From the time the passport arrived in the mail, it was clear the 16th annual St. Columba School fundraiser would be
another extravaganza. (The passport was the ticket.)
Held every fall, parents, teachers and staff members go all out to make the event memorable. This year's theme was
Cruising for Education, Today and Tomorrow: An Evening Under the Moon, and the party took place Oct. 24. The school
was transformed into a ship upon the sea, with attention to every detail.
Guests arrived to register and found a ship's bow (borrowed from the Henry Strater Theatre's "Dames at Sea"
production that took place over the summer.), lifesavers and netting.
That set the mood.
Everyone associated with the event had a cruise-appropriate title. Captains of the ship were Tracy Pope and
The purser was Tamara Huber, who sent each donor (and there were a lot of them) a thank you note, and purser's
mate Renee Gotcher handled the decorative and functional details of the displays and bidding.
Cruise Director Mary Lynn Clark and Guest Services Coordinator Nichole Rohn helped transform the gym
into a dining room fit for a cruising population.
Valerie Brock handled the marketing, and Heather Velasquez mapped out the 60-page auction book.
The party began with the cocktail hour and appetizers prepared by parents of students at the school and coordinated
by Anne Barney. Gillian Arnwine coordinated the bar arrangements.
As guests noshed and dished, they visited the various classrooms, which were full of a pirate's bounty of goods and
services donated by scores of businesses.
Golf, art, parties, personal chefs and pampering packages were just a few of the items on the silent-auction block.
Virtually every teacher, aide and staff member at the school donates something, whether it's something they have made
or a treasure they're willing to let someone else love.
One tradition that is absolutely charming is the themed baskets each classroom creates. From Noah's Ark to Bicycling
Bounty, each basket was clever and thoughtful.
Some items were special and situated on the Promenade Deck.
Suzanne Sitter, Kathrene Frautschy and Old Gold donated a beautiful dress, gold-cross necklace and
rosary from Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris for some lucky girl's first Holy Communion.
The Barney family donated a vintage replica Durango Fire truck that had responded to a only few emergencies, and
Suzy DiSanto will teach some lucky adults to do the tango Argentine-style.
Dinner, which was prepared by Sodexho Catering, included Mermaids Delight mesclun salad, pork tenderloin with High
Seas Dijon sauce, Paradise Island potatoes and the Captain's Table Petite Dessert Buffet. Joe Leder of Durango
Liquor provided wine to accompany the repast. St. Columba Middle School students served as the wait staff.
Then master of ceremonies Mike Carey and auctioneers E.M. Taylor and Lonnie and Dena
Malouff got the live auction rocking.
Violet Piccoli, known as the master chef at Sacred Heart Catholic Church's famous spaghetti dinners, donated a
dinner for eight, and Lesley Gannon Meiering will give an elegant and fun tea for little girls featuring
goodies from her Irish homeland at her Four-Chair Farm on County Road 250.
Parent Warren Long collaborated with his friend Larry Davis to make a custom guitar with unique custom
appointments, which included St. Columba insignias. It was a work of art.
The final item on the block was an appropriate one. Mercy Regional Medical Center donated a cruise in Baja, Mexico.
The bottom line: 265 people helped raise an amazing $85,000.
Funds raised are used to improve the school and its facilities, take care of teacher-salary increases and keep
tuition affordable at Durango's oldest school, which was founded in 1882 by the Sisters of Mercy.
Here's wishing all of the students and their families "clear sailing."
Enjoying full-scale Scorpio birthday celebration this week are Susan Terrill-Flint, Germaine Rogers, Kathleen Shock, Scott Southworth, Jenna Mulligan, Kalli Fassett, Michelle
Unterberger, Dale Strode, Karren Little, Sean Jackson, Jane Mercer, Marilee
White, Pat Beard, Debra Pene, Wayne Kjonaas, Katarina Seibert, Sofie
Wait, Georgine Mounts and Alexander Miller.
Special greetings go out to Meghan O'Brien, who turned sweet 16 on Tuesday.
When Michael Rendon, the executive director of the Sexual Assault Services Organization, told me about the
organization's upcoming Collaborative Chef's Dinner, I said, "It sounds yummy. Send me the menu and let me know how
He did one better and saved me a seat.
The event took place Thursday at the Henry Strater Theatre, and it was a gourmet's delight.
The event was the brainchild of Mahogany Grille chef Dave Cuntz.
