Best of Jackson Hole 2017: Let’s Get Weird

By on March 21, 2017

JACKSON HOLE, WY – “We create the culture we desire, we can’t wait for it to come from the outside.” Words from Jeff Stein, staff pick for Best Reason to Stay Out Late, couldn’t ring more true today in Jackson Hole. A longtime DJ and party promoter, Stein is the architect of music and art events created with locals in mind.

Like Stein, many of this year’s Best of Jackson Hole winners define and defend valley culture. In a transient tourist town with a deepening housing crisis—where people are constantly packing up and moving on—we have reason to celebrate the folks who’ve invested in the people of Jackson Hole, who’ve planted roots here, raised families, started businesses, or who simply never left. They make this place more than just a resort town. They make it home.

They’re also the people who don’t mind getting a little weird—they don’t shy away from an “awkward family photo shoot” (this year’s theme), where they’re instructed to dress in odd clothing, or pose in peculiar ways for thousands of readers, while this editor laughs on maniacally.

People like Mayor Pete Muldoon, who readers voted Best Elected Official, and Sheriff Jim Whalen, voted Best in Uniform. That these two, in between their blocks of meetings, acted out a scene from the O.K. Corral as a pair of Minnesotan tourists spectated from the sidelines tells you a thing or two about the kind of people we’ve placed at the helm.

“Where you folks from?” Whalen asked the tourists with a smile.

That as soon as the shoot was over the two men, still donned in their Western getups, began discussing what they can do to allay deportation fears in the valley tells you a little bit more.

Moments like these are not lost on us at PJH, when we are reminded that our community is comprised of genuine people who look out for one another. People like Mary Erickson, a staff pick for Best Advocate who has worked tirelessly to be a voice for the voiceless during her time with One22 (formerly the Community Resource Center), and now with the housing advocacy group Shelter JH, and Jackson Hole United, an outfit she dreamt up to engage locals in social and political issues. An ordained priest, Erickson subscribes to the notion that being religious means embracing, not shunning, diversity. (Also worth noting: she appeared at not one, but two separate awkward family photo shoots, even donning her priest garb for the second.)

Then there are folks like Krista Stevens, Reed Chambers and Kelly Kaiser, who almost every year take home the readers’ choice award for Best Teacher because of the indelible marks they imprint on their students. That Chambers showed up to the photo shoot with a box of props and that all three quickly slipped into character is a window into their teaching styles.

Even the people who assume what have historically been considered the most torturous roles (dentists) are a different breed in Jackson Hole. Upon entering Larsen Dentistry, consistently voted Best Dentist by PJH readers, this editor with her camera in hand was greeted by a dental staff in full rock ‘n’ roll regalia including Dr. Larsen himself, who gleefully assumed myriad head banging poses. (Rock ‘n’ roll photo shoots aside, as a patient, I will readily admit this is the only dentist’s office I’ve ever enjoyed visiting.)

It is true that many of us have lost count of the people who’ve dug up their Jackson Hole roots in search of reasonable rents, home ownership, or a place where raising a family isn’t synonymous with financial struggles.

But if we can hold onto folks like the ones recognized in this issue, we’ve got a real shot at making Jackson Hole a place that regular people can continue to call home.

Here’s to the Best of Jackson Hole.

About Robyn Vincent

Robyn is the editor of Planet Jackson Hole and Jackson Hole Snowboarder Magazine. When she's not sweating deadlines, she likes to travel the world with her notebook and camera in hand. Follow her on Twitter @TheNomadicHeart

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