Business Monday: When I-70 closes, Craig takes in visitors; is it ready?
Interstate 70 is more than 60 miles south of Craig across rugged terrain.
But when the east-west thoroughfare that bisects the state is shut down due to mudslides in Glenwood Canyon, the impact is felt close to home.
Craig residents couldn’t help but notice the increased traffic last week, but even on lighter days, businesses take note of the uptick in out-of-town guests.
“Mostly I’m seeing a bunch of faces I don’t normally see,” said Danny Griffith, owner of J.W. Snack’s along Victory Way.
Victory Way is also U.S. Highway 40 and is a critical detour route for travelers when I-70 is closed.
“Some of them are mad as hell because it’s 150 miles out of their way,” said Dennis Otis, owner of Cool Water Grille, another prominent restaurant facing the highway. “We pick up some lunches — (Thursday) morning I picked up a couple breakfasts, but it’s not as much as the guys who do dinners.”
Cool Water is only open until 2 p.m., so it’s not able to benefit quite as much from the traffic uptick as a place like J.W. Snack’s or others, but even Otis gets a bump in business.
“It’s pretty busy at lunch,” Otis said. “I was off (Wednesday), but they said it was pretty tight. I was up to my eyebrows driving in it instead.”
It begs the question: Is Craig ready for this sort of thing when it happens? Can the city provide sustenance to the unfamiliar faces passing through — and see a micro business boom in return?
“We’re always ready to let people know what we have to offer,” said Theresia Bohrer of Visit Moffat County. “I’ve had several people tell us they came back after their little trip through, that it was great and they’re going to tell their friends.”
The primary effort Visit Moffat County is making to capture passers through, Bohrer said, is signage. The new blue signs around town that point folks to Craig’s attractions are at the front of that effort.
“We have gotten some feedback,” she said. “Several people say they can see our signs and it took them over to what the signs pointed out.”
It’s hard to measure the impact of the signage beyond anecdotes like that. But what’s certain is Craig is making an effort to put on a good face for unexpected guests.
“Seems like people on the main drag have tried to make their businesses look nice,” Griffith said. “We’ve gotten some help from the city even to increase the curb appeal.”
That comes in the form of Small Business Grants, provided by the city to businesses in city limits for one of two reasons: aesthetic improvement or capital investments.
“The grant started in 2019,” said Melanie Kilpatrick, who facilitates the grant program as executive assistant to the city manager. “It does seem like businesses within the downtown area have taken advantage of the program the most. It definitely is open to businesses citywide though.”
Kilpatrick said the funding, which totaled $85,000 this year, is tapped out for 2021, but that there’s already a waitlist of a “handful” of businesses who would like to apply or reapply next year.
“You can do facade improvements, which is the most noticeable, most visual impact, or you can get economic development for capital improvements, like the brewery was able to get funding in 2019 to purchase equipment, and now they’re brewing beer in the Craig Taproom.”
Craig’s unique location will likely continue to drive unexpected traffic, said Cool Water Grille’s Otis, so it behooves the city to continue to improve its front-facing appearance. That includes those coming from north to south along Colorado Highway 13, he said.
“We’re at a crossroads,” Otis said. “I wish they’d make (Highway 13) four lanes from I-80 to I-70. That would help.”
Mountain Fair at 50: Toasting five decades of arts, fun and music
One can visit the Carbondale Mountain Fair for a couple of hours on the last weekend in July and get a sense of what the unique gathering of townsfolk and visitors is all about.
Or one can literally “do” Mountain Fair for the better part of the three-day festival and play their own little part in the big show.
It’s that latter group of longtime locals, and former residents who make the annual pilgrimage back each summer and traveling vagabonds, that have helped define the spirit of the fair for 50 years.
“I think what is different here is that there is a spirit that you don’t find at any other fair,” longtime Mountain Fair and Carbondale Arts director Amy Kimberly said this week amid preparations for the big event.
“It is the community celebration, where people come together and kind of create this special space for the weekend,” she said.
