Robots, soup, art and more – a Durango potpourri

The last two months have been busy, busy, busy, so this Neighbors is all about catching up.

Leading off is the Durango Discovery Museum’s Robot Rumpus, which, in its second outing Saturday night, inspired robot costumes in every iteration, from the big cardboard boxes painted silver like we used to make when I was a kid after watching “Lost in Space,” to a number of female robots in sparkling metallic silver dresses and a couple of homages to the cartoon character Bender.

Because Ashley Hein organized the events just moments before heading out for maternity leave, she wasn’t sure if partygoers would like the version of a Tesla Tonic she chose to serve at the event (the recipe changes depending on the season and party theme). For this Robot Rumpus, she picked a pear-cranberry-rosemary cocktail that turned out to appeal even to people who weren’t getting ready to give birth. The nonvodka’d version is dubbed the Curie Cooler.

Because the museum used glowing straws, the drinks glowed, too.

Stan Crapo of Star Liquors provided the oomph for the drink as well as the wine, and Carver Brewing Co., one of the museum’s strongest supporters, donated the beer.

Strater Catering continued its successful partnership with the Discovery folks as well, serving steamed rice paper vegetarian spring rolls; duck confit in phyllo cups; lamb meatballs with tzatziki; tomato, basil and mozzarella bruschetta, a selection of vegetable crudités and a cheese display.

I can safely say the entertainment was over the top for the 130 guests. Jessica Perino and Joan Grant put a whole new spin on dancing, taking it off the floor and into the air. The aerial dancers arrived early to install their rigging, using pulleys and harnesses for their acrobatics.

The fun started before guests even walked in the door, as From the Ashes Fire Tribe came this close to being flambéed. The fire dancers rehearse on the plaza at the Discovery Museum every Wednesday, and so they returned the favor by performing at the rumpus.

Because every party the museum throws is a bit like a three-ring circus, Ryan Finnigan was reprising his role as Benny the Boozer. Hein said the act should be called Finnigan and Company, because he and his friends had made an elaborate contraption Finnigan called a “beer orchestra.”

As partygoers took a sip a of beer, it made a sound, so the guests were essentially making their own music. If you’re having a difficult time visualizing it, I guess you’ll just have to attend the event next year to check it out.

Rick Feeney of Feeney Architects/Builders was one of the sponsors. (Feeney once told me designing the museum to create a place alive with excitement from a disintegrating hulk was the most rewarding project of his career.)

Other sponsors included the Geoffrey Craig and the Craig Law Firm, Chinook Medical Gear and Tafoya, Barrett and Associates.

Hein called this a cocktail party that happened to raise money. All the fun raised about $4,500 to support the “science center for all ages.”

To learn more about the museum and how you can support it (and enjoy it), visit

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Enjoying birthdays spiced up with hot apple cider are Rochelle Mann, Bob Morris, Geoff Overington, Marcie Bray, Bill Hermesman, Jim Mulkey, Natalie Bulen, Lexi Hartman, Will Lacey, Alfredo Ontiveros, Chantel Campbell, Chris Goold, Mark Prouty, Marty Prouty, Deb Seglund, Kobe Szura, Jean Reid, Rap Fairley, Ben Nye and Peter Olson.

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On Sept. 15, Durangoans filled the gym at St. Columba School to support Manna Soup Kitchen at its 10th annual Soup Supper.

The soups, as usual, were delicious, courtesy of chefs Gary Broad from the Durango Diner – vegetarian green chili; Scott Arbaugh of St. Columba School – turkey corn chowder; Dave Cuntz of Carver Brewing Co. – green chili with chicken curry; John Sheehan of the Red Snapper – seafood bisque; Max Schön from the Strater Hotel – posole; Roan Sutton of the DoubleTree Hotel – Irish stew; El Dorado Cattle Co. – beef-barley-vegetable soup; and from the soup kitchen itself, Warren Smith – nuclear chili and New England clam chowder – and his colleague Darcy Cole – Tom Kha Gai.

Smith, who recently won Durango’s 2012 Iron Horse Chef honors, made the best New England clam chowder I have ever had.

The volunteers come with such good will to this event. The decorations bring fall colors inside, folks of all ages bus tables, serve soup and help however they can. And the gym is abustle with friends catching up with each other, families breaking bread with each other and musicians or auctioneers on the stage.

Brian Pennington of Treasure Auction led the auctioning of a number of fine items, and the room was lined with cool silent auction items. By the end of the evening, the 230-plus attendees had helped raise more than $12,700.

The musicians were Tom Raider on the keyboard, Linda Baker on flute, Ryan Baker playing the saxophone and sound provided by Bandwagon Music. Jeremy Dupree and Kevin Frazier, from the group Trio, chimed in on at least one song on vocals.

Kudos to organizers Kathy Tonnessen, Janine Bluen, who along with staff member Audrey Werner and new Executive Director Sara Wakefield, put in a ton of hours.

There is some bad news. Manna continues to be busy, having served 57,000 meals in the last 12 months. The kitchen expects to serve more than 60,000 in 2013. The 62,326 stomachs filled in 2011 was a 20 percent increase over 2009, so the need is still high.

