Cattlemen enjoy summer picnic

Two young’uns growing up to be cowboys enjoy the La Plata-Archuleta Cattemen’s Annual Picnic at the Cundiff Ranch in June. They are Ben Elliott, 4, son of Kalen and Kathy Elliott, and Will Jefferies, 2, son of Wayne and Terry Jefferies. Enlarge photo

Courtesy of Carol Lewin

Two young’uns growing up to be cowboys enjoy the La Plata-Archuleta Cattemen’s Annual Picnic at the Cundiff Ranch in June. They are Ben Elliott, 4, son of Kalen and Kathy Elliott, and Will Jefferies, 2, son of Wayne and Terry Jefferies.

Spring and fall are busy times in the cattle industry, with all the birthing of calves and preparing cattle for market, so the La Plata-Archuleta Cattlemen’s Association, in collaboration with the La Plata County Cowbelles, always holds a picnic in the summer once things have calmed down a bit.

It was held at the beautiful Cundiff Ranch north of Bayfield, which has been in the family since it was homesteaded by the Foster family and then run by Theo and Hanna Foster Cundiff. Their descendants have done a fine job of making improvements, making it a great place to picnic (or hold a party or wedding ...), and the Cattlemen were there courtesy of Lila and Tom Wade and the family.

Beef isn’t just what’s for dinner. There was no tofu in sight as picnickers enjoyed delicious beef expertly prepared by Cowbelles President Peggy Beebe. She smoked top round and carved it for 50 guests. (Beef hot dogs were sizzling on the grill for the kids.) Everyone brought a dish to share, so it was quite a feast.

This event has become a popular “whistle-stop” for local politicians, especially in an election year. Among those at the picnic were La Plata County Commissioner Kellie Hotter, Rep. J. Paul Brown, R-Ignacio, and county commissioner candidate Julie Holligan Westendorff. At least there was no rubber chicken at this event.

My thanks to Barbara Jefferies for serving as correspondent on this item, and to Carol Lewin for taking her handy-dandy camera.

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Enjoying their middle-of-the-summer birthdays are Ginny Brown, Lee Dalenberg, Nancy Van Dover, Ed Cotgageorge, Shanna Stordahl, Reed Cooksey, Noah Forsythe, Kinslee Hanagan, Milly Lacey, Barbi McCoy, BrodyMize, Jadah Willmett, Claudia Engle, Stacey Hannigan, Peggy McElwain, Jonathan Smith, Kristin Markley, Jeff Haspel, Richard Imig, Nancy Van Mols and Gene Bacus.

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On June 23, Sidney Morris, Cheryl Bryant and Cindy Cortese invited some of their closest friends to a lovely summer musicale at Morris’ Hermosa home.

The women were the winning bidders for a performance by Gemma Kavanagh and Scott Hagler at the San Juan Symphony fundraiser that Season’s Rotisserie & Grill held for its anniversary party in December.

To make sure the husbands, who aren’t always big fans of opera, would enjoy it, they asked the dynamic duo to perform selections from the “Great American Songbook,” as they dubbed it. That’s probably how Richard Cortese was convinced to serve as bartender.

It’s amazing how many great songs there are in the American canon, and of course they sound their best with a voice like Kavanagh’s. Highlights included “I Could Have Danced All Night,” “When I Fall in Love,” “When You Wish Upon a Star,” “Everything’s Coming Up Roses,” “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” “Where the Boys Are” and “I Enjoy Being a Girl” (a comic collaboration with Linda Mack).

When discussing “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man of Mine,” from “Showboat,” Kavanagh said her sister, Audrey, told Kavanagh her voice needed to be 10 shades darker. So she encouraged all of the women to sing along with her. We sounded pretty good with Hagler’s accompaniment and her leadership.

Part of the fun was the music trivia Kavanagh threw out with each song. We all learned something about our musical heritage by the end of the afternoon.

Kavanagh and Hagler have generously donated several performances over the last couple of years, and I think most people have no idea how much they put into them. They don’t just show up and perform. They plan the program, they rehearse, they get dressed up on what should be a day off from busy lives and then they give it their all. It’s a tremendous gift.

And I’ve got to say, having grown up in Charlie and Kathy Butler’s household, where the second “Holy Trinity” was Gershwin, Porter and Berlin, this show was perfect for me. I’m still singing – at least in the shower.

Not only did the hostesses purchase the performance to support the San Juan Symphony, they encouraged their guests to make donations to help the symphony balance its budget for the 2011-2012 fiscal year. I saw quite a few checks being written that day.

Kathy Myrick, SJS executive director, was on hand to tell the symphony’s story. It costs an average of $30,000 to mount a symphonic concert, and another $25,000 each year to support the symphony’s educational programs. Ticket sales only bring in about one third of the cost to produce a concert, so it’s up to us to keep the music alive.

Guests must have been generous, because by the next weekend, the San Juan Symphony only needed to raise $1,100 to reach its goal.

Which brings me to the next item.

