Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Week 46: TEDxFoCo

If a solicitor knocks on my door (in spite of the awesome pirate-themed ‘no soliciting’ sign made by my sons) I don’t answer. Occasionally, I’ll do the same when opportunity knocks. Because, you know, I’m much too busy doing the many very important things in my very important life. But when one of the organizers (whom I'd never met) of the first TEDxFoCo called to personally invite me to the event, I cleared time between my very important laundry and my very important dog walking to give it some consideration.

It wasn’t a hard decision. First of all, the TED concept is great—interesting people sharing interesting ideas in eighteen minutes or less. Secondly, being included in the “first wave” of invitees made me feel cool in a DEVO sort of way (which I decidedly am not). And last but not least, the lineup of local speakers was not to be missed. So I got my ticket.

The near-sellout crowd included a mix of ages and backgrounds—but I couldn’t determine who else was among the first wave, as we were not given red flowerpot hats or secret handshakes. My student days are well behind me, and I did have concerns about my ability to sit still and listen for four hours. But the speakers—chosen to “represent entrepreneurship, community, education, media, policy and the arts”—were so smart and engaging that I had no trouble paying attention. (Except when my husband texted me to let me know that his car keys were at the bottom of Boyd Lake. Doh.)

I wasn’t surprised that much of the focus of TEDxFoCo was on sustainability, innovation, and social responsibility. Those issues have been at the forefront in Northern Colorado for some time now, and rightfully so. We need to address how our community will grow, how we will work and play and raise our children so we may continue to have a solid, comfortable place in the world at large. But the talks went beyond that to include the vital importance of the arts, of play, of new models of teaching and learning, of “radical collaboration” and the risks and rewards of entrepreneurship, of transparency and trust. And, as Kim Jordan put it, the importance of the ways in which we make our love and talent manifest.

Thanks to Nick for organizing this shindig, and to Bob for inviting me to the first of what I hope will be many local TEDs. I was so glad I was able to attend, and I left with renewed respect and admiration for the people of Fort Collins…and lots to think about at 4 a.m.

(TED is not a name but an acronym for Technology, Entertainment, Design. But when I searched TED images, I got pictures of: Ted Kennedy, Ted Bundy, Ted Danson, Ted Turner, Ted Nugent, Ted Haggard, Ted Williams, 1970s Swedish pop star Ted Gardestad, and Superted the cartoon bear. Who knew Teds were such a diverse group?)

Friday, June 24, 2011

Friday Find: Ready Beans

This week, I picked up a package of Ready Beans from the Wednesday Fort Collins Farmer’s Market. The beans are fully cooked and dehydrated and can be eaten either rehydrated or straight from the package. I like spicy, so I chose the Refried Pinto Beans with Jalapeno and Chili. I prepared half of the bag using the stovetop directions. The texture and spices are good, but they’re saltier than the refried beans I’m accustomed to. Next time, I might mix them with unseasoned beans.

I’m glad I still have half the bag, because the unprepared beans are great for satisfying a crunchy/spicy craving. They remind me of a cross between crisp bacon and a BBQ potato chip, but they’re healthier than both.

Ready Beans is a Fort Collins company. A package of beans serves four and costs about three bucks.

Mystery Photo:
Last week’s photo was of the ram statue at the CSU Student Center Plaza.

Where in Fort Collins was this week's picture taken?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Week 45: FCBC Celebration

Prior to 1961, Fort Collins lacked a vital piece of the American experience. Yes, it was decades before Starbucks and cell phone kiosks, but I’m referring to organized youth baseball. Baseball’s origins date back to 1791 in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and by 1860, it was widely recognized as the national pastime. Fort Collins wouldn’t be established as a military outpost for another four years, so we had some catching up to do.

For half a century, the private, non-profit Fort Collins Baseball Club has provided kids ages 5-18 with the opportunity to participate in recreational and competitive baseball (including, for the past five years, indoor winter ball). The first season, 8 teams played on CSU’s vacant lots at the corner of Shields and Laurel Streets. Larimer County donated the materials used to build the diamonds, and volunteers brought their own lawn mowers to cut down the weeds.

FCBC has come a long way since then. Executive director Pat Wunsch, the board of directors, and the recreational and competitive committees currently oversee more than 250 teams and 3,300 players. The Club does not limit participation based on enrollment or ability to pay. The scholarship program has raised a whopping $90,000 for financial assistance, making baseball possible for approximately 8,500 families. In addition, FCBC provides trained umpires for the majority of games and works with the city in prepping and maintaining fields.

My husband has coached and volunteered with FCBC for years, and my sons have played on FCBC teams since T-ball. My own involvement has been more along the lines of sunscreen, snacks, and spectating, so I was pleased to be able to join in Saturday’s community celebration of FCBC’s 50th Anniversary. The festivities included an alumni game, kids’ regular season baseball games, vendor booths and activities, food, and free instruction by the Fort Collins Foxes. Community Historian Maggie Dennis of StoryForge assembled a fantastic display of FCBC memorabilia and wrote the script for the anniversary video, which is well worth a look.

