Graham shares Denver stage with Obama
When her caller ID registered from Chicago, Ill., Tami Graham knew the call was for real.

“Monday morning I got a call from the President’s Campaign Office wondering if I was interested in introducing the President,” said former Durango resident Graham, who now lives in Mancos. “I was like, ‘Are you kidding?’”

But seeing as how it really was President Obama’s Campaign Office, the answer was no. As such, Graham, a well known local concert promoter and mediator, and her partner flew to Denver (on their own dime) on Wednesday morning, where Graham was to introduce Obama at a campaign fund-raiser at the Denver Convention Center.

Graham, who was diagnosed with stage 1 uterine cancer last September, was chosen based upon her experience with the Affordable Care Act. Self-employed and unable to afford health insurance, she was able to get coverage through the plan’s pre-existing conditions program. “I found out about the program through the Montezuma County Health Department and was able to get health insurance,” she said.

The insurance helped pay for Graham’s hysterectomy, which she had in December, as well as follow-up care. Although Graham still pays a premium, and her plan has a deductible and cost-sharing, she said it has saved her thousands of dollars and allowed her to focus on her recovery, rather than worry about whether or not she was going to go bankrupt.

Graham shared her story with the Obama campaign after seeing a posting on Facebook seeking personal experiences with the ACA. She submitted her story and the rest, after a routine Secret Service background check, was history as of 2 p.m. Wednesday.

Graham, who is no stranger to the public spotlight, admitted she was nervous about the appearance, in which she will give a two-minute speech about her story followed by the big introduction. “I’m trying to be casual,” she said Tuesday afternoon, adding that as of late, sleep had been difficult.

And while big considerations, like what constitutes “business casual” dress, would be game-time decisions, she was at least certain of one thing. “I’m going to personally thank (Obama) for supporting gay marriage and affordable health care,” she said. “And I’ll do my part to see if I can get him to come down to Durango on a campaign stop.”

Telluride adds rock to summer lineup
Add another item to Telluride’s overflowing festival plate. This Aug. 25-26, “The Ride” descends on Town Park bringing with it a slew of big names including Ben Harper, Big Head Todd, Los Lobos, North Mississippi All Stars, JJ Grey, James McMurtry and 16-year-old guitar prodigy Matthew Curry.

Sandwiched firmly between the Telluride Mushroom Festival and Telluride Film Festival, The Ride is billed as “a happy ending” for the USA Pro Cycling race’s stop in Telluride. The race hits Telluride Aug. 21 before heading to points north.

According to promoters, The Ride (double entendre intended, we’re guessing) is a new rock festival  “hoping to catch masses of cycling fans and locals for another weekend in Telluride.” The festival will take place in Town Park, with late night shows at the Sheridan and Telluride Conference Center.

The festival is a collaboration between KOTO, Telluride Productions and Big Head Todd and the Monsters. Tickets go on sale Fri., May 25, at 10 a.m. at A weekend pass is $87.50 – but hurry, festival attendance is capped at 9,000. While the lineup is not completely settled, plans call for six to seven bands a day, with festival floodgates opening at noon.

“We’re doing this festival because as a Telluride radio station, we love bringing quality music in town,” Todd Creel of Telluride Productions, who’s also KOTO’s advisory board president, told the Telluride Daily Planet.

Promoters hope to make The Ride an annual event. “It’s a rock concert for sure,” Creel told the Planet, “... but we encourage people to bring their kids. The vibe will be different than Bluegrass or Blues and Brews. It’ll be it’s own thing.”

Breathing new life into the Death Ride
Cyclists looking to spin out their legs after the Iron Horse, while helping fellow humankind, look no further.

The three-day Death Ride Tour (not to be confused with the notoriously sadistic one-day Death Ride from which it takes its name) rolls out of Silverton on Fri., June 8.

The fourth annual event takes riders along the infamous 229-mile Death Ride route (aka San Juan Skyway), making stops in Telluride and Durango before finishing in Silverton on Sun., June 10.

The “tour,” which makes a healthy elevation gain of 15,000 over three days, was the idea of Denver resident Barry Sopinsky. Consider the tour, more officially known as the “Death Ride Tour ... Ride for Life,” which covers the equivalent of three back-to-back Iron Horses, suffering for a cause. A registered nonprofit, the tour raises funds for Children’s Hospital Colorado and the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the ALS Association.
Sopinsky was 13 when his father, Irvin, died of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) at age 45 after battling the disease for seven years. The event stands as a memorial to Irvin as well as Sponsky's mother, Rhoda, who died suddenly in 2008.

Sopinsky first read about the Death Ride in Michael Seeberg’s Road Biking Colorado while hanging out at his neighborhood bike shop, Campus Cycles. Over the years, he’s gained a love and passion for cycling and decided to couple it with the idea of traditional Hebrew ideal of tzedakah.

“Tzedakah is Hebrew for: to give back … to be righteous … to do the right thing,” he said.

Since its inception in 2009, more than 100 people have ridden the DRT, which has raised more than $40,000 for the charities.

This will be the second year in a row that tour logistics and sag support will be provided by locally based Hermosa Tours.  “We were so impressed with the way they handled everything in 2011 ... that they became the official logistics provider,” said Sopinsky.

Look for 2012 Death Ride Tour participants to roll into Durango on Sat., June 9. For more info, go to www.deathride  or email

– Missy Votel