Bush league, Tasting and the real Warsaw


by Chris Aaland

Minor league baseball is the essence of sport. Tickets cost less than a beer and a hot dog. Prima donnas are outnumbered by kids playing for the love of the game – most are hoping just to have a chance for the proverbial “cup of coffee” in the majors.

Last weekend, I held my second annual Southern Colorado alumni gathering for Fort Lewis College grads living in the Pikes Peak region at a Colorado Springs Sky Sox AAA baseball game. It’s a special event for me because I was born in the Springs and still have dozens of family members there – many of whom show up to FLC events for no other reason than to bounce my 15-month-old on their knee. But, as a former collegiate athletic administrator, it’s even more special to see the full production of minor league baseball: cheesy giveaways and contests from local businesses, mascots who look like they’ve slammed one too many Red Bulls, players from both teams signing autographs for little leaguers before, during and after the game, and concessionaires who engage you in conversation regardless of whether or not you have your wallet in hand. Winning and losing are but background strokes on a greater canvas. Norman Rockwell would be proud.

One of the many Rockwellian aspects of our town is when Main Ave. gets shut down for art, music, dining and drinking events. No single day is bigger than Taste of Durango, when you get the chance to enjoy food and specialty cocktails from more than 40 local restaurants, brews from all four Durango microbreweries, and live music and children’s activities. This year’s Taste takes place from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. on Sunday. The sound stage features the Hounds of Purg at 11 a.m., Steel Pan Band at noon and Liquid Cheese at 1 p.m. A new event this year is “Durango’s Best Cooks Competition,” featuring Durango High School Pro Start students doing demonstrations.

Still have a pocketful of wooden coins when the clock strikes three? Use your leftover tokens from 3-6 p.m. Sunday afternoon on the Carver’s Patio as Deep Blue Creek performs bluegrass. There’s no cover and the event is open to all ages. Several other participating restaurants and bars will also honor tokens on Sunday afternoon.

The 15th annual Animas Music Festival continues with “A Celebration of the Earth” at 7 p.m. Friday in the Community Concert Hall as multiple Grammy winner Paul Winter performs solo on soprano saxophone, accompanied by recorded voices of wolves, whales, canyon wrens and bull elk. Winter draws from personal experiences playing to various woodland creatures. Throughout his career, he’s blended American jazz with traditional African, Asian and South American forms. He’s also championed numerous environmental causes through albums such as “Prayer for the Wild Things” and “Crestone,” his new album about the Sangre de Cristos, Great Sand Dunes and San Luis Valley.

Tonight’s (Thursday) Ska-B-Q features Strange New Shoes and food from Bart’s New York Deli. Music and good times start rolling at about 5 p.m.

I jumped the gun on Warsaw’s appearance at the Ska Tasting Room erroneously listed the concert as last Monday (May 12). The ska warriors will play at the brewery this Monday (May 19). I promise.Albuquerque singer-songwriter Linda Johnson performs a house concert at 7:30 p.m. Monday at 812 Terlun Drive in Durango. The event benefits a local rafter who broke her arm on a recent trip through the Grand Canyon. Johnson, whose album, “Ghost Town,” was nominated for the 2007 New Mexico Album of the Year, was on the fateful raft trip and volunteered to do the house concert. For more information and directions, call Tami Graham at 759-9716. Suggested donation is $10.

It’s tough not to find a night when Formula 151 singer/songwriter/guitarist Dave Mensch isn’t working a regular gig at Joel’s (8 p.m. Wednesdays), the Office Spiritorium (7 p.m. Thursdays) or El Patio (4 p.m. Fridays and Mondays). The busiest musician in town will also play a benefit for pet adoptions at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Humane Society.

Happenings at the Summit this week include Disco Night on Thursday, local rock by the Good Neighbors and Tin Tree on Friday, and high-energy world electronic jam by the Sans Ritual Project on Saturday. Look for music to start at 9 p.m. each night.

Steamworks’ entertainment bill taps into trance, house and reggae this week. On Thursday, Link performs “Acid Trance vs. Dirty House” at 10 p.m. Friday finds Benjamin K’s brand of dirty tech house at 10 p.m. Catch Liquid Cheese’s upbeat reggae and world groove at 10 p.m. Saturday.

If you venture out to Pagosa Springs or Aztec this weekend, you can see Jack Ellis & Larry Carver. The duo brings their high-altitude blend of blues, rock and folk to the new Pagosa Brew Pub at 6 p.m. Friday and Rubio’s in Aztec at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.

The Dolores Community Center hosts a Superhero Party on Friday to raise money for theatre equipment for the center’s renovation and expansion. With upgraded equipment and facilities, the center will be able to host movie nights, live music by the river and space for children to learn about the arts. For more information, contact Marianne Mate at 882-2510.

This week’s Top Shelf list captures five highlights from last week’s Colorado Springs Sky Sox baseball games:

• A third-inning contest that rewarded the dirtiest car in the parking lot with a free car wash.

• A post-game fireworks show that rivals any I’ve seen. The Sky Sox regularly have fireworks following Friday and Saturday night games throughout the year – not just on the Fourth of July like Big League teams do.

• Math Day, held the two games prior to the FLC alumni gathering. The Sky Sox play morning games each and thousands school kids who excel in mathematics are rewarded with free trips to the ballpark.

• The national anthem sung by an elementary school ensemble with the PA accidentally left off. Nearly 10,000 people stood so quietly that you could hear the kids harmonize all the way from the right field pavilion.

• A post-game promotion that had fans throw paper airplanes from the stands toward home plate. The closest won round-trip tickets. •

Spent some time in the Mudville nine, watching it from the bench? E-mail me at chrisa@gobrainstorm.net.