April 10, 2017

Rhonda Welch, City of Greeley

2017 Women of Distinction - Nonprofit, Creative Industry

For more than 25 years, Rhonda Welch has been building community around the idea of having a good time.

As festival and special events coordinator in the Culture, Parks and Recreation Department at the city of Greeley, she coordinates three major festivals and a wide variety of events in between.

“It’s fun to gather the community together for fun events and getting to see people have fun, shop and dance,” she said.

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As one of only 18 such districts in Colorado, the Greeley Creative District focuses on attracting artists and creative entrepreneurs to the area. The result is an entertained population for city residents and visitors, increased economic activity, support for artistic endeavors and a place for the community to gather and grow.

“We pride ourselves on the phenomenal university where amazing artists come out to become tech support, performers on Broadway and designers,” Welch said.

“It’s easy for society to get stuck in a room and not come out with things like media rooms in their homes. We work to create an environment that’s a happy place to gather and get to know your neighbors and be social.”

Annual festivals that Welch organizes and manages include Neighborhood Nights, Arts Picnic and Festival of Trees. For each festival and event within it, Welch manages the budget, coordinates with staff and volunteers, and creates marketing campaigns.

Activities that fit within each of the festivals target all ages — from face painting to concerts; a Teddy Bear Bash and Social for Seniors to family-friendly films and a Blues Jam that yearly attracts 6,000 blues enthusiasts to Greeley.

“Rhonda is described as a fireball of energy, creativity, fun and excitement — all traits she applies daily to her job where she has earned widespread respect for her commitment to the art community,” said Alison Hamling, director of Downtown Experience at the Downtown Development Authority. Pam Bricker, the DDA’s executive director, refers to Welch as Greeley’s cheerleader.

How can one person manage so much?

“I learned from my predecessor to embrace everybody who’s involved in an event and to celebrate them,” Welch said. “It also helps to be slightly perfectionistic when you’re an event coordinator.”

She also focuses on celebrating diversity and making sure everyone feels comfortable with the events. “That includes how we market to make sure we get the word out to all, making most of the events free or very affordable, and providing activities prior to events like the films that are all encompassing for all ages,” she said.

One of the challenges Welch faces these days is appealing to companies that have headquarters outside Colorado, she said. “We have to promote Greeley to convince them that this is a good event to support.”

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