The Big Read kicks off |

The Big Read kicks off

Aspen Times Staff Report
Aspen CO, Colorado

ASPEN ” The Aspen Writers’ Foundation, in partnership with Pitkin County Library and other agencies, launches the Roaring Fork Valley chapter of The Big Read with kick-off events Friday in Aspen and Saturday in Carbondale.

The Big Read is a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) campaign “designed to restore reading to the center of American culture,” according to a statement from the foundation.

“It is a community-based reading campaign that aims to get as many people as possible in a given area reading and talking about the same book at the same time,” the foundation statement explains. “From April 4 through May 5, the entire Roaring Fork Valley community is invited to join in a month-long series of free events and activities celebrating the classic 1972 novel, ‘Bless Me, Ultima,’ by Rudolfo Anaya.”

Launch events will feature appearances by public officials at the local, state and national levels.

These events include:

– 5-6:30 p.m., April 4, at the Colorado Rocky Mountain School Barn in Carbondale: Appearances by State Sen. Gail Schwartz, Carbondale Mayor Michael Hassig, Basalt Mayor Leroy Duroux and acclaimed Chicano author and 2005 Pulitzer Prize finalist Luis Alberto Urrea, who will give a talk and read passages from “Bless Me, Ultima” in both English and Spanish. The evening includes a performance by Aspen Santa Fe Ballet Folklorico, followed by a reception with light Southwestern fare.

– 3 p.m. April 5, at the Gondola Plaza in Aspen; continues at 4:30 p.m. at the Sky Hotel: A “Bless Me, Ultima” book giveaway on the Gondola Plaza, followed at the Sky Hotel with opening remarks by Schwartz, Aspen Mayor Mick Ireland and NEA Literature Director David Kipen. Next will be a talk and reading by Urrea. Southwestern fare will be served, and a cash bar featuring “Ultima-tinis” will be available.

Also planned are a concert by Grammy-nominated vocalist, composer, and arranger Perla Batalla on April 25 at Thunder River Theatre in Carbondale; appearances by award-winning Chicana author/activist Denise Chavez on April 26 in Carbondale and April 28 in Aspen; presentation of local contributions to the Bless Me, Ultima Quote Quilt, at the Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Snowmass Village.

According to the foundation, “This traveling, growing work of art will be a compilation showcasing the lines of text from ‘Bless Me, Ultima’ that most deeply resonate with the people of the Roaring Fork Valley. The Quote Quilt will be assembled and displayed at public events near the end of the Big Read month.”

The Roaring Fork Valley Big Read is also accompanied by The Little Read, a companion program sponsored by the writers’ foundation, based on Anaya’s bilingual children’s books.

Free copies of “Bless Me, Ultima,” along with reader’s guides, are currently available in English and Spanish at distribution points from Aspen to Glenwood Springs, including area libraries, CMC campuses and Alpine Bank locations. The book is also available for purchase at valley bookstores.

More information on The Big Read is available at or by contacting foundation Special Projects Consultant Julie Comins Pickrell at or (970) 274-2352.

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