When I joined Snowmass Rotary a few years ago, I knew it would be a good way to try to make a positive difference in my hometown, but I had no idea it would be so much fun. Yes, Snowmass Rotary's focus is "Service above Self," and our activities center around raising money for local grants and scholarships, global causes such as polio eradication, and local volunteer work. But in the process, Snowmass Rotary provides some pretty cool opportunities to learn more about the people and places in our valley. A few highlights of the last year:
• Seeing a presentation from our own Dr. Mel Spira on his travels to southwest Asia and Africa to repair cleft palates and literally give people new faces;
• Multiple discussions with the great people at Challenge Aspen and recovering war veterans and families whose visits to Snowmass are some of their best times of the year;
• Volunteering at the Snowmass Rodeo (one of the longest running rodeos in the state), and learning to get there early so you are not assigned to the petting zoo;
• A private tour of Krabloonik to learn about their sled dogs;
• An inside tour of the airport and the thinking behind the new plans for expansion;
• Discussions with incredibly capable local students who received Rotary scholarships;
• A summary from a local businessman of the rapidly changing medical marijuana regulations and what it is like to build a legal business in that industry;
• A presentation from the founders of Aspen Brewing Co. and how they navigated Aspen's zoning complexity and a bankrupt equipment supplier that shut down their production for months;
• A presentation from Aspen Skiing Co.'s Rich Burkley on how the USA Pro Cycling Challenge race is organized and financed.
For all the talk about what needs to be fixed in Snowmass, our Wednesday morning Snowmass Rotary meetings are a great reminder of what we already have - a community of fun people who share a passion for helping others. Visit www.snowmassrotary.org for more information.
Snowmass Rotary's largest fundraiser, the Snowmass Wine Festival, takes place on Sept. 15 on the Snowmass Mall. The wine dinner, with a Spanish theme, is set for Sept. 14 at the Artisan Restaurant. For details and tickets, go to www.snowmasswinefestival.com.
Andrew Light is a Roaring Fork Valley native and will be president of the Snowmass Rotary Club next year.