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Art is the heart of Loveland, Colo.

Valentine’s Day sentiments meld with the arts in Loveland, a town of approximately 56,000 in northern Colorado. It’s located between Denver and Cheyenne, off Interstate 25, and is only 34 minutes east of Rocky Mountain National Park.

Whale tail sculpture in Loveland, Colo.Loveland is too pleasant a place just to “pass on through." Motorhome travelers may find its vibrant downtown, sculpture art and beautiful parks irresistible. And in February the town takes on a special effervescence…

The remailing program

For 56 years friends and loved ones have been sending valentine wishes through the Loveland Post Office.

Loveland volunteers hand stamp a four-line cachet on each valentine envelope, and the Loveland Post Office applies a special cancellation mark.

In 2002 Loveland re-mailed more than 300,000 valentines to and all 50 U.S. states and 120 foreign countries, said Kathy Roth, coordinator of the re-mailing program.

Why has the program become so popular? “I think it’s something special other than just sending out your card,” Roth said. “A lot of people have been doing it for many years and it’s become a tradition. Others are just learning about it.”

For guidelines for sending valentines through the Loveland Valentine Cards remailing program, visit www.withlovefromloveland.com.

Sharing the love

The Loveland postmaster and the chamber of commerce president started the Loveland Valentine Remailing Program in 1947 as a way to share the romantic name of the town with the world.

The program has become a community effort, Roth said. “About 55 volunteers come here [at the chamber of commerce] for two weeks in February, and they hand stamp every card that comes in. They will stamp through valentine’s day.”

The cachet is stamped on the front left corner of each envelope near the top, added Roth, who also manages the Loveland Visitor Center.

The volunteers receive appreciative boxes of thank-you notes, signs, drawings, pictures and handmade things each year. “They come with messages saying things like ‘Thank you for stamping my valentines’ and ‘We’re thinking about you this year,’” Roth said.

The volunteers save all the items and display them on a poster board. “At the end of the remailing program,” Roth said, “we make scrapbooks filled with newspaper articles, photographs, and all the little cards and messages that people have sent.”

The Loveland Museum/Gallery downtown maintains a permanent display of the history of the remailing program, including previous years’ scrapbooks.

Roth discourages people from inserting candies in their preaddressed envelopes. “They make stamping more difficult, and often fall out the envelope,” she said.

Have a heart

To offset costs of remailing program, the city creates an official Valentine’s Day card and offers it at locations around town. “We invite residents to submit art designs for the card and verses,” Roth said.

Other signs of Valentine’s Day spirit in Loveland are the big red wooden hearts posted along city streets. For $25, anyone may purchase a heart from the Thompson Valley Rotary Club and have a message inscribed on it. “All through town you see these love messages on these hearts,” Roth said. “Traffic kind of slows down because everybody wants to read the messages.”

For the past 41 years Loveland has chosen a Miss Loveland Valentine, a college-bound senior in high school, to represent the program and the city. She makes personal appearances, including one before the Colorado State Legislature. “She talks about Loveland, its history and the valentines program,” Roth said. “She gets to meet the governor and offer a unique gift from Loveland.”

Sculpture shapes town

Loveland is much more than a Valentine’s stamp, more than a gateway to the Rockies. It’s oozing in art.

More than 200 sculptures are part of a public art display. “Most of them are outdoors, so people can see them while driving through town,” Roth said.

Loveland City Council in 1985 adopted an Art in Public Places ordinance that earmarks funds for the city’s art collection, which emphasizes bronze sculpture. People, animals and Native Americans are among the sculpture subjects. In front of local newspaper’s office, for instance, is a sculpture of a delivery boy on a bicycle, newspaper in hand and bag over his shoulder.

“From most of people who come into town,” Roth said, “I’ve heard that their favorite is on south end of Lake Loveland: a sculpture of children teetering on a log. It’s very lifelike.”

More than 70 sculptures adorn Benson Park. The Sculpture in the Park Show and Sale takes place there each August, attracting artists from around the world.

Loving the arts

Sculpture is but an undercoat to Loveland’s many layers of art. Adding luster are performing arts such as a concert band, a symphonic band, a choral society, and a chamber singers group. The Loveland Museum/Gallery is a center for regional, national and international exhibitions. It also offers local history exhibits and educational programs. The Rialto Theater, a 450-seat facility, hosts concerts, plays and classic films.

Loveland’s arts emphasis earned it an #8 rating in Richard Villani’s 1998 book The 100 Best Small Art Towns in America.

A water park, 25 public parks and three golf courses provide a glossy finish to Loveland. A few of the parks lie in the heart of city around Lake Loveland. “Anyone coming off the interstate [I-25] heading west to Rocky Mountain National Park will circle around the south end of the lake,” Roth said.

Several RV parks are in and around Loveland, and RV service is available in town. Roth suggests driving a towed car for maneuvering downtown, however.

If motorhoming takes you west to the Rocky Mountains or through northern Colorado, consider stopping off at “America’s Sweetheart City” and painting the town. You’ll love the hearts and arts.

For more information about Loveland, visit www.lovelandvisitorcenter.org.

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