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The Aspen Celebrity Downhill

May Eynon

The 8th annual Aspen Celebrity Downhill took place over the weekend of March 11-14. The springtime benefit for Aspen Grassroots Experience (AGE) unites celebrities from the realms of sports, music, film and TV to raise money for youth programs and college scholarships. The celebrities who attended this years event included former boxing champion Evander Holyfield, actors Matt Dillon, Willie Garson, Googy Gress and Ed Quinn, comedian David Alan Grier, NFL Hall of Famer Karl Mecklenburg, former NFL players Sean McNanie, Fred Smerlas and Steve DeOssie and jazz great Allan Harris. In addition to the stars who flew in for the weekend were a dozen youth from past and present AGE programs from New Orleans, New York City, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Omaha and Atlanta. I am always so honored when I am asked to come out for the downhill, said Jessie Dunbar of Atlanta. An alumnus of AGE, Dunbar is currently a graduate student in Atlanta.The weekend festivities commenced on Thursday, March 11, with a reception at Gloria Scharlins home followed by a cocktail party at the Baldwin Gallery given by In Style magazine. DJs Kai Ramsey and Ali Hematyar spun discs in the basement of the Baldwin Gallery while Estilo Boutique hosted a fashion show.On Friday, March 12, singer-songwriter John Hiatt performed a solo acoustic show to a sold-out crowd at the historic Wheeler Opera House. Sheriff Bob Braudis served as master of ceremonies for the evening, introducing longtime friend Jimmy Ibbotson of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band as the opening act. Afterward, Evander Holyfield hosted Casino Night at the Caribou Club. Guests caroused around the Caribou, playing craps, blackjack and roulette in the hopes of winning the grand prize a signed pair of boxing gloves presented by the four-time World Heavyweight Boxing Champion himself. On Saturday, March 13, the downhill ski race took place on Aspen Mountains Little Nell run. Teams comprising eight racers, an AGE youth and a celebrity competed on a dual slalom course in pursuit of first place. The weather today is glorious, declared race announcer Tom Egan of KSNO of the bluebird day and springtime conditions on Ajax. For those seeking solace from the sun, the VIP tent at the base of the race course served cappuccinos and coffee prepared by Andre Mpistos of Expressgo and a Cajun lunch from Epicure Catering. Former NFL defensive end Sean McNanies team won the professional division of the race for Esther Pearlstones team. Actor Ed Quinn and his band of racers won the rec league with Donna Browns team. Comedian David Alan Grier and the racers on Team Miller-Provine clinched second place and Cheryl Wylys team of Aspen and N.Y.C. firefighters took third. Rounding out the weekend was a gala dinner on Saturday night. Approximately 400 guests gathered at the St. Regis for cocktails, hors doeuvres and dinner. Tony Zarrella of Denvers Channel 9 News played host for the evening, filling in for CBS sportscaster Beasley Reece who could not attend due to a health concern. Silent and Live Auctions laden with gift certificates to local restaurants, trips to Esperanza, Mexico, New York City and Las Vegas generated revenue for AGE. Evander Holyfield was honored with the 2004 Celebrity Philanthropist Award at the dinner for his dedication to youth around the world. Accepting the award, an appreciative Holyfield acknowledged how we all have the power to make a difference in others lives. The one person you reach out and save may be the one person that goes around the world and inspires others to give.For more information on AGE, log onto http://www.agae.org.


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