Byron Hetzler: Never say never
If you would have told me two months ago that I would be leaving Grand County, I would have told you that you were crazy. But Jan. 9 will be my last day at the Sky-Hi News, and I will be leaving Colorado to move to Carbondale, Ill., to become a photographer at The Southern Illinoisan, a 30,000-circulation daily newspaper covering — surprise surprise — southern Illinois.
This has been one of the most difficult decisions I have ever had to make. Colorado has been my home for the past 28-plus years — living in Granby the last 21 years, and I couldn’t have imagined living anywhere else, but this was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.
I have grown to love Grand County and everything that makes it special, so it is going to be incredibly hard to pack up and make the trip over Berthoud Pass to start a new chapter in my life.
I grew up in the Midwest, so this isn’t going to be a completely foreign move. I will have to learn how to cope with the summer humidity and bugs again, but I am looking forward to the challenges of working on a daily paper, the atmosphere of a college town and visually exploring a new area.
When I began working for the Sky-Hi News seven years ago, I felt like I had finally found the perfect job for me. I loved the energy around the newsroom, the people I worked with, the product we were putting out and having the diversity of Grand County to photograph was icing on the cake. It was a great feeling to be a part of the community and have your work appreciated.
My job really didn’t feel like work most of the time. Aside from the occasional specific assignment, I was fortunate enough to be paid to roam the county and photograph whatever caught my eye — it doesn’t get much better than that for a photographer. My travels around the county put a lot of miles on my vehicles, but it is well worth it.
It’s funny how I became identified by my cameras. I will always remember going to the pancake breakfast during Kremmling Days a few years ago, leaving my cameras in the car while I grabbed something to eat and having one of the workers say, “You look a lot like the photographer from the paper, but you’re not him.”
During winter, people I ran into would be bundled up to the point that I couldn’t tell who they were, but they knew who I was, because of my cameras.
There are so many things I am going to miss about living and working here. The mountains have been where I wanted to be since I was a kid, so not waking up to them each morning is going to be a big adjustment.
I will miss Rocky Mountain National Park—it has been my sanctuary over the years. Whether in search of wildlife or just needing to clear my head, it was where I could escape.
I will miss stopping at Miyauchi’s in Grand Lake to get my ritual ice cream cone before heading into the national park and doing it so often that the girls working there knew what I wanted before I got to the window.
I will miss covering our high school sports. Despite having covered the Broncos, Avalanche, Rockies, Nuggets and Rapids and Winter Olympics, where I was just another photographer amongst hundreds at those events, there has always been something special about photographing our local athletes competing — many of whom I have known for years.
I will miss having a burger for lunch on Saturdays at The Winter Park Pub.
I will miss the Grand Lake Winter Carnival and competing in Teapot Curling.
I will miss the amazing Grand County sunrises and sunsets.
And, of course, I will miss the people.
I appreciate everyone who has taken the time, especially recently, to let me know how much they enjoy seeing my photos. It means a lot to receive feedback like that and know that what you are doing is having an impact on the community. Warm fuzzies like that are a special benefit of working at a small community newspaper.
Despite my best efforts, I’m sure that there is no way I will be able to see and say goodbye to everyone that I want to before I put Grand County in my rearview mirror. There are also numerous people I should thank for their assistance and friendship over the years, but there are so many that I’m sure I would forget someone and I don’t want to do that. So if you and I have had any sort of contact in the past 28 years, thank you, know that you are appreciated, whether it was for making my job easier, telling me your story, for your friendship or making smile, and I hope our paths will cross again.
I do need to thank my editors and coworkers over the years for letting me do my thing — specifically Autumn Phillips, Drew Munro and Tonya Bina, you really made my job easy. Additionally, if it wasn’t their support and understanding I wouldn’t have been able to balance my newspaper work with my other passion … soccer. I was an assistant coach with the Middle Park boys and girls soccer programs the past 10 years and had been hired as the girls head coach for the upcoming season, but obviously that has changed. A big thank you to all of the players I have coached over the years and especially the current players, along with their parents, I am going to miss you all.
So thank you Grand County … thank you for letting me into your lives and letting me capture the day-to-day life, the wildlife, the scenery and giving me a front row seat to so many events and experiences. And thank you for letting me share my photography with you these past seven-plus years.
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