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St. Patrick’s Day in Fort Collins, Colorado

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The Mayor of HeidiTown snowshoeing on St. Patrick's Day

The Mayor of HeidiTown snowshoeing in Fairplay, Coloado on St. Patrick's Day 2008.

St. Patrick’s Day is one of my favorite holidays. I’m not exactly sure why. Despite having Irish roots my family never celebrated St. Pat’s and we aren’t even Catholic. Maybe it has something to do with being a redhead. I’ve always felt as though it’s a holiday dedicated to those of the ginger persuasion.

Maybe it has something to do with my love of Irish music, Irish whiskey, and nearly everything else associated with the Green Isle. Whatever the reason, I really, really love St. Patrick’s Day!

So without further adieu here’s what’s in store for you this St. Patrick’s Day in Fort Collins, Colorado.

The Lucky Joe’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade is schedule for Saturday, March 12 at 10 a.m. The parade starts on Walnut Street, turns south on College Avenue then east on Magnolia Street, then north on Remington.

This parade been a popular Fort Collins tradition for two decades, and volunteers make the entire event happen. Crowds of thousands line the streets to cheer on their favorite floats. The St. Patrick’s Day themed floats will be judged by a community panel to determine who wins 1st, 2nd and 3rd place.

Other green events will be going on around Northern Colorado as well. On Saturday, March 12, Boomer Music Co. on South Mason is hosting Another Jig Will Do: Celtic Music Workshops with Steve Eulberg. Learn to play the mandolin, mountain and hammered dulcimers and guitar. The workshops are followed by a free Ceilidh, also known as an Irish jam session. For more information call (970) 223-2424.

Also on Saturday the McTeggart Irish Dancers will make a stop at Gulley Greenhouse & Garden Center on South Shields. Watch these high steppers strut their stuff from 2-2:30 p.m.

On St. Patrick’s Day, Thursday, March 17, many of Fort Collins’ breweries will be celebrating the holiday with festivities. Check each individual breweries event calendar for more information.

Lots of area restaurants will be featuring corn beef and cabbage on their menus on the 17th, and many area bars will be serving green beer.

If you know of another St. Patrick’s Day celebration in Fort Collins or Northern Colorado, please share it in the comment section.

Check back with next Monday for the Mayor’s picks for the Best Places to Celebrate St. Pat’s in Northern Colorado.

-Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer is a writer, journalist and Mayor of, a blog about festival, events and road trips around Colorado and beyone.

How Peaches Bring us Together: Anticipating the Harvest Season in Fort Collins

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perfectly ripe peaches

Meandering through the farmer’s market on a lazy Saturday morning this past week, I stumbled upon a rare and always exciting find: peaches. Early in the summer they are difficult to find, so by August I had almost forgotten about them. But to see something again that you know is so good-in this case juicy and perfectly ripe peaches