The saying that "the third time's the charm," was certainly the case for the Durango Daybreak Rotary Club's barbecue and dance Saturday. The event moved into town to the La Plata County Fairgrounds after two years at the Weaselskin Farm off La Posta Road.
The evening started with dinner - marinated tri-tip steak prepared by barbecue maestro John Francis, beans, cole-slaw and brownies. The Exhibit Hall was filled with tables, each of which sported a yellow and white bouquet of daisies and columbines. For entry, each person got a bright yellow wristband decorated with barbed wire, an important invention that helped cattle ranches thrive in the West.
A wide variety of kids' games were under way on the patio, including a treasure hunt and egg walk. Many of the more than 100 children who attended the event participated in at least one of the contests.
Then it was over to the Crossroads Rodeo, where the activities included mutton bustin', a shoe scramble for children 6 and younger, roping teams, bucking horses, barrel racing and bull riding.
But the evening's fun was not done. After a half hour of dance lessons for the newbie westerners, The Blue Moon Ramblers kept the dance floor full.
The head honchos for the event were B.J. Boucher and Chris Lange, who will pick up the gavel as the incoming president of Durango Daybreak next week. The whole club was on hand to dish up the vittles, bus the tables and otherwise keep the fun going.
Durango Daybreak is the youngest of the three Rotary Clubs in Durango, but already has ongoing international projects going on in orphanages in Mexico and Africa, as well as its local projects. Outgoing President Brad Tafoya can look back on a year of providing firewood to needy families, dictionaries to Durango School District 9-R third-graders and a lot of sweat equity on projects in the area. The money raised from Saturday's event will enable the club to do many more projects in the year ahead.
I have to admit a bias for this club and for Rotary overall. I was a charter member of this club - now honorary, because it meets at 6:45 a.m. every Wednesday, and I am at work until at least 10 p.m. weeknights - and am a third-generation Rotarian.
Rotary can claim eight decades of service to the community, from donating Rotary Park, also known as the park with the gazebo, and the amphitheater next to the Durango Community Recreation Center, to thousands and thousands of college and vocational school scholarships and a ton of other donations big and small.
In a place where volunteering is a community value, service clubs are at the top of the heap.
In the meantime, as I'm stuck on the Western lingo, happy trails to you.
While I'm thinking about the La Plata County Fairgrounds, I've been remiss about telling the story of the Fire Monument Garden located along Main Avenue by the baseball fields.
It was founded in 2004 by the Society of American Foresters to mark the second anniversary of the Missionary Ridge and Valley fires. The SAF is a professional organization of foresters. It is not the U.S. Forest Service or any other government agency. Members of the chapter may work for state or federal governments, but many are retired foresters, including John Cooley, who came up with the idea for the garden.
Three panels tell the story of the fires and pay tribute to the agencies, volunteers, businesses and community organizations that fought the fires or cared for those who did. It also shows how forests heal after fire, both on their own and with help.
To complete the monument, SAF worked with the Durango High Country Gardeners and native landscape expert Lisa Bourey to plant a demonstration garden. And this was a distinctive kind of garden, with plants such as ground cover, shrubs and trees that were affected by the fire.
Unfortunately, those pesky plants such as bindweed and dandelions began crowding out the smaller plants. Enter a group of Falls Creek residents (a community that was particularly hit by the Valley Fire), who saw a need and decided they could help.
Last year, Nancy Wallace, Marge Rebovich, Glennie Ritchey, Jennifer Hardy and Stephanie Huss began pulling weeds every week through the heat of the summer. Bourey was particularly touched by the effort.
"I thought it was a wish come true when this unpretentious, interesting group of ladies just showed up to help weed an ugly misfit of a garden," she said.
On May 9, the Falls Creek women, SAF members, Bourey and her family joined forces to spruce up the garden. The enthusiasm of the volunteers has inspired the SAF members to make more plans for the garden.
After the work was done, the group enjoyed pastries from Bread and admired their handiwork. Ashton Hargrave, chairman of the local SAF chapter, gave the women certificates of appreciation. He also presented a special gift to Bourey for her unfailing dedication to the garden.
So, the next time you're attending a ball game or event at the La Plata County Fairgrounds, or working out at the Durango Community Recreation Center, take a stroll over to the garden. Like the forest that was so badly burned seven years ago, the Fire Monument Garden is flourishing.
My thanks go to Beth Green, who was involved in the founding of the garden five years ago, for the reporting on this item.
Gearing up for a long weekend for the Fourth of July for their birthdays are Marien Gram, Hannah Buck, Kayte Barnes, Suzanne Zerbe and Jackie DiSanto. (Sorry, I'm missing most of my July birthday and anniversary lists - I hope to get caught up for Saturday's column.)
BP has a reputation of good citizenship in La Plata County, and Thursday, the company lived up to it once again. Seven years ago, the company created a program called A+ for Energy that supports classrooms from pre-K through 12th grade in some areas where BP does business. It started in California, and this year, for the first time, it was offered in La Plata County.
In A+ for Energy, teachers are encouraged to apply for grants of $5,000 to $10,000 to provide an energy- or environmentally related curriculum. The folks at BP, led by Director of Government and Public Affairs for the Rockies Curtis Thomas, were delighted by the number of applications they received from the area.
Using a panel of BP employees and community leaders, which included Durango Mayor Leigh Meigs, La Plata County Commissioner Wally White, Penni Compton and Moira Compton, they selected 29 grant recipients.
At the Strater Hotel on Thursday, those recipients heard from Thomas, Dave McKenna, the Durango Operation Center Manger, and Paula Barnett, the general manager of Government and Public Affairs for the U.S., who helped design the program initially in California. Al Vickers, the operation manager of the San Juan Performance Unit, was the keynote speaker.
After a delicious dinner of salad, steak and chocolate-caramel cheesecake, it was time to pass out the money.
At the high school level, grants went to Vicki Burns, Stephanie Holling, Chantey Palmer, John Patton, and Derek Smith, of Bayfield High School; Klaire Dustin of Durango High School; and Jessica Musch of Ignacio High School.
At the middle school level, checks went to Liz Glaysher of Bayfield Middle School; Cortney Kayl and Leila Baker of Ignacio Junior High School; Sharon Orr of Escalante Middle School Tom Rohde and Liz Wheelock of Ignacio Intermediate School; and Diana Speegle and Barbara Wynne of Miller Middle School,A lot of elementary school students will be enjoying some cool (or hot in the solar area) projects next year. Darren Cioppa of Sunnyside, Lisa Clancy of Riverview, Cindy Dale of Ignacio, Dave Foster, Shanna Noonan, Carolyn Striker of Bayfield, Lisa Schuba and Michol Brammer of Animas Valley, Stephanie Trudeaux of Park, Cindy Tucson of Needham and Catherine Baskins of Florida Mesa elementary schools all took home a grant for their cause.
And because grants were also available for programs outside the school districts, Christine Koerner will be working with the preschoolers at Mercy Regional Medical Center's Child Care on Using the Sun's Energy; Charles Love of the Durango Adult Education Center will help guide the center's students in energy-career paths; and Mary Polino of the Durango Montessori School will be able to fund the KITE Club, Kids Impacting Tomorrow's Energy.
All told, BP invested more than $300,000 in area schools on a topic that is critical for the future of our country and our world.
Marking anniversaries that are in the height of the summer are Dan and Wanda Caldwell and David and Anna Marie Bishop.
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