The highlight for many of the kids was no doubt the dunk tank, where they lined up for the chance to dunk their coaches and umpire/board member Alan Hampson, who good-naturedly egged the kids on while dressed in his umpiring gear. All proceeds from the day, including a $500 donation from Dellenbach Motors, will help fund the scholarship program.

In 1960, the population of Fort Collins was about twenty-five thousand. Our city has grown considerably since then (we’re over 140,000 at last count) but it has managed to maintain much of its sense of community. And for my money, few things exemplify the idea of community more than kids spending their summer evenings playing the great game of baseball.

Historian Maggie, Coach Mark, and Director Pat enjoy the day.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Friday Faces: O.P. Kelley

Orville Pollock Kelley ran a grocery store/meat market, served as Larimer County Sheriff, and held the office of Fort Collins Chief of Police for 25 years. In 1974, he was interviewed by Jonathan Anderson, and the resulting “Boot Leggers, Cattle Rustlers, College Students, and Ordinary Drunks – Thirty-Three Years in Law Enforcement” is a short but fascinating look at some of the history of local law and order. (The men are, from left to right, Bill Gray, Ray Barger, Frank Monroe, and Sheriff O.P. Kelley, circa 1929. Picture from Fort Collins History Connection.)

Mystery Photo:
Last week's photo was of the garden outbuilding at Gulley Greenhouse.

Where in Fort Collins was this week's picture taken?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Week 44: Mustang Makeover

Like many little girls growing up in Colorado, I loved horses. When I was six or seven, my parents acquired a real live horse for my sister and me, and that’s when I realized that my love was more…theoretical in nature. Dusty was a gentle, patient creature, but everything about him, from his crushing hooves to his massive head and chomping teeth, seemed designed for the sole purpose of causing me bodily harm. As if my constant anxiety in his presence wasn’t enough, the year-round schlepping of hay and water was quite a lot of hard work. Needless to say, my career as a budding horsewoman didn’t last long.

Despite all that (much of which I’ve thankfully outgrown) I have a deep appreciation for horses and their role in shaping the American West. And the iconic wild mustang is not a thing of the past. According to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, more than 38,000 wild horses and burros roam on BLM-managed land in 10 western states. Colorado has four herd-management areas: Little Bookcliffs, Spring Creek, Sandwash, and Piceance/E. Douglas, all in the far western part of the state.

A herd of wild horses can double in size every four years, so the BLM must remove thousands of animals each year to prevent overcrowding. The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 insures that this is done humanely. Ideally, these horses will eventually find homes through programs such as the Extreme Mustang Makeover. This national challenge, which visited Fort Collins last weekend, gives trainers just 90 days to take a mustang from wild to mild.

Throughout the process, trainers must abide by the program’s regulations for care, boarding, and transportation of the mustang. If all goes well, the horse and trainer are then able to participate in the EMM to “showcase the talent and trainability of Mustangs.” (If you’re thinking of giving it a go someday, keep in mind that “Silver on your saddles or sequins on your shirts will not earn you any extra points.” Dang.)

I sat in on the Handling and Conditioning part of the competition, which required the trainers to lead and ride their mounts through a series of basic obstacles and maneuvers. Had I not known, I never would have guessed that the trainers and horses had been working together for a mere three months. But what was obvious to me was how much the trainers care for and respect their equine partners. And though I’ve already established that I’m no horse expert, I’m pretty sure the respect was mutual.

I was not able to return on Sunday to see how many of the mustangs found new homes as a result of their extreme makeovers, but I hope it was the majority of them. They’re fine animals and deserve the opportunity to prove it.

Bruce Spencer and Wyatt show their stuff

Friday, June 10, 2011

Friday Fun Facts: Parks

'Tis the season for baseball and softball, and many of us are spending plenty of time at the ballparks. Here are some fast facts about two of our great Fort Collins facilities. This information and more (including current status due to flooding) can be found on the city’s parks webpage:

Rolland Moore Park:
1974 - Land purchased by the City for $99,721.00
1983 - Construction begins. Grand Opening in June of 1984.
1984 - Facility of Merit for Outstanding Sports/Recreation Facility from "Athletic Business" magazine
1985 - Award of Merit from "Park Maintenance" magazine and The Park Maintenance Institute for outstanding park shelter design
1997 - United States Slo Pitch Softball Association Complex of the Year in Colorado

"The Park was named after Rolland Moore who had been the Parks Superintendent for the City of Fort Collins for 37 years. Moore Park had the first handicap accessible playground in Fort Collins."

Lee Martinez Park:
1973 - Martinez Park land purchased
1978 - First phase of construction completed
1979 - Ballfields completed
1981 - Poudre Trail built along the Poudre River
1985 - Lee Martinez Park and The Farm officially dedicated

"The park was named by the Fort Collins City Council after Librado (Lee) Martinez, a long time resident and community leader. Mr. Martinez served on the Fort Collins Human Relations Commission and was active in many other capacities for several organizations."

Mystery Photo:
Last week's photo was of the statue in front of Lulu Asian Bistro on College Avenue just south of Mountain.

