As a tourist cruising into Estes Park on your weekend getaway, you’ll not only notice the breathtaking views of Rocky Mountain National Park and the local wildlife roaming around town, but something new will catch your eye and pique your curiosity. “No Loop,” “We Do NOT Support Action on the Loop,” “Don’t Destroy Estes,” signs (and other various forms of the same message) stuck in front-yards and display windows. What are these people protesting? As a local, I know the controversy is surrounding the proposed plan to transform downtown Estes Park into a one way “loop” in order to make traffic coming through downtown manageable. The project, that’s come to be known as “the loop,” has caused quite an uproar among locals. The arguments of those opposed to “the loop” (which is an apparently vocal majority) theorize “the loop” will ruin the integrity and charm of downtown Estes Park, a major allure of the town. Others are concerned with the businesses and houses that will have to be removed in order to make room to accommodate the new road. These are just a couple of the many reasons why occupants of Estes Park are not in favor of “the loop.”
Clifford Geertz would say “the loop” signs qualify as a symbol because they are public and can be interpreted into meaning. The way they are interpreted and the type of meaning they symbolize, though, depends on the interpreter and the culture from which they come. As a local, I see the signs as an indicator that the owner is passionately involved in the local political atmosphere of Estes Park and as well as a form of protest against “the loop”. Due to my own bias I may believe they are an older business owner that doesn’t get out of Estes Park much and is opposed to big change. From an American tourist’s interpretation, they may look at the sign, assuming it to be an item coming up for vote in the next local election, due to the similar look of political candidate signs that appear in yards around elections. They’d figure Estes Park residents are concerned about the wellbeing of their community.
A culture and personality anthropologist would believe Estes Park to be a particular culture that has produced a particular type of people, which in turn produced those in opposition to the type of change “the loop,” would bring. Through the theory of culture and personality, one would wonder what aspects of Estes Park culture lead the majority of the citizens to be against “the loop.” Is the unified opinion of the project a result of small town culture or is it specific to Estes Park? Individuals against “the loop” represent a large portion of the community, their distain is seen as a “normal” way for a member of the specific culture to act. Those in favor of “the loop” are a necessary portion of the population as well, fulfilling the position of the “quiet minority.”
Clifford Geertz, “Thick Description: Toward an Interpretive Theory of Culture,” The Interpretation of Cultures, New York: Basic Books, 1973, pp. 3-30.
 Lecture, Professor Carole McGranahan, ANTH 2100 Introduction to Cultural Anthropology, 14 September 2015.