God willing, fireworks will fill the sky over Memorial Park on Thursday night. The celebration marks the return of an annual Colorado Springs Philharmonic performance and celebration that stopped in 2009 as part of the city's efforts to curtail spending during the great recession.
However we commemorate Independence Day, residents of this region should use the occasion to also celebrate the success and future of Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak region.
As we recover from successive and deadly forest fires, we emerge stronger and more capable of achievements that require turning obstacles to dust.
Though the world watched our houses burn, we more recently captured international attention with the 91st Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. In the words of Mike Moran, senior media consultant for the Colorado Springs Sports Corporation, "nine-time World Rally Champion (Sebastian) Loeb set the racing world ablaze Sunday when he obliterated the overall race record in the 91st running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. In his first appearance in the 'Race to the Clouds,' Loeb maneuvered through the 156 turns on the 12.42-mile course in 8:13.878, more than a minute-and-a-half faster than the previous race record of 9:46.181 set by Rhys Millen last year."
Moran reports finding more than 250 stories about the race from media organizations in France, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, Switzerland, Germany, Denmark, Great Britain and Italy - each with a Colorado Springs dateline.
Loeb achieved his goal by overcoming obstacles, not by fixating on them. His decision to achieve greatness in the Pikes Peak region comes just as a host of community leaders, from the business sector and local governments, set a few lofty goals of their own. They've unveiled plans to restore our region as a major international tourism hub. The plans involve a new multiuse stadium and a U.S. Olympic museum in an abandoned industrial section of downtown near America the Beautiful Park. North of downtown, the plan includes an Air Force Academy visitors center outside the base gates and a university sports medicine and performance center on North Nevada Avenue - as part of a larger health and wellness village - just as our community welcomes a new medical curriculum at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.
The proposed investments compose a perfect use of state sales tax rebates that are intended to bring tourism money into Colorado. The plans are in early stages, and we don't begin to know all the details about funding and construction, which the community will need to hash out. We do know the ideas make good sense and would leverage assets that already make Colorado Springs a unique destination for people from around the globe.
We hope Gazette readers help bring these ideas to fruition. Our city's strength cannot and will not come from local government. It must come from individuals, with City Hall merely facilitating and getting out of its way.
The ideas for logical new tourist attractions emerge just as Alaska Airlines plans to expand into the Colorado Springs Airport in November and just as city officials devise strategies to bring more airlines and flights to town. Among other strategies, airport leaders want to cut fees charged to airlines. They hope this will facilitate airlines in lowering fares, which could attract a chunk of about 700,000 passengers who drive past the Springs airport each year on their way to Denver International Airport, the fifth busiest in the country and 10th busiest in the world. New TV ads recently began promoting the Springs airport's convenience.
As we observe Independence Day, we celebrate what became the greatest country in the world only because good men and women believed in a vision and refused to give up. Colorado Springs, like the United States, is blessed with extraordinary beauty and a culture of discipline, creativity and talent.
Take inspiration as fireworks light up our spacious skies. Colorado Springs is the shining city at the base of America's greatest and most famous mountain. With the privilege of living here comes responsibility of stewardship. Let's make this region all it can and should become.