Carbondale Arts, which organizes the event and serves as its primary beneficiary, has already been gearing up for the celebration for weeks.
A collection of 50 years of Mountain Fair memorabilia — ranging from the many iconic Mountain Fair T-shirts and other collector’s items to newspaper articles documenting the annual event — is on display at the R2 Gallery at the Launchpad on Fourth Street in downtown Carbondale telling the story of its vibrant history.
Laurie Loeb is considered the “Mother of Mountain Fair,” having brought a traveling artists’ chautauqua to Carbondale in 1971, which ultimately evolved into Mountain Fair.
Loeb, in the first KDNK segment that aired June 29, described the fair as a coming together of the many different types of people who inhabited the small town at that time, from the hippie newcomers to the old-timer ranchers and hard-edged miners who had been in Carbondale for many years.
“The essence of the fair has not changed, in my opinion; that feel-good, positive energy of people getting along together despite any differences,” she said. “That still remains, and that’s the heart of the whole thing. … It is a celebration of life.”
The radio series features numerous longtime locals who’ve come and gone, and even old interviews with people who have since died, talking about the uniqueness of Mountain Fair through the decades.
The series can be found at KDNK.org.
Among the voices is longtime local videographer Terry Glasenapp, who was asked by former fair director, the late Thomas Lawley, to document Mountain Fair through film and into the early days of digital video from the late 1980s through 2003.
“I would be there all weekend long with my camera nonstop,” Glasenapp said, describing his early shoulder-held VCR and Beta recorders.
He also collected boxes and boxes of local newspaper clippings and other memorabilia that are part of the R2 exhibit.
“I never realized how those newspaper articles and photos really captured the story until I started going through them,” he said.
Glasenapp attended the Woodstock Music Festival in 1969 and came to Carbondale in 1976. He said Mountain Fair has always had that same sort of free and open-to-all spirit.
“What it is about Carbondale Mountain Fair is that it’s open to everybody, all ages, all sizes and all colors, across all spectrum of people,” Glasenapp said. “It’s also the hundreds of volunteers who put their hearts into it and help make it a free event.”
Today, his own grandchildren enjoy the drum circle and the wide array of children’s activities that the fair offers.
He remembers one special musical moment shortly after he began filming the fair when John McEuen of Nitty Gritty Dirt Band fame was playing and sang the folk anthem “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.” A member of the local band Sirens of Swing at the time, Elva McDowell, wrote an extra verse to the song talking about “Colorado Mountain people” that was sung that night for the first and probably the only time ever.
Another time in the early 1990s McDowell and the Sirens were singing the 1960s classic “White Bird,” toward the end of which a white dove was released from beside the stage and swooped over the crowd before flying off toward Mount Sopris, he recalled.
LIKE A PHOENIX
When the world shut down last year due to the global pandemic, including festivals across the country, Mountain Fair plugged along in its own special way.
Rather than a big gathering in the town park, organizers took it to the streets with a traveling stage carrying local bands to the people outside their houses, and a mini arts booth showcase with a limited number of people allowed in at a time.
“We wanted to make sure we had a 49th Mountain Fair so we could have a 50th this year,” Kimberly said.
“Last year turned out to be an incredible experience, as nerve-racking as it was going into it. But the traveling band wagon was so well-received that we’re actually doing it again this year,” she said.
There may be some lasting benefit to some of what had to be done last summer in the way of social distancing that could improve Mountain Fair in future years.
Instead of packing all of the arts and crafts and food vendors into Sopris Park this year, as had been the practice in the past, they are being spread out this year to include side streets and parts of downtown Carbondale.
“Maybe that’s something that we need to look at anyway,” Kimberly said, noting the fair has kind of outgrown Sopris Park over the years. “We don’t know, but this is giving us an opportunity to try some new configurations and see what involving the downtown a little more will feel like. We’re hoping that people feel comfortable when they come to the fair, and not as crowded.”
That’s not at all to say people can’t socialize, she said.
“Our saying this year is, ‘From one year of social distancing to 50 years of socializing.’ That’s a huge part of the Mountain Fair,” Kimberly said.
