until the teacher called me saying she couldn’t handle him. He would fight with all the kids. He hit the teachers.”

When “A” was 13 Macias had to call 911 on her son and ask police to come.  “A” had become violent and verbally abusive.  Macias was terrified.  It was the first of many calls she had to make.        

“I didn’t know what would happen to our relationship after I hung up. I didn’t know what would happen if I didn’t call and I didn’t know what would happen to my son when the police would arrive.”

Macias took motherhood one day at a time, cautious with every word and action. Some days it would be a dagger of insults and threats. Other days would become much heavier, as “A” left his mark on his mother not only mentally but physically. Psychiatrists, therapists, remedial classes.  Nothing seemed to help.     

“He would either not speak for an entire session, have a violent outburst, and would even escape. When I began stepping out of the sessions, they’d come to my car and ask ‘Where’s ‘A’?’. It got to the point where they had to add locks to the doors and bars to windows throughout the building. He didn’t want any sort of help we tried.”

“A” has been in and out of the correctional system since he was a teenager. When he was out, Macias remembers being up all night, driving around and looking for her son, trying to keep him out of danger and away from the gangs.  

“I’d try so hard to connect with him, but he didn’t listen. He had this sort of resentment towards me because I was hoping for him to change his behavior. He took this as saying that I didn’t love him, from there our relationship turned negative. It broke my heart. From this day to now, it’s just been suffering.”

In his mid twenties “A” was sentenced to 34 years in prison for attempted murder. During those years, Macias continued nurturing through prison visits that left her aching for a chance to start over as a mother. 

“I can’t even count on my fingers the amount of visits. Three hours there and back. I’d wake up at 3:30 in the morning, I’d leave the house excited but return heartbroken and hopeless. I would just want to turn the car around and help him escape. It was tormenting. It felt like I was being punished too.”  

During those long drives she reflected on the crimes her son committed and the effect it had on those he harmed.  An agonizing two-way street.

“I know what he’s done. I know. It’s horrendous. In prison he pays for it, and the treatment is dehumanizing, and it shatters me every single day to know that. But what do you expect, from everything he’s done.  Every action has a consequence, and just because he’s my son doesn’t mean he deserves any less.” 

In her home, pieces of art “A” made during his incarceration surround her. They illustrate the hope and change she has always believed in for her son. Mothers Day cards, birthday cards, sculptures, and thread jewelry made by “A.” 

“I think they symbolize regret. You could just feel the torment he had in these paintings on what he felt. For me, it also brought me hope that he was okay because he was putting effort into something.”

But when “A” returned home after nine years in prison there was little change.  Macias realized that her arms were no longer home to her child, but rather the confinement of a cell had become his home. 

“He’s not used to normal life. He’s gotten used to prison, it became his home. He compares home to being worse than prison. I understand in a way. It must be difficult having to quickly adjust from one thing to another. But that and quite frankly, nothing is an excuse for how he’s acting.”

The sadness and regret she feels as a mother are always there, but Macias is learning to set boundaries, to find her faith when it is gone, and to focus on her other children.    

“I have two other children. I can’t give my entire life and energy to him, it’s not fair to my daughters. I don’t hold resentment towards him, If I could I’d do it all over again and do things differently until I got it right. I’ve forgiven him, not his actions. That is why I’ve begun setting boundaries. I can’t keep enabling him.” 

Macias has painfully made her decision to let “A” go down his path alone this time. “A” is no longer home with his family.  With this open space Macias begins her own journey after nearly 40 years.  She keeps the pieces of art up, and his room ready, hoping that one day “A” will return and motherhood will look the way she dreamed.

“I will always love him, but I’m going to love him from a distance. For my safety and my children’s safety. Maybe one day he’ll accept me as mother, trying to help and understand him” says Macias. “Even if he physically cannot find home with me, I will always have a space open for him in my heart and mind.”

Crime is difficult for the entire community

The CSU Spur Hydro building at the National Western Complex officially opened on January 6, to educate the public on water, conservation and agriculture.  Attending the event, were U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack, Governor Jared Polis, and Mayor Michael Hancock. They spoke highly of the new building and the CSU Spur project as a whole.

“This complex behind me, the stock show, and the city not only understand the challenges that we face and the significance of food and agriculture to all of us,” said Vilsack. “More importantly they understand there’s a way to transform agriculture so it’s not just profitable for some, but profitable for all, productive for all, and sustainable for all.”