Where in Fort Collins was this week's picture taken?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Week 43: Comic Book Stores

Part of what I enjoy most about spending time with my boys when school’s out is being reminded that many of the things we never really outgrow are more fun during the summer. Slurpees, for example. Splashing, whether it’s in the gutter or the Poudre. Comic books. As a girl, I read Little Lulu, Richie Rich, and Casper (I know, I know) but my boys have not had to suffer through those dark days. They’re big into superheroes, so to help kick-off our summer, we ventured out to two local comic book stores.

Gryphon Games and Comics opened on Halloween, 2005, and is locally owned and operated. As is evident by the name, Gryphon carries more than just comic books. In fact, I’d say that a good half—and perhaps even more—of the store is dedicated to gaming. This includes a variety of card games, board games, role-playing games, and a whole host of miniature characters whose exact purpose was a mystery to me but were cool-looking nonetheless.

Gryphon has a large room off the back, for mass gatherings of Pokemon and Magic players and the like. They also host a big event for Free Comic Book Day, on the first Saturday in May. (Free comic books and the Kentucky Derby on the same day? Get out.) FCBD 2011 was the tenth annual, and we, of course, missed it. But we will keep it in mind for next year.

Halley’s Comics has been under the same ownership at 322 Walnut Street for 23 years. It’s a small store tucked between the former Goodwill and the current studio of a Halloween-mask-maker-musician guy (which explains the KISS boots in the window). I didn’t frequent comic book stores as a kid, but I imagine this is what they all looked like then. Ninety-percent of Halley’s is comics—decades’ worth, from vintage to present. Current issues line the shelves in the front of the store, and the back room holds box after box of past issues, all alphabetized and neatly packed together in their clear plastic covers. I’ve never seen so many comics. My boys were in danger of being sucked into a time-warp vortex from which they would emerge hours later, famished, bleary-eyed, and possibly sporting their first beards.

If this summer’s selection of superhero movies isn’t enough to satisfy your inner child, a trip to a comic book store should help. But comic book aficionados are apparently not an early-bird clientele, so wait until 11. And if it’s been a few years since you bought a comic book, well, they don’t cost a dollar anymore. (Neither does a pack of gum, for that matter.)

Oh, and please let me know if you see this guy:

Friday, June 3, 2011

Friday Five

Happy Friday! I hope you’ve had a chance to enjoy the gorgeous weather this week. When you’re inside taking a break from the sun, give these local blogs a look:

Otterocity – because we all need more otter-ness in our lives

AppendixEJ – the blog of Everyday Joe’s Coffee House

The Joy of The Joy of Cooking – cooking through that big ol’ book

Finally in Fort Collins – great information for staying involved with local affairs

Haunted History After Dark – a historian and a ghost-whisperer team up in Old Town

Mystery Photo:
Last week’s photo was of the Redwing Marsh Natural area on Willox Lane.

Where in Fort Collins was this week's picture taken?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Week 42: Arias@Avo's

Other than the occasional episode of Hoarders or Dirty Jobs, I don’t watch much reality TV. (Light bulb! If Mike hasn’t helped clean a hoarder’s house, he should.) That includes reality talent shows. I’m just not interested in who’s dancing, singing, or learning circus tricks. And I don’t care to listen to snarky judges or weepy contestants. But that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate talent. I do, especially when the talent is something I find challenging, such as…well, pretty much anything requiring physical coordination or musical ability.

Luckily we in Fort Collins don’t have to go far to find musical talent of all kinds. Case in point: on the last Sunday of the month, Arias@Avo’s provides a showcase for established and emerging classical singers. Yes, that includes opera. At Avogadro’s. Offhand, it sounds like an unusual pairing, but there’s no better opportunity to hear an amazing sampling of vocal performances while wearing flip-flops, eating nachos, and drinking a beer. (Or in my case, wearing flip-flops and drinking peppermint tea. That’s me, livin’ on the edge.) And there’s no cover, though donations are appreciated.

A full house for any event is a good sign, and I was fortunate to find one of the last empty seats. The afternoon’s performance featured four singers—two sopranos, a lyric tenor, and a baritone. My opera knowledge is limited (though I am pretty sure The Three Tenors are Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo, and Elmer Fudd) so I appreciated the singers’ brief introductions of each piece.

The opera selections were drawn from the likes of Schumann, Mozart, and Schubert. But the program also included Billie Holliday’s God Bless the Child and songs from You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, Miss Saigon, Jekyll and Hyde, and The New Moon operetta (which has nothing whatsoever to do with those angst-filled teenage vampires). It was a fine mix of themes, styles, and emotions.

But how about the singers? you ask, readying your score card. Well, they were talented, engaging, and did I mention talented? Holy cow, really, they can sing. As an added bonus, not one of them chose to partner up with a howling dog. (The accompanying pianist, however, was also outstanding.)

The next Arias@Avo’s is Sunday, June 26th. And if filling your ears and bellies with sublime goodness isn’t quite enough, Avo’s also has one of the best patios in town.