This time last year, we couldn’t have possibly known what the near future had in store for us. With a global pandemic, political strife and social unrest, it’s a wonder we made it through to the other end of 2020.
But we did, and here we are.
And now that we’re picking ourselves up and brushing ourselves off from that annus horribilis, let’s take a look back at the people and events in the arts and entertainment community who helped us through. Even in the face of venue shutdowns, the arts community showed innovation, grit and resilience – all while still managing to keep us entertained.
Help for local artistsWhen restaurants, theaters and other venues began shutting down, gigs dried up for local musicians and other artists, which, for a lot of people meant a major hit to their bank account. This is when the community stepped in to help, including The iAM MUSIC Institute, which started a GoFundMe account called Four Corners Performing Artist Relief, with money raised being given to those who need it. And for two nights in April, CERF The Airwaves Online and On-Air Music Festival, a virtual festival to benefit the Community Emergency Relief Fund and the Four Corners Performing Artist Relief featured musicians from Durango and the region performing sets lasting 30 minutes to an hour. Listeners were able to donate money during the shows. The event was presented by American General Media and KSUT Presents. The Community Foundation Serving Southwest Colorado has activated the Community Emergency Relief Fund – CERF – in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic. CERF was established in 2008 in response to the Seasons Restaurant Fire. The fund has also been activated for the Gold King Mine spill in 2015, the Adobe Building Fire in Pagosa Springs in 2016 and the 416 Fire in 2018.
Covering upIn the spring, when masks became a common accessory one put on when leaving the house, a lot of us turned to face coverings that went beyond the light-blue paper numbers. Durango may never be accused of being the most stylish town, but when it comes to rocking a customized face covering to help slow the spread of the coronavirus, we make it look good. When we put out the call for readers to show us what they’re wearing to venture out for essential errands, they delivered! We saw all kinds of masks – from Western outlaw red bandannas to crazy stripes and antique-truck prints to a nod to Jerry Garcia and the rest of the Grateful Dead.
Drive-insMovie theaters closed early on, and while Durango Stadium 9 tried to reopen a couple of times in the summer, it just never quite stuck. Enter a blast from the past: In August and September, Durango Drive-In took over the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad parking lot downtown on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights for traditional drive-in evenings. The series included a variety of films, including: “The Breakfast Club,” “Easy Rider,” “Mama Mia!” and “Creature from the Black Lagoon.” The series even featured a special night devoted to the area’s teachers and school staff members. Drive-ins were also held in Dolores and Farmington.
Live performances find wayThe coronavirus may have stopped the Stillhouse Junkies from touring overseas like they’d planned, but that didn’t put an end to their playing live. The Rolling Junkies Revue Tour began showing up for very small audiences: local front yards. By unloading from their van and playing not far from the curbside, the Junkies provided some much needed live music without violating recommendations about social distancing. Audiences could sign up for a time slot on a Google spreadsheet and the band would show up to play.
Musicians at iAM Music were able to host lives shows over the summer at Buckley Park by using reserved seating, selling tickets in blocks, then blocking those reserved areas off on the festival grounds, keeping strict adherence to social-distancing guidelines. The festival featured two different shows, with band order for the first show reversing for the later set.
Visual artsEvery spring and fall, downtown Durango’s art galleries usually open their doors for gallery walks, a chance for the shops to show off what’s new. As with everything else, this year’s walks required a pivot because crowds were not allowed. So the walks went online. Called a “Virtual Art Experience,” participating galleries offered pieces to purchase online on the Art Galleries of Durango’s website.
Dance“The Nutcracker” is usually performed by State Street Ballet of Santa Barbara, California, in December at the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College, complete with live music from the San Juan Symphony and featuring young local dancers. But, a live performance was canceled, so instead, Durango Dance partnered with a host of local groups, and its own dancers, to give us a drive-in movie “The Nutcracker” that was filmed locally in parts and edited together.
Theater Durango High School Thespian Troupe 1096 actors and crew returned to performing after their spring season was cut short, with a Halloween radio show that aired Oct. 30 on 99X KKDG-FM 99.7. Troupe members performed “Pontypool,” a 2008 horror film based on the novel, “Pontypool Changes Everything,” by Tony Burgess (who also wrote the movie’s screenplay). The story was also written as a radio show.
In November and December, the Fort Lewis College Theatre Department staged “Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them” online.
Merely Players kept the shows coming, both online and in person. In September, the company staged “Much Ado About Nothing” outside at Jenkins Ranch Park. In June, and October, the company went online with “ZOOM Alice: A Wonderland Adventure for a Topsy Turvy World,” and “WAKEY, WAKEY.” And the company recently announced it has found a new home in the Durango Tech Center.
Saying goodbyeCy Scarborough, a businessman, comedian and entertainer who performed for millions of guests at Durango’s iconic Bar D Chuckwagon, died May 18 of natural causes complicated by underlying health conditions at age 93. Scarborough moved to Durango in 1969 after entertaining at the Flying W Chuckwagon for 25 years. He, along with Jim Blanton and Roy “Buck” Teeter, founded the Bar D Chuckwagon Suppers north of Durango that opened in 1969 and continues to operate today, drawing tourists from around the world.
Charlie Daniels, country music singer and part-time La Plata County resident, died July 6 at age 83. The Country Music Hall of Famer died in Hermitage, Tennessee, from a stroke. He had suffered a mild stroke in 2010 while snowmobiling northeast of Bayfield, in fact, it was Cy Scarborough, with whom he bonded over snowmobiling, who along with Cy’s wife, Jeanne, took Daniels to the hospital. Daniels owned a home in the La Plata Canyon area, where he typically spent a couple of months each year.
Christo, the artist known for massive, ephemeral public arts projects died May 31 at his home in New York at age 84. While not a La Plata County resident, two of Christo’s large-scale projects featured Colorado locales, although one – “Over the River” – would never be completed, despite 20 years of planning and five years in legal fights. The other, “The Valley Curtain,” was hung in 1972 near Rifle. An orange nylon curtain, measuring 200,200 square feet was hung at Rifle Gap on Highway 325.
There you have it. Despite the bad, there was still plenty of good things this year. So, let’s raise one to 2021, and have a Happy New Year.