The summer of 2020 was a tough one for the town of Palisade. No peaches on the trees, no festivals in the park, and a nearby wildfire that fouled the air. Fortunately, the spring of 2021 was kind to the peach crop, and the town is getting ready to welcome visitors at many of the later summer festivals, even though some of the earliest festivals were canceled again this year out of an abundance of caution.
Both the Palisade Bluegrass and Roots Music Festival and the Honeybee Festival were canceled this year, as promoters had to make decisions earlier in the year, when capacity at events was limited.
“We didn’t know if we would have to do 50% capacity (at the bluegrass festival),” said Troy Ward, parks and recreation director for the town of Palisade. “It was going to be 100% of the cost, with 50% of the profit. This is taxpayer money and we can’t gamble on it.”
The Outdoor Heritage Days program that’s sponsored by Colorado Parks and Wildlife, however, is happening this year on May 15 at Riverbend Park. The event is geared toward families and children, with the goal of showing children how much fun outdoor activities like rafting, birdwatching, fishing, archery and hunting can be. CPW will stock the pond at the park, and also gives away free fishing poles to children who participate in activities at three different stations.
In previous years, the event attracted more than a thousand people, and organizers aren’t sure whether people will stay away due to crowd concerns or they will show up in greater numbers simply because it’s one of the first outdoor events to return. Fortunately, Riverbend Park is large, and the event spreads out over the entire park.
In July, the town of Palisade is hosting a party to celebrate the official ribbon cutting and opening of the Palisade Plunge on Friday, July 23. Weather, additional construction delays and concerns over wildlife, as well as the seasonal delays that will always close the Plunge over the winter and through the spring, have combined to push back the opening date, but organizers are confident that the trail will be ready by then, and there will be shuttle service providers who will be able to help cyclists experience the soon-to-become iconic trail.
Both the Peach Festival and the Colorado Mountain Winefest are happening this summer, although organizers of both festivals have made modifications that should result in less crowded events.
There should also be plenty of peaches in Palisade this summer, which is good news to all peach lovers in the Grand Valley, as well as to the growers who lost most of their crops last year. Bruce Talbott, with Talbott Farms, anticipates that his peach crop will be about 80 to 90% of normal, with damages coming not from any spring freezes, but from the early October winter storm.
The early October storm also wreaked havoc on grapes, since temperatures dropped before the grape vines hardened off in preparation for winter.
“They were hardy to 20 degrees and we hit 14,” said Kaibab Savage, owner of Sauvage Spectrum. According to both Savage and Talbott, the grapes that were damaged were primarily vitis vinifera grapes, which are the Old World grapes that most people associate with classic wines like cabernet, chardonnay, merlot, riesling or cabernet franc, to name a few. Crop losses in vinifera grapes could be up to 80%; the good news is that some growers and winemakers have begun planting and making wines with cold hardy varieties that can withstand the Colorado climate, and those grapes suffered very little damage.
Colorado Cellars, the oldest winery in the state, and one that’s tucked away on a hill about half a mile from the Fruit and Wine Byway, bought a parcel of vacant land on Elberta near the railroad tracks and is making plans to build a wine garden and tasting room. The wine garden will be a place where guests can relax, drink wine, grab a bite to eat and walk to other downtown destinations.
The new location is still in the planning stages, but Rick and Padte Turley, the owners of Colorado Cellars, have already met their business neighbors and are looking forward to having a downtown presence.
Community Hospital has partnered with the town of Palisade to have a presence in Palisade, and the two organizations are working to tear down the old high school (but not the gym) to build a clinic and urgent care center, the East Grand Valley Community Clinic, that will serve the approximately 86,000 people who are on the east end of the Grand Valley.
The town has applied for a grant to remove the asbestos in the old high school building, and is also working on funding for the clinic.
The town received a grant to redesign the section of Highway 6 that bisects the town, specifically from the bridge on the east end of town to where the new clinic will sit. The road is currently four-lane, with no turn lanes, no sidewalks and very few safety features for pedestrians. The redesign of the road includes two lanes with bike lanes, detached sidewalks, left-hand turn lanes and landscape. The town hopes to start construction in October, after festival season has ended.
Available housing in Palisade is also growing, with ongoing home construction at Cresthaven Acres, where Chronos Builders will eventually build 71 homes in an in-fill location. There are currently six homes under construction in filing one, and the developer is currently finishing infrastructure construction for filing two. The six homes are not yet listed on the MLS, but anyone who is interested in the homes is welcome to contact the Kimbrough Team at RE/MAX 4000, the listing team for the subdivision, to be added to a contact list.
Senergy Builders is still working with the town of Palisade planning department for Stone Orchard Townhomes, a five building townhome development that will have a total of 14 dwelling units. The development will be on an under-utilized lot directly east of Palisade High School. Senergy hopes to begin infrastructure in the fall, and hopes to be building townhomes by next spring, at the latest.