All the single ladies (and dudes)
Dating goes offline for Local First's 'Singles in Paradise'

All the single ladies (and dudes)

The ladies of Local First, and instigators of the "Singles in Paradise" auction, from left: Kiki Hooton, Jennaye Derge and Hayley Krickman./Photos by Stephen Eginoire

Missy Votel - 07/19/2018

When it comes to dating in Durango, it’s a jungle out there. Or an arid desert, shallow eddy or barren mountain top, depending on your chosen pastime. The odds are good, the goods are odd. You don’t lose your partner, you just lose your turn ... and the cliche?s go on.

(At least that’s what I’m told, as the last time I dated, we still did this thing called meeting on the chairlift. And phones were affixed to the wall of your house. The horror.)

But in today’s endless swipefest (I do know at least this much), finding the perfect mate from a be-sunglassed headshot and some scant, invariably embellished, details can be fraught with peril. What if you finally summon the cajones to meet someone, only to find out he or she is too tall, too short, skis in jeans, or worse, is wearing a MAGA hat.

It’s enough to make one want to lead a cloistered life with their dog.

Fortunately, Local First is here to help Durango’s lovelorn – heck, likelorn – remove those rose-colored Smiths and take some of the guesswork out of meeting prospective candidates. This Thursday, it will be hosting its first ever “Singles in Paradise” auction at the Balcony from 7 – 9 p.m. (or, if you’re lucky, all the way to last call.)

“Dating can be scary,” Hayley Kirkman, Local First’s Creative Arts & Special Projects Coordinator, said. “We 

thought this would be a fun way to engage people.” Wait a hot minute – Local First is getting into the hook-up business? Well not exactly. See, the ulterior motive here is to get folks out on the town and spending money at local businesses, whether it be renting paddle boards followed by cold beers; mini golf and pedicures; or – my personal idea of the perfect date – the margarita tubing tour.

To that end, bidding starts at $30, with which each couple will be bestowed to execute their plans. One lucky, famished couple will win a gift card for $100 at the Ore House. Anything bid above and beyond $30 will go to Local First to help promote businesses hurting in the wake of the 416 Fire. Although the full economic ramifications from the fire won’t be known until the June sales tax numbers come out in August, the general consensus is that downtown businesses are smarting.

“We had a meeting after the fire broke out and had several businesses that don’t usually show up, show up,” Kiki Hooton, Local First Programs and Membership Director, said. She said many downtown businesses make the bulk of their money during the three summer months. “One restaurant owner said he tends to lose money the rest of the year, but keeps his doors open to keep jobs,” she said.

Alas, it’s not Durango’s style to wallow – at least too long. Which is why the whole point of the auction is to have a good time, rejoice in the monsoons and remember why it is you love this town in the first place. (Read: fun-loving, living, breathing human beings that you can converse with and even check out, albeit stealthily, face to face.)

“I think a lot of people still have the notion that they’re going to meet someone in a real-world setting. It’s kind of an old-fashioned idea in this day and age, when you can hide behind a screen,” said Hooton.

Kirkman, who incidentally will be on the auction block herself, is a fan of this old-fangled approach. She said the event is meant to be an antidote to the impersonal-ness of many online dating platforms. “We’re hoping to combat that,” she said. “I’m kind of a fatalist. I believe I’m supposed to meet people when I’m supposed to meet them.”

Think of this as just helping to nudge the hand of fate. And, to help folks reach their destiny a little sooner, there will be a half-hour mixer (auctionees will be identifiable by their leis. And no, it’s not some kind of innuendo.) There will also be pre-game hula lessons and, of course, adult beverages. 

“Everyone’s going to need the liquid courage,” said Hooton.

To take the pressure off the brave souls putting themselves out there, in addition to beer, there will be two emcees, Hooton and regular Telegraphee, Joy Martin – to keep the banter going. Each single will enter to the song of his or her choosing while the emcees read a quick bio. And, since this is Durango, there will be costumes in keeping with the paradise theme: grass skirts, monokinis, furkinis, mankinis, what have you. (Speaking of which, if anyone has a coconut-shell bra, please call the Local First office.)

“This isn’t a big formal scary event, this is supposed to be cool and fun,” said Kirkman.

Although the cut-off to officially sign up to be an auctionee was Wednesday, if anyone shows up and decides they want to participate last-minute, they won’t be rejected.

And speaking of the dreaded “r” word, just put that right out of your mind.

“Everyone’s worst fear is no one will bid on them, that’s why we’re there, to facilitate the process,” assured Hooton. “Come bid on your friends. I think it will be a good time.”

Besides, who knows? Maybe you’ll meet your soulmate. Or at least someone who has your same taste in music and doesn’t talk with their mouth full. Either way, no pressure, because remember, it’s all for a good cause. And bragging rights.

“You don’t have to meet the love of your life, but if it is true love, Local First will take bragging rights,” said Hooton.

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