On the main stage, the 50th Mountain Fair will also feature some of the more famous bands from past years, including Saturday and Sunday closers, respectively, The Motet and Band of Heathens.
A grand artistic procession from downtown to Sopris Park is set to kicks things off at 3:30 p.m. Friday, July 23, followed by the traditional drum circle led by Loeb to start the festivities.
The Friday night music lineup includes the return of several past Mountain Fair performers in the form of Tierro Band with Bridget Law, featuring founding members of Elephant Revival, Kan’Nal and Jyemo Club.
A retro slide show is set to close out the show on Friday night.
Saturday and Sunday bring the traditional competitions that are a big part of the fair, including wood splitting for both men and women, the 14-mile Sopris Runoff foot race, limbo contests for adults and kids, and pie and cake judging.
A throwback to years past will also be a tug-of-war competition between the Carbondale police and fire departments.
It’s notable that this year’s Mountain Fair poster and t-shirt design winner is a relative newcomer to town, sketch artist Larry Day, who captured the essence of Mountain Fair with several magical strokes of the pencil.
Day admitted his first Mountain Fair was just a few years ago. What struck him was the “chaos,” as he first described it.
“Maybe that’s not the best way to say it, but the one thing I really noticed being an outsider coming here from Chicago is that there was just a lot going on,” Day said. “Mountain Fair just seems to have its own voice.”
So when he decided to submit a concept for the 50th anniversary poster and T-shirt design, he settled on a scene depicting a couple seeking out a little peace and solitude in the middle of Sopris Park, surrounded by this grand festival of dancers, drummers, musicians of all sorts, circus-style performers, ax-wielding wood choppers … everything Mountain Fair encompasses, including Loeb in the image of an octopus leading the drum circle.
And not just people, but animals, too — which is curious because pets are not allowed in the park.
“It’s just this mix of chaos and humor that I thought captured the spirit,” Day said. “Even though I’d only been there once, I just took it all in and observed a lot of what the fair is all about.”
IF YOU GO …
What: Carbondale Mountain Fair
Where: Sopris Park, Carbondale
When: Friday, July 23 through Sunday, July 25
How much: Free
Details: Full lineup of musical acts, contests, competitions, artists, food vendors at carbondalearts.com
International and women-directed films win Aspen Shortsfest 2021 awards
“Close Ties to Home Country” won the Audience Award at the 2021 Aspen Shortsfest. Winners were announced Saturday night.
“Affairs of the Art” won Jury Award for Animation at the 2021 Aspen Shortsfest. Winners were announced Saturday night.
Audience Award: ‘Close Ties to Home Country,’ Akanksha Cruczynski, USA
Best Animation: ‘O Black Hole!’ Renee Zhan, UK
Best Comedy: ‘Affairs of the Art,’ Joanna Quinn, UK/Canada
Best Documentary: ‘We Have One Heart,’ Katarzyna Warzecha, Poland
Ellen Award: ‘We Have One Heart,’ Katarzyna Warzecha, Poland
Best Drama: ‘Marlon Brando,’ Vincent Tilanus, The Netherlands
Best Short Short: ‘The Fourfold,’ Alisi Telengut, Canada
Best Student Short: ‘Plaisir,’ Molly Gillis, France
Youth Jury Award: ‘Plaisir,’ Molly Gillis, France
Vimeo Staff Pick Award: ‘Sinking Ship,’ Sasha Leigh Henry, USA
Accepting the Aspen Shortsfest Audience Award in a live-streamed event on Saturday night, “Close Ties to Home Country” director Akanksha Cruczynski quipped, “I come from a poor single-mom family in India and to realize that my women ancestors had to be plowing fields and breeding children so that I could be here and pleasing audiences is significant.”
Across the nine categories awarded in the ceremony — capping a virtual film festival that ran April 6-11 showcasing 80 shorts selected from some 3,000 submissions — female directors and international films dominated the field. Winners in five jury-selected categories now qualify for Academy Award consideration.