This summer, the soup kitchen’s Summer Food Backpack Program provided more than 4,000 meals to children and young people who are fed when school is in session, and may well go hungry during vacations.

People need to eat three times a day, 365 days a year. If you haven’t yet made a donation to Manna this year, you can send your tax-deductible contribution to P.O. Box 1196, Durango, CO 81302.

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Backcountry Experience is in a giving mode this week.

Starting today and running through Oct. 17, the outdoor sporting goods merchant will donate all profits from the sales of Osprey packs and Saucony shoes to the Durango High School cross country team to help cover travel expenses to attend the Stanford Invitational at Stanford University. It’s a great honor for them to be invited to compete, and it’s not an expense covered in any school budget.

This is a great opportunity to give twice – get an early start on holiday shopping and support some dedicated young people.

And on Saturday, it’s time for the second annual Chili Chase 5K, starting at 10 a.m. Advance registration is $13.50 at, with day-of-race registration running $15 at the store. Immediately after the run, it will be time for chili.

Tickets are $5, and they’re expecting 12 to 14 competitors. Do a little judging and noshing while supporting San Juan Mountains Association, wilderness education program Frosty Pines, the Shanta Foundation and Manna Soup Kitchen.

Backcountry Experience is located at 1205 Camino del Rio.

Thanks to Ken Fagerlin for giving me the heads up.

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The Durango Autumn Arts Festival, which took place during the weekend of Sept. 22 and 23, could not have been more perfect. The weather was great, the 80 juried artists booths offered something for everyone – including a lot of covet-worthy pieces, and half of Durango was there, making it the perfect place to catch up.

At least it seemed as though half of Durango was there. Maureen May, who served as the board liaison for the festival, tells me it was probably 5,000 to 6,000 people in attendance, which is close enough.

Street fairs are tough on crutch girl, so May and event chairwoman Deb Anderson borrowed Connie Matthews’ electric cart to help me visit the two-block-long event.

I wrote tons of notes – love this, how cool is that? and so on – but the bottom line is that the Durango Arts Center, which benefited from the event to the tune of more than $17,000, really knows how to put on a quality event. There was live music on the main stage and a food court – the orange-blueberry muffins from the Sinfully Decadent food truck were, well, both sinful and decadent.

If the arts festival reflects the economy, the recovery is well under way. Linda Geer already had sold more than twice as many of her hand- knitted scarves and hats as at all of the event in 2011 by 2 p.m. the first day, and another artist sold two $3,000 pieces in the first half hour.

The festival is a tradition of more than two decades now, and organizers run it with panache.

The camaraderie among the artists also is high, as some of them have been juried in for several years. So what could have been disastrous for Mel Mendez, when a patron driving away from the Red Snapper hit forward instead of reverse and badly damaged his trailer, became a heartwarming story instead.

Mendez usually travels with his wife, but was solo that weekend. He would have lost one whole day of sales were it not for artist Maggie Beyeler and her husband, David Yard, from New Mexico.

Yard is good with mechanical things and spent all day Sept. 23 getting the parts and repairing the damage to tail lights and bumper to get Mendez on the road to home.

We like to think of Durango as outstanding when it comes to generosity of spirit, but this is just proof that the world is full of folks who help in a time of need.

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If it’s October, it must be time for the Durango Adaptive Sports Harvest Gala Dinner. It will be held Oct. 18 at the Mahogany Grille at the Strater Hotel.

I said in my last column that the Durango Friends of the Art Luncheon and Fashion Show is one of the seminal fall fundraising events, and the gala dinner is another.

In its 12th outing, the event will feature a lively social hour with wine and beer, a specially designed menu for the evening by chef Max Schön and both silent and live auctions featuring gourmet dinners, golf outings, music and theater events and tons more.

Because Adaptive Sports’ mission is to provide outdoor recreation opportunities for people with cognitive and physical disabilities, there is usually a lot of recreational gear as well.

ASA’s volunteers, supporters and clients all find what they do is incredibly joyful and rewarding, and the funds raised at this event are key to a successful year.

Office manager Lee Hagar tells me a group just had to cancel, so there are actually still tickets available, which is rare for this event. They are $95 per person, and $700 for a table of eight.

Give Hagar a call at 259-0374 or email her at to book your tickets today.

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October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and Maria’s Bookshop is honoring it by hosting a book donation drive for Alternative Horizons until Oct. 28.

The goal is to continue building a therapeutic book library for children, teens and adults where they can safely explore issues of abuse, violence, depression and feelings. It’s called bibliotherapy – now that’s my kind of therapy – and reading can open discussions between parents and children, help children realize they are not alone and offer healthy coping skills and hope.

Not only will there be suggestions for books to add to the library, Maria’s will donate 20 percent of the total cost of books sold to Alternative Horizons as store credit to add even more books to its library.

Maria’s is located at 960 Main Ave., and more information is available at

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Chuck and Melissa Mosley are celebrating another year of connubial bliss. Have a good one.

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Here’s how to reach me:; phone 375-4584; mail items to the Herald; or drop them off at the front desk. Please include contact names and phone numbers for all items.