He recruited fellow chefs Jason Blankenship of The Kennebec Café, Chris Crowl of Cosmopolitan, Alison Dance of Cyprus Café, Sergio Verduzco of East by Southwest and Sari Brown from The
Yellow Carrot. If you're keeping count, that was six courses plus hors d'oeuvre.
SASO Board President Amber Cox set the stage for why we were all there - because a sexual assault, whether
it's on a man, woman or child, is a violation of one's very person.
The violation is compounded by the fact people are uncomfortable talking about it, and many survivors have no one at
all to support them. And that's where SASO comes in.
Whether a survivor needs to talk to someone in the deep, dark night or a hand to hold at the hospital, police station
or court, SASO can provide a trained and caring volunteer to help.
The organization also provides education in the form of the Children's Awareness Program and Bystander Intervention
with high school and college students.
If you or someone you know needs help, the 24-hour hot line is confidential. The number is 247-5400.
Volunteers of the year also were honored at the event, including Dennis Lum, Lisa Self, Ruth
Fleming and John Baranski.
The wining and dining started pretty much as people came through the door.
Cyprus provided mushroom pâté on crostini, Mahogany Grille had created phyllo cups filled with warm brie and black
figs with hazelnuts in a chardonnay reduction and Kennebec served rabbit-stuffed gougére (delish).
A festive Kenwood Yulupa Sparkling Brut NV was served as the apéritif.
Music set the tone for the evening. Fort Lewis College students played almost nonstop for four hours. They were
Jared Wright, Gary Walker and Bob Demmond.
After sitting down, it was one wonderful course after another. Part of the fun was watching the chefs in the kitchen
on a big screen on the stage, where you could see them working with each other to prepare all the various dishes.
David Walden from Heck Estates and Leah Deane from Republic National Distributing explained the wine
and food pairings.
Blankenship created a tartare of scallops and salmon with cucumber salad elegantly served in a scallop shell, served
with crepes flavored with chives and then fried up as chips.
A Valley of the Moon Pinot Blanc from Sonoma County was paired with the dish.
Next up? Crowl offered a duck-leg confit with wild Kabocha squash (from Bangas Farms) agnollotti (half-moon ravioli)
served in a duck-mushroom broth topped with pea vines from Turtle Lake Refuge.
A Kenwood Reserve pinot noir from the Russian River Valley in California was the perfect accompaniment.
Dance used products from local farms to create a roasted Bangas Farm beet salad served with Linnaea Farm chèvre, Turtle Lake sunflower sprouts and organic lettuces from La Boca and Stone Free farms. Served with a
citrus-and-olive-oil dressing, the salad added a light touch to a rich meal.
A Sutcliffe Winery rosé was an equally light and tasty complement.
Verduzco took the opportunity to show East by Southwest doesn't only serve "bait" by serving a traditional Japanese
dish, Scottish salmon "Dengaku" topped with monkfish liver "foie gras' topped with a sweet miso glaze and quince
chutney. Wow. And kudos to the Feudi di San Gregoria Falanghina from Campania, Italy, to bring out the complex
Host Cuntz served grilled Foxfire Farm lamb on a roasted fall vegetable Dauphinois with an herb-lamb jus that reduced
for 12 hours.
The vegetables included fall-harvest fare like parsnips, turnips and celeriac, making it a delightfully different
A cabernet sauvignon from Justin in Paso Robles, Calif., made it a perfect couple.
No one needed dessert after all of that, but who could say no to Brown's Mexican-chocolate trifle? Layered with
chipotle-sugared pecans and Jack Daniels-white chocolate caramel, the wine-glass served dish was topped with a
praline supporting hazelnut ganache and tequila-beet sherbet.
A few sips of a Gonzales Byass Solera 1847 oloroso sherry and it was time to begin digesting - and dreaming of next
SASO is working to raise the final $3,000 to match a grant from the Gay and Lesbian Fund of Colorado.
The deadline is Dec. 31, and all donations make a difference in this important work.
Donations may be mailed to P.O. Box 2723, Durango, CO 81302.
There are only a couple of weekends left to buy popcorn, kettle corn or caramel corn from area Boy Scout troops.
(It's their version of Girl Scout cookies.)
I have tried the popcorn and caramel corn, and they both were excellent. Stop by a table at either City Market or
Albertsons and pick some up.
The caramel corn would make a great holiday gift.
Will it be more bright blue skies or another touch of winter for the anniversary of David and Julie
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