Mea culpa, also known as “confession time.”
I have to admit that I pretty much only go to events if a) I have to go for Neighbors or b) a close friend is throwing a party. There’s only so much of me to go around, and the crutches throw in an additional challenge.
So I have been remiss in never going to the Durango Wine Experience, because it’s usually been covered by the food writers or someone else in the newsroom. And now I’ve begun to realize that I’m even more remiss, if that’s possible, because the organizers have been generously putting money into local good causes since the experience started in 2006 and that flew beneath my radar. As my readers know, I’m all about the good causes.
The Durango Wine Experience is also remarkable because, while we throw around the statistic that we have more restaurants per capita than San Francisco, this is the event where those restaurants pull out all the stops to show what they can do. (Taste of Durango is about sampling a signature dish for the masses, the Wine Experience is about creating a fabulous menu to go with some featured wines. And to think our restaurants do both for charity in less than a month. Wow.)
The Durango Wine Experience, for those of you who enjoy it but don’t know much about it, was started by Karen Barger, the owner of Seasons Rotisserie & Grill with her husband, Wayne, and Joe Leder, now the owner of Animas Spirits and PJ’s Market with his wife, Pam.
Barger’s and Leder’s friends in the industry encouraged them to start something, and I guess we can safely say they started something big. Barger and Leah A. Deane, who serves as the event’s coordinator, spearheaded this year’s event with the help of Durango Wine Experience Board members Shawn Candelaria, Carley Snider, Chuck Fredrick, Mandi Davis and Leder.
They helped make it an unmitigated success. For the first time in the event’s history, the Friday Walk About sold out, as did all of the seminars and wine dinners. The Grand Tasting on the Saturday of the event’s weekend had close to 800 people in the tent despite it being a rainy, cold day. The addition of the Restaurant Showcase at the Grand Tasting in 2011 has turned into a bit of a competition, to the benefit of the attendees.
United Way of Southwest Colorado is the recipient of this year’s donation, which Barger said is probably going to be in the $10,000 range. Nice range. The nonprofit’s supporters provided hordes of volunteer labor to help make the event a success.
The Durango Wine Experience to date has donated about $50,000 to good causes in the community. Next year’s event has already been scheduled. You may not have your 2015 calendar yet, but I keep a list at the back of the current year to move into my new calendar when it comes. Just an idea.
Anyway, it’s April 23, 24 and 25 for those who are counting down the days.
Visit www.durangowine.com for more information.
I learned some things by visiting the website.
For example, Karen Barger was the coordinator for all the beer, liquor and wine at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta before coming to Durango. She said it was “like throwing a party for a million visitors.”
And I’m going to be more respectful of Deane – man, has she studied wine every which way from Sunday.
Forecasters say these folks will be enjoying perfect spring days for their birthdays – Dan Steaves, Shannon Nelson, Char Day, Dony Goodwin, Barbara Corrigan, Cahlie Bartel, Cassie Bartel, Davy Wells III, Dale Wingeleth, Maxine Sproul, Samantha Alvarez, David Bennett, Ani Gannone, Dorothy Vaccaro, Jan Scott, Sue Marshall, Gerri Wilson, Bob Pitmon, Barbara Pevny, Annette Zuccolillo, Brady Sutherlin, William Hakes, Tony Santistevan, Casey Carman, Bill Collins, Zoa Stuntz, Nancy Furry, Della Johnson, Audra Krull, Paige Krull, Ron Wiebel, Kim Pierce, Jean Hamann, Ella Rex, Erin Christiansen, Jade Latham, Kathy Tuminello and Amanda Avery.
Every year, the members of the four P.E.O. chapters in Durango sell nuts and poinsettias, hold bridge parties and generally do everything they can to help young women further their education. Each chapter gives scholarships to local graduating seniors, and a couple even give scholarships to graduates from the GED program at the Durango Education Center.
But they also each nominate a student for a STAR Scholarship, a sweet $2,500. It’s a merit scholarship based on leadership, extracurricular activities, community service, academics and potential success in the future. The clubs form committees and interview extensively before making their one allowed nomination, which then goes to the P.E.O. International Sisterhood for review and selection.
Out of 1,891 nominations from the U.S. and Canada, 350 scholarships are awarded. It’s not unusual for a girl from Durango to win (after all, aren’t we like Lake Wobegon, where all the children are above average, if not geniuses?), but this year, two local young women were awarded the scholarship. Which on a per capita basis, has to make us the winningest town in the country. Take that, Anchorage!
Kaylee Blevins was sponsored by Chapter FX. She graduated from Durango High School a week ago and will be putting her money to use at Stanford, where every penny is going to count.
Ellie Ellis was sponsored by Chapter CS. She was a member of the second class to graduate from Animas High School two weeks ago and is getting some good help to pay her tuition .
The scholarships were first awarded in 2010, and Durango had a member in the first class of scholarships, Sarah Branch-Boyle. In 2013, Katie Dudley invested hers at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where she’s studying aerospace engineering.
Congratulations to both of you.
Sometimes cool things happen at events after I’ve put my notebook away, and such was the case at the San Juan Symphony’s Spring Gala, which I chronicled in my Wednesday column. The evening’s complete, guests are getting ready too schlep out into the dark parking lot at Silverpick Lodge, and then, magic.
Dawn Spaeder, Erin Sinberg and Sarah Choszczyk from the Durango Women’s Choir sang “Dona Nobis Pacem” (“Give Us Peace”) in sweet harmony from the balcony above the lobby as we departed. I can’t believe I spaced that! Best ending to an event ever.
The cornucopia of June brides and grooms celebrating their anniversaries this week include Dan and Kim Osby, Michael and Karen Peterson, Carl and Jodell Johnson, Don and Kay Baker, Don and Deanna Schardt, Charles and Carol Gordon, Bill and Mary Foreman, Scott and Amy McClellan and Phil and Leticia Rambo.
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