Columnist Nathan Williams: Paso Robles is a town of three colors
–I have spent the majority of my life a Paso Roblan, graduating from Paso Robles High School back in the ’90s – a time that seems to slip further and further away. While I spend most reflection of that time in awe and joy over the many things I feel thankful for, I can’t help but also pause from time to time to think about the many changes that have happened along the way.
From a small rural town that has always been primed for success to the bustling and ever-growing destination, it has become today, Paso Robles has been a town that was destined for more.
For myself though, it hasn’t lost its small-town charm, the uniqueness that has made it what so many of us have called home and are still so proud to do so. Whether it’s the seemingly endless vineyards that sit just on the edge of town or the way our downtown has grown into a niche place to go, Paso is truly a picturesque destination.
There have been many other changes too that can’t be denied. Paso once was a smaller conservative town where the origins of our Pioneer Day took roots. Farmers, laborers, and simple times helped shape those early years. Along the way, entrepreneurs and families took note of the town’s potential, and change began to happen.
The days where a few families owned most of the land in town slowly transitioned to more parcels and more families joining in the town’s prosperity. When I was younger, the A&W still had a drive-up where waitresses served us on roller skates. Without a doubt, you can’t think of Paso without thinking of the Mid State Fair. A staple that is recognized beyond even just the state of California. Thinking of the entertainment we’ve had visit us is reason enough to believe that Paso is a place of its own. Yet, even with all that our town just isn’t done growing and changing.
For a while it seemed our town was going to be a handful of restaurants that came and went over time, a few fast-food spots spread from the north end of town to the south, and locals holding on to some of the traditions of old. Friday night Spring Street cruises went away with time but other things like Pioneer Day and the tradition of tractor parades with people smiling and waving to onlookers, and sharing chili have persisted.
While Pioneer Day has hung in there and will return, one thing that has changed is our local political climate, like we see across our nation. There is no denying our town’s conservative roots and the “red” slant to politics in our town, but over the years things have shifted. The town is making room for new ideas.
There is a blue or liberal element that exists now too. I believe that both sides have value. Both sides have merit, things to offer, valid beliefs, and contributions to the world we live in.
Why this topic as my first column you might ask? I think it’s relevant to so many aspects of our lives, today more than ever. Too often now, society is moving to extremes. And people feel like they need to “pick a side”. But sometimes that comes at the expense of keeping an open mind, listening to people to really understand them, and recognizing that no matter what you believe, there will inevitably be others that disagree for their reasons.
Right, wrong, or indifferent, it seems to be a part of life that is going to stay with us. It is shaping our world and the town we live in. It will affect the way our downtown grows and looks, it will shape the decisions we make to support the vineyard industry that surrounds us, the events and causes we support around town and so much more.
So, whether you lean right or lean left, take your values and beliefs and recognize the worth they hold but do so knowing that this is no longer just a red community, and it’s not a blue community, it’s purple.
Nathan Williams is a longtime Paso Robles resident, husband, father, local firefighter, and member of the Paso Robles Joint Unified School District Board of Trustees. He is an independent columnist and his opinions are his own.