Downtown El Paso, as with most Downtowns is the kind of place where if you stay long enough, you will see the world go by. At one time or another, you’ll have a reason to visit Downtown, whether it be for a concert, or jury duty. Tyrone Griffin, recently retired and finished with his job as Operation Staff at Destination El Paso after 14 years. During his tenure, he would have not only seen you in Downtown, but he would have remembered your name. It’s quite possible he knows the name of just about everyone in the city by now. Without exaggeration, on our way to and from the Convention Center for this interview, we could barely advance a few steps without Tyrone calling someone’s name and stopping to say a few words.
A soft spoken, but lively spirit, Tyrone sat with us to reflect on his prolific presence as not only an employee of Destination El Paso, but as a Downtown resident. Tyrone found himself evacuated from his hometown of New Orleans to El Paso in the wake of the category 5 hurricane, Katrina in 2005. “I could feel the love in the air, so the people had a lot to do with me staying here [in El Paso],” Tyrone told us.
Tyrone confessed that he thought he brought the hurricane with him to El Paso since it was raining at the airport upon his arrival. On the contrary, it’s as if Tyrone brought the brassy rhythm of New Orleans with him and the music hasn’t stopped playing ever since. Strolling with him is like being in a small parade, and he’s the Grand Marshal, full of life and gratitude.
Tyrone started working at Destination El Paso with the grounds crew not long after choosing to stay in El Paso. Tyrone told us, “I’m also a resident down here in Downtown, I like going to the park, playing horseshoes, and trying the different restaurants. This job had been a blessing for me, I know it was all God because I loved what I was doing. I was dedicated and always went the extra mile.” At one time, Tyrone was recognized with a Gold Star for his outstanding work ethic, presented to him by the former General Manager of the Conventions and Visitor’s Bureau (now known as Destination El Paso), Bill Blaziek.
Tyrone embraced our city and culture, telling us, “I love the Mexican culture, period. I get my menudo every weekend and I love the music. I don’t [always] understand what they’re saying but I can get the rhythm to the beat, y’know? Mariachis are so great, when I arrived in the airport and they were playing, I was like, ‘what’s going on, who are these guys?’ But now, I love them!”
Prior to most of the Downtown revitalization, Tyrone misses the old City Hall. He tells us he used to routinely have his breakfasts at the former City Hall building and met a lot of interesting people. Ironically, when asked what he loves about the revitalized Downtown, his answer was the baseball stadium, which now resides on the land the former City Hall rested on. He laughed reflexively when he told us he also gets a kick out of the Minor League Baseball Team, the El Paso Chihuahua’s mascot, Chico, whom he loves.
Over his career, Tyrone remembers some of his favorite events, such as Al Fresco Fridays, a weekly live music event in Downtown. His eyes lit up when talking about Fungi Mungle, a local band known for 70’s inspired attire and music. The event also showcased Tyrone’s talent for dancing and the ability to provoke smiles from guests while coaxing them from their seats to dance. Additionally, Tyrone shared how he learned to skate almost overnight when an ice-skating rink was integrated for Winterfest. It’s clear that the gentleman has an inherent athletic ability. Not long after, Tyrone was teaching newcomers to skate at Winterfest after a lifetime of never having known how to himself.
After 14 years of working in the outdoors, Tyrone expressed the desire to rest and finally go back to visit his hometown of New Orleans. With a flood of gratitude, Tyrone expressed, “I took a lot of pride in my work, and it was a blessing that a lot of people supported me, and I just love this town. I’m telling you, the people being so nice here played an important role in me staying here. I was like, ok so I can fit in here, and now I just need a job. God blessed me with this job, and I married it for 14 years.”