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On June 30, one of the most memorable dining events ever in our area took place. Regular readers may recall that a dinner on the spacious decks of Bette Serzen’s beautiful home on the banks of the Animas River near Hermosa went for $13,000 at the San Juan Symphony’s Spring Gala in May. (People bid for one or two seats in an auction system that I never quite understood, but which clearly worked.)

Serzen and her frequent cohort in fundraising for the symphony, Cheryl Folwell, made sure the evening lived up to the extravagant purchase price. In addition to the countless hours she and Serzen put in, Folwell and her husband, Paul, donated the champagne and beer.

Joel Jones and Rochelle Mann presented these two “hostesses with the mostest” with engraved Nambé plates as a thank you for all their hard work.

Dr. Bruce Andrea and his wife, Andrea Mull, donated the wonderful selection of wines.

The fun began with all 32 guests being picked up in limousines, so there was no need for designated drivers, and everyone could enjoy the evening’s libations. On arrival, they discovered a jazz trio made up of Chad MacCluskey on bass guitar, Bob Newnam on trumpet and flugelhorn and Ryan McCurry on piano creating ambience right from the start.

Jimmy Nicholson of Durangourmet catered an exquisite meal that started with appetizers of artichokes with toasted Parmesan cheese and truffle oil wrapped in prosciutto; cucumber-wrapped spicy ahi tuna; and wild mushroom-and-arugula pesto bruschetta with shaved Parmesan. The goodies were served with Guy Drew Vineyards 2011 metate blanc and 2009 syrah.

As they sat down to dinner, the mood changed with a string quartet from the symphony, which included Nathan Lambert and Hannah Howard on violin, SharonNeufeld on viola and Katherine Jetter on cello. The lovely music they created was a perfect backdrop to the evening.

Lambert was playing a little sleep-deprived, as he and his wife just welcomed their first baby. Jetter was recovering from hip surgery and had to “sidesaddle” her cello until she finishes physical therapy and her recovery. (Hope you’re healing well, Katherine.) Talk about commitment to the cause!

The salad course included micro-greens, radish sprouts, tomatoes, roasted beets and goat cheese dressed with a garden-herb vinaigrette and served with a Guy Drew 2011 unoaked chardonnay. Assorted breads and herb-infused oil accompanied the meal.

An apple-cucumber sorbet cleansed palates before an extravagant entrée of grilled buffalo, elk, pheasant and quail served with a chimichurri sauce and arugula-goat cheese pesto and paired with a Guy Drew 2005 meritage. Of course, there were veggies, a plethora of grilled vegetables including red and yellow peppers, asparagus, red onions, zucchini, squash, portobello mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes, along with fingerling potatoes with garlic and rosemary.

While I’m sure everyone was replete at that point, you can’t leave a meal like this without a sweet ending. Dessert was a peanut butter mousse with caramelized bananas, banana sherbet, chocolate pudding and cacao nibs with a passion fruit coulis. Guy Drew’s 2011 sweet riesling was the perfect partner for the grand finale.

Mark Daigle, president of First National Bank of Durango, stepped up and said he would donate half the funds needed to balance the budget, if someone else would donate the first $550. John Wells, who is a new supporter of the San Juan Symphony, took him up on it.

Et voilà, budget balanced, diners happy and delivered safely home in their limousines.

Of course, the San Juan Symphony had to begin raising the money needed to produce the 2012-13 season starting July 1. (There’s never a respite for nonprofits.)

A number of symphonies across the country have gone under in the last few years since the financial crisis hit. The SJS pared expenses to the bone and is holding on, but like all of its fellow orchestras, its existence is fragile.

If you would like to help it get off to a solid start this season, send your tax-deductible contribution to the SJS, P.O. Box 1073, Durango, CO 81302.

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The Camerata of the Durango chapter of the American Association of University Women celebrated Marilyn Sandstrom’s 75th birthday with carrot cake Wednesday before settling into a discussion of creativity. Not just the concept, but the processes and inspiration each member had experienced by doing something creative for the meeting.

They also asked some intriguing questions. Is it considered creative if you’re following a pattern? Can one cook creatively? (Absolutely!)

What if you’re not crafty? Mary Jean Moseley considered all the things she felt she was distinctly uncreative at until realizing she had been a creative teacher.

Katherine Burgess created the assignment. She assembled a lecture series on the topic for the Durango Unitarian Universalist Fellowship this summer, so it’s a topic much on her mind. Members of Camerata take turns giving or leading programs, and the variety is representative of the group.

Indisputably, Lou Falkenstein gave the most creative demonstration, showing clippings from her filing cabinet of all the projects she’s thought about doing and examples of what she considers are highly creative things made by the women in her life, including her mother, stepmother and granddaughter. She definitely gets points for having the group in stitches. If making people laugh isn’t an act of creation, what is?

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Chalking up another year together are Dave and Glenda Ehrig, John and SusanTait, Ken and Michelle Jungerberg, Wayne and Debbie Kjonaas, Eric and Kathy Pierson and Arnold and Violet Trujillo.

Many belated congratulations go out to Bill and Otoka Walter, who celebrated seven decades together at a party at the Durango Community Recreation Center on July 7.

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neighbors@durangoherald.com