The Hydro building is a new addition to the CSU Spur complex which also includes the Vida and Terra buildings. Hydro contains art exhibits, educational demonstrations, as well as a lab dedicated to testing the water and soil quality for anyone worried about what is in our drinking water. Director of the Soil, Water, and Plant testing lab at CSU, Wilma Trujillo, tests thousands of samples from across Colorado and knows that the new lab will help provide a vital service to the public.

“We still use this research done at CSU to improve our work and methods of testing, but also to educate the community,” said Trujillo. “We interact with people, and they can come to us to find answers, and we give them easy access.”

Denver Water partnered with CSU and was instrumental in its construction of CSU Spur. According to Manager of Demand Planning Greg Fisher, Denver’s water is of high quality thanks to Colorado’s snow melt and reservoirs. However, issues such as water scarcity and contamination still affect Denverites, along with the challenges from climate change.

Denver Water is combating these issues, as well as planning long term by replacing old lead pipes around Denver and monitoring harmful chemicals in in our water that comes from everyday items that are thrown away. Educating the public about these threats to water is vital to the future of safe and clean water, according to Fisher.

“I run our conservation program, and not only is it important our customers understand where our water comes from, from a quality and safety standpoint, but also the importance of using it efficiently,” Fisher said. “More so in the future, we will need to partner with our customers, and that starts with everyone understanding our water issues.”

The balance between urban and agricultural water usage is delicate, and CSU partnered with the National Western Stock Show to help ensure the content, exhibits, and curriculum reflected that. Ranchers from all across the country attend the National Western Stock Show in Denver every January, and have noticed a misconception when it comes to their use of the land and water.

“We really don’t need a lot of people telling us what to do, we’re the ones making a living off the land, and we’re not there to rape it. It’s our responsibility to take care of it,” said Brian Ratzburg, owner of Bobcat Angus in Montana. “Our family has been on the land since 1880, if we didn’t know how to take care of our land, we wouldn’t be in business.”

Ratzburg goes to great lengths to follow state protocol to avoid water contamination and over-usage of the resource. His friend and fellow rancher, Jake Scott of Krebs Ranch in Nebraska, also feels that most do not understand ranchers’ dedication to the environment.

“We were conservationists before conservationists were cool,” said Scott. “It’s not a new thing, it’s something that’s in our DNA, and we have to do it to be successful.”

Jeff Creamer, owner of Lazy J.B. Angus in Montrose, thinks that the Stock Show is another useful tool to inform the public about the work they do. Though Creamer has not dealt with much water scarcity in the 25 years he’s been operating his ranch, the issue persists further down the Colorado River. Urban cities and suburbs downstream require more and more water, limiting the amount that can be used for agriculture in Colorado. 

“They require more water than what they’re allowed, and they want us to give up ours. It comes down to whether we’ll have the water for people to build houses or to grow food, and we’re coming to that point quickly,” Creamer said.

The misconception that ranchers over-use water without care for the environment or cities is unfounded, according to Creamer. In part, it helps contribute to a skew in the balance between agricultural and urban water usage when it comes to policy.

“It’s skewing more towards the cities because of the tax revenue. In agriculture, we’re not going to give them the tax revenue that a subdivision will,” said Creamer. “They need to understand what we go through, to provide them what they want.”

It is the goal of the CSU Spur project and the Stock Show to dismantle that misconception, and hopefully find the balance between both urban and rural water-usage. Though water scarcity is set to rise over the coming years because of Climate Change, the ranchers were far less worried than most; knowing that it’s just another challenge like the ones they face every day.

“There’s always concerns and hardships and difficulties,” said Scott. “We’re accustomed to those kinds of things, so it doesn’t scare us or worry us. It’s just part of our lifestyle and a part of our business.”

The CSU Spur Hydro building at the

For Brice White the annual National Western Stock Show is a tradition.  For 20 years White and her family have raised high quality club calves and miniature Herefords at Triple 3 Cattle. This year was special for Brice because her three-year-old daughter, Rileigh, would lead calves into the junior show for the first time, something Brice did as a little girl too.

“It teaches you how to care for everything in your life, because when you have to care for an animal or another human it makes you learn more responsibility at a younger age, and you grow up a lot faster but its good because you know how to take care of yourself”, says Brice. 

During the miniature Hereford junior show on Monday morning, Rileigh entered the competition with her miniature Hereford, a heifer named Tinker Bell. After practicing leading Tinker bell at home, Rileigh was prepared to confidently pull Tinker Bell around the arena without any hesitation or fear. With the help of her mom, she kept Tinker Bell calmly in position while Judge Austin Vieselmeyer carefully inspected each calf.  Tinker Bell came in 5th in the competition.

“Rileigh loves it, I mean she goes out there and she’ll yell Tinker Bell and she turns and looks at her, it’s cool to see it go from generation to generation” said White. 

The miniature Hereford is docile and sweet temperament animal that is easy to work with and is great for kids. Compared to a Hereford, the miniature takes less feed, less acreage and are more common as backyard pets. According to Brice they are still considered a meat breed. 

“You get like three quarters of the beef versus a 1600 pound cow that you get from the feed yard. These guys are like 11 or 12, so it’s a lot less meat, so it’s more efficient for a family to actually be able to put that in their freezer.”

Their calm behavior can also make it easy during preparation for shows like these. Not only do judges consider motion, profile, bone structure, and functionality while judging the qualities of these calves, they also take in consideration cleanliness and appearance. Grooming is important and according to White it takes her about two hours to wash and groom the calf’s hair to prepare for shows.  Growing up and raising cattle has allowed Brice, and now Rileigh, to appreciate and form bonds with her livestock.

“Raising cattle is always fun because you get something out of it and you can tell that they love you, so when you show up with the feed, they know their names. People will try to tell you that they don’t, but they do. So that’s kind of why we still like to do it and do it as a family.” 

Brice and her family have entered their livestock into many competitions, winning a variety of awards in fairs and expositions throughout the states. After her experience participating in the stock show Brice believes it can help bring awareness to families about agriculture. 

“That’s the good thing to just have everyone know what agriculture is about and it’s for really good people. We love our animals.”

In the future Brice and her family plan to continue their participation in competitions showing their cattle. Rileigh is always ready for a show. 

“She loves going to the shows, every time we say you want to go to a cow show, she says yes I want to go, She’s always trying to pack her bags before we even get to.” 

For Brice White the annual National Western

Since the National Western Stock Show began in 1906, generations of rodeo families have participated.  One the highlights is the Mexican Rodeo Extravaganza with its mariachi music, folkloric dancers, bull riders and horse bucking. Performers from all over Colorado, the country and Mexico come to the Denver Coliseum.  This year it also included Mexican singer Lluvia Vega. The Mexican rodeo brings beautiful culture and the traditional Mexican horse riding to a grateful audience. 

The Mexican Rodeo is also a family affair. Gerardo “Jerry” Diaz is in his 35th year choregraphing the rodeo for the Stock Show. Diaz is a fourth generation charro, a Mexican horse rider who wears traditional clothing.  Jerry has been coming to the National Western Stock Show for 38 years and has been producing the Mexican rodeo for 28 years.  

Nicolas Diaz, Jerry Diaz’s son, is a fifth-generation horseman. He grew up around horses and was on his first horse with his dad when he was only three days old. The National Western Stock Show is in his blood.  

“I’m 19 years old now. I’ve been a part of it since I was in my mom’s belly. So, it’s amazing to see all the people that we’ve known for so long,” says Nicholas. They say I remember you and you were so little. And now you’re six foot six.  How time has gone by. There are old friends and new friends that we have in Denver at the National Western Stock Show.” 

“My favorite part of the whole show is not actually in the show. But it is all the work that goes on behind it. And when the show kicks off, and you see all the performers and people in their element doing what they love to do, and the show is just flowing along, you kind of get a smile on your face,” says Nicholas.   “Something you’ve worked for an entire year.  It’s paying off.  You get to see it work and so that’s really the enjoyment.  I love seeing everyone work together as a big team. Everyone is so generous, so kind, so willing to do anything that anybody needs. It’s really awesome to see everybody working together.” 

Nicolas dressed as Zorro as he rode with his horse Jalon, and also surprised the audience with Glory who is and American miniature horse. His mom, Staci Diaz, was in the Liberty Horse performance with a black stallion. The Diaz family brought six Andalusian horses including two grey horses that they debuted this year.   

“This is the perfect show to bring them to and it’s always an honor to bring new horses here since this is our first show of our season.” Nicolas said.

There are many rodeos that are scheduled during the National Western Stock Show between now and the 22nd when everyone packs up and moves down the road.  Check out their website to see the other rodeo attractions that take place during the 16 day event.

Since the National Western Stock Show began

As we turn the calendar to a new year some people make resolutions. In 2023, Renata Hill of Moodfuel News suggests a year long practice of mental wellness where people prioritize mental health as much as they prioritize their physical health. Renata has struggled with mental illness herself and that informs her journalism and she provides valuable resources to those who struggle both publicly and privately. We spoke to her on our podcast.

As we turn the calendar to a