The Polish immigration documentary “We Have One Heart,” directed by Katarzyna Warzecha, won both the Jury Award for Documentary and the Ellen Award (honoring Aspen Film founder Ellen Hunt, who died in January).
Ellen jury member Steve Alldredge said “Ellen Kohner Hunt valued originality, and she valued high artistic merit. Polish director Katarzyna Warzecha has achieved both by mixing animation with found footage to create a highly original family odyssey in a film with humor, love, and a lot of heart.”
In her acceptance speech, Warzecha called “We Have One Heart” “a movie about love without borders.”
Molly Gillis’ “Plaisir,” about a young American working on a French farm, also won two prizes — Best Student Short and the Youth Jury Award, selected this year by a group of high schoolers in Aspen and across the United States. The Youth Jury citation declared “This film should be shown to young adults because it provokes self-reflection and forces you to think about challenging yourself through uncharted territory.”
All but one of the films recognized in the Shortsfest awards was directed by a woman, significantly bucking the industry’s long-established gender inequity and lack of recognition for women behind the camera.
The Jury Award for Short Short went to the inventive 8-minute “The Fourfold” by Mongolian-Canadian director Alisi Telengut, who blended animation with plant-life for the film. The U.K.-produced space opera “O Black Hole!” about a woman who turns herself into a black hole won Best Animation, the jury citing it as “strange in the best possible way.” And “Marlon Brando,” a Dutch film about queer friendship, won the jury’s Drama prize for director Vincent Tilanus.
The annual Vimeo Staff Pick Award went to Sasha Leigh Henry’s surreal relationship drama “Sinking Ship,” which is now streaming on the popular Vimeo Staff Pick page as a result.
The animated “Affairs of the Art,” the latest from British two-time Academy Award nominee Joanna Quinn, won the jury’s Comedy award.
“We haven’t seen it with an audience yet,” Quinn said in her acceptance speech, “so we didn’t know if people actually laugh. That’s great.”
Echoing the sentiment of many winners beaming in to the virtual awards ceremony on the Eventive festival platform, Shortsfest programming director Jason Anderson said, “It’s been a fantastic festival despite us being unable to gather in person.”
Aspen Film, the year-round film society that produces Shortsfest, also recently announced that its 42nd Aspen Filmfest will run in-person at the Wheeler Opera House Sept. 21-26.
Skye Skinner named executive director of the Art Base
The Art Base announced in late November that Skye Skinner had accepted a position as the Basalt-based nonprofit’s permanent executive director.
Skinner has been consulting in the areas of fundraising and strategy with the Art Base since 2018, and has been its interim executive director since March 2020.
“It’s been quite the journey these past months, navigating both the pandemic and a leadership change, but thanks to generous support and program participation the Art Base is thriving,” Skinner said in the announcement. “I am honored to join the team, with a focus on ensuring the long-term sustainability of this important community asset.”
The announcement comes as the Art Base moves forward with its purchase of the Three Bears Building in Old Town Basalt, where the organization will move from its current home in Lions Park. The deal secures a permanent home for the nearly 25-year-old arts nonprofit, realizing a long-held goal.
“Skye is the right leader at the right time for the Art Base,” Art Base board president John Black said in the announcement. “She is well respected in the Roaring Fork Valley for her work in the nonprofit sector, and we’re fortunate to have her join us during this exciting chapter.”
Skinner’s roots with the Art Base go back to its formation as the Wyly Community Art Center in 1996, when she worked with founding director Deb Jones.
Skinner was born and raised on a homestead in Alaska. She moved to Aspen in 1978 to live with her mother, longtime Aspen Times columnist Su Lum. A graduate of Aspen High School, Skinner spent 22 years in leadership at Compass (the nonprofit that operates the Aspen and Carbondale Community Schools), the past 12 years as executive director.
Her resume at Compass includes leading an $11 million fundraising campaign to rebuild the Woody Creek school campus. In 2017, Skinner resigned from Compass to work as a strategic consultant for nonprofits.