Saturday, April 26, 2014

Do NOT go to East Colfax!

This warning is repeated continuously by mothers across the Front Range and shouted at visitors before they set their suitcases down. ""Do NOT go to East Colfax! It's nothing but drug dealers and prostitutes..." and sea  monsters and cannibals and rodents of unusual size (and killer rabbits!).
East Colfax is not the Haunted Forest.
The warnings were once based on rare incidents that occurred decades ago. Real events took on mythic presence as they were told and retold and embellished by fearful suburbanites and sensational news media.
Once a story passes generations it becomes legend. No one telling the story remembers the facts it was based on or has actually visited the Haunted Forest but they are more and more certain of its truthfulness with each telling.
I grew up in a nice suburb near Detroit. I didn't go downtown much, but often enough to know how bad a city can get. I moved here in 1997 during one of the 'summers of violence'. I had already been working on East Colfax for months before I was warned to never go there. I remember looking around the neighborhood and thinking THIS is the toughest neighborhood you've got? Really?
I never believed the legend.
I had learned about the place by being here. The legends seemed to describe a different place in a different time or somewhere that may never have existed. But legends are nearly impossible to overcome. It takes thousands of factual good news stories to overcome a well-heeled legend. And that is my job. And that of all of the artists and theatre goers that love this neighborhood. This year we are producing 600 public events. Most are theatre performances by The Fox, Vintage Theatre and Ignite Theatre. There are also gallery openings, dance performances, outdoor festivals and films. Every weekend is full of the stuff of new legends.

Will you share our story?

Charles Packard
Executive Producer, Aurora Fox Arts Center

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