Welcome back, kiddos! Are you ready to learn more about The Bubble? If you haven’t been following along, I’m charting the history of Boulder and how it came from humble, mining town beginnings, to the hippy, start up mecca of the Rocky Mountains. I suggest you read part one and part two before you get to the meat of today’s installment.
1970-Present: In Which Brain, Brawn, and the Metaphysical Combine
When last I left off, I was awash in nostalgia over the new mall that was built in 1963, but I’m better now, so we can get on to the good stuff. This is the part where Boulder goes big time new age.
You can probably trace it all back to 1974 when both the Naropa Institute and Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics were established. Of course, by then, several large companies including IBM and Ball Aerospace had set up shop in Boulder, so the city started growing with this eclectic mixture of nerds and hippies, something that was only nurtured with college students being a significant part of the population.
In 1977, the quirkiness of Boulder found an epicenter with the construction of the Pearl Street Mall. Now it’s more of a foodie’s paradise, but there was a time when peace, love, and acoustic guitarist of varying levels of talent ran rampant on the newly closed streets of the walking mall.
OK, it still does a little.
In the late 70s and early 80s, a number of iconic Boulder events started (in addition to yours truly being born into this world) that are still ongoing to this day. That includes the Bolder Boulder, Kinetics Race, and the Polar Bear Plunge. Honestly, this trifecta is a perfect example of the combination of ingenuity, athleticism, and quirkiness that exists only in Boulder.
One of the other quirks Boulder has is its affinity for collecting sister cities. Seriously, no one can ever accuse Boulder of being and “only child,” because check out this list of sister cities:
- Lhasa, Tibet (1986)
- Dushanbe, Tajikistan (1987)
- Yamagata, Japan (1994)
- Ciudad Mante, Mexico (2000)
- Kisumu, Kenya (2009)
A few more sisters and Boulder would be eligible for its own TV series on TLC.
Over the past several decades, with the combination of education, an influx of liberal-leaning population, and some thoughtful city planning, Boulder has shown up on a number of lists ranking it among the best in a number of areas:
In 2010, a Gallup poll ranked Boulder as the city with the highest well-being index score (a score that is an average of six sub-indexes life evaluation, emotional health, work environment, physical health, healthy behaviors, and access to basic necessities) in the United States. In addition, a Portfolio.com analysis showed that Boulder was the brainiest city in the U.S., with nearly 26% of the population holding a master’s degree or higher (five out of six residents have attended college).
Boulder has also been ranked the foodiest town in America, one the queerest towns in America, one of the best cities to launch a startup in, and, well, you know what, Boulder has been included in so many lists, that the city of Boulder website has entire page listing community honors that goes all the way back to 1989.
So the word’s been out about Boulder for a while now, which explains it’s incredible population boom over the last couple of decades. From a ragtag group of 324 people to an estimated population just over 107,000, the People’s Republic of Boulder has come a long way from surviving to thriving.