Vive la France! Liberté, egalité et fraternité! The themes of the French Revolution rang loud at the Bléger family's annual Bastille Day party July 14.
This job comes with a lot of perks, and the invitation to the annual bash, thrown by three generations of the clan that call Durango home, is one of the big ones.
Jean-Pierre Bléger (the eponymous founder of the bakery and restaurant) and his wife, Rebecca, are the patriarchs who started the party. Their children, Jerome Bléger and Celine Bléger, along with Jerome's wife, Tiffany, have taken on more hosting duties as they've gotten older, and now Jerome and Tiffany's girls Katrina, 5, Madison, 3, and Violet, 1, are getting into the swing of things.
No French party would be complete without a delectable spread of goodies, and the Bléger party is a perfect example. The dish everyone talks about and looks forward to are the escargots, which sounds much more delicious than snails. The Blégers use a particular species of snail and prepare them with a lot of butter, garlic and parsley in a puff-pastry shell. Ooh la, there are no words to describe the delight.
Canapés, a cheese display that features a wide variety of French fromages served with freshly baked baguettes, and pastry trays that sport darling swan puff-pastries with whipped cream and cream puffs with rum custard topped with caramelized sugar complete the repast.
The wine and champagne flow freely at most French dos, particularly at the Fête Nationale of Bastille Day. In one dramatic moment, Vince Ferraro of Ariano's Italian Restaurant and host Jean-Pierre Bléger took several shots at opening a bottle of champagne with a sword, an old, and it turns out tricky, tradition. The cork finally popped, and guests got a bit of a bubbly shower when it did.
While the French celebrate the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille Prison in 1789 as the beginning of the French Revolution, it's actually more symbolic as an act of rebellion rather than a momentous event in and of itself. The Bastille was infamous for housing political prisoners, many sent with lettres de cachet, a royal decree by the king, which allowed for no appeals.
When the doors were thrown open, the mob found only seven prisoners, and none of any political significance. Still, the attack on the Bastille changed the course of French history forever, and it's a great time of year to party as well. (The French are very practical when it comes to celebrations.)The partygoers are a wide cross section of friends of the Blégers, including other expatriates and Francophiles.
The only problem is that it is over too quickly. The countdown has begun to Bastille Day 2010 - only 357 days to go.
Merci bien to all of the Blégers.
Here's wishing these folks receive monsoons for their birthdays - Sonya Willmett, Carlin Daves, Mary Ellen Portz, Bonnie Warlick, Donna Mahan, Bill Lindler, Emily TerMaat, Cindy Scholfield, Tom Compton, Carleen Utterback, Lois Bartig-Small and Greta Cahill.
Special greetings go to Haley Benjamin, who is turning 9 today. Look, you're famous.
On the Fourth of July, Julie Oskard found herself celebrating a little more than Independence Day. In a surprise, she was named the United Way of Southwest Colorado Volunteer of the Year.
For at least three years, Oskard has given of her time and talents to the organization that supports scores of programs in the five counties in our region through agencies as wide ranging as Volunteers of America, the Council on Aging, Boy and Girl Scouts, the Sexual Assault Services Organization, Volunteers of America, and the Southwest Chapter of the American Red Cross.
Oskard has been instrumental in getting United Way involved in disaster planning and response efforts all over the region.
She has been tireless in working to get the 2-1-1 program to Southwest Colorado. The program is an information and referral phone line that connects callers who dial 211 to an operator who has access to a database of local programs and services. It is a quicker and more efficient way to help people get the help they need to get their lives back on track so they can become self-sufficient.
Tim Walsworth, the executive director for United Way, presented the award to Oskard at the Benevolent & Protective Order of Elks Lodge No. 507 during the lodge's activities on America's big day. (Oskard works for the club.)The award is named after Jim Child, who made significant contributions to our local United Way that have helped it become the organization it is today.
Many congratulations, Julie, and thanks for all your hard work.
When Marc Witkes, who became the face of distance running in our area through his leadership of Durango Motorless Transit and his column in The Durango Herald, died in December 2006 less than 300 yards from the finish line at the Tucson Marathon, his friends grieved and then knew exactly how he would want to be remembered.
They established the Marc Witkes Memorial Scholarship at Fort Lewis College, which is presented annually to a Four Corners cross country runner. Logan Ott is the current scholarship recipient.
On June 20, Steamworks Brewing Co., Durango Motorless Transit and the Durango Sports Club sponsored the annual half-marathon. The event sold out, drawing a record 300 runners, which raised $2,300 for the scholarship.
In a remarkable synchronicity, Ott placed first overall.
In conjunction with the event, Star Liquors featured Steamworks' brews as Beer of the Month for June, donating 50 cents for each six-pack, 12-pack and 22 oz. bomber bottle sold. That brought another $343 to the scholarship. Stan Crapo, the owner of Star Liquors, said that it is community support (and suds aficionados) who made the donation possible.
Kris Oyler, the co-founder of Steamworks, said Ott is "an outstanding athlete and ambassador for the sport" and that Witkes would have been proud.
We can all be proud that yet again our community has found a way to make a difference in memory of a man who made a difference himself.
Have you been cleaning out your kitchen or preparing for a move, but you just don't feel like making the effort to hold a garage sale?
The Southwest Chapter of the American Red Cross will be happy to take some of those items off your hands for its community garage sale to benefit its Disaster Program.
It's looking for furniture in good shape (but no mattresses), media items - books, CDs and DVDs - kitchen items, pictures, child items such as baby clothes, toys, high chairs, strollers, etc., sporting items and limited clothing items. When it comes to the sporting goods, Executive Director Cindi Shank playfully reminded us that 1975 K2 skis with Look bindings need not apply.
The Red Cross is also accepting new items to add to its disaster trailers, such as bottled water, drink mixes, diapers, baby wipes, shampoo, toothpaste and granola bars or other pre-packaged foods.
If we've learned nothing else from the Missionary Ridge and Valley fires, the 700 Main Avenue fire and other area disasters, it's that the Red Cross needs our ongoing support to be able to leap into action instantly when disaster strikes. Having to wait to acquire resources negates a lot of the organization's effectiveness. This is a great way to help.
Items may be dropped off at the Red Cross offices at 1911 Main Ave. before the sale. Shank recommends people call first at 259-5383 to make sure someone is in the office.
The sale will take place from 8 a.m. to noon Aug. 8 in the Coldwell Banker parking lot just west of Eighth Street and Main Avenue. (It's the perfect time and place to hit the Farmers Market, too.) Items may also be dropped off at Coldwell Banker's offices from noon to 7 p.m. Aug. 7.
Enjoying the splendor of Music in the Mountains for their anniversaries are Jim and Nancy Ottman, Ron and Janet Holligan, Jeff and Sari Brown, Joe Wade and Wynkie Plunk, Tom and Mary Richards, and Bob and Pat Canning.
For information about upcoming events and fundraisers, check Local Briefs.
Here's how to reach me: neighbors@durangoherald.
com; phone 375-4584; fax 259-5011; mail items to the Herald; or drop them off at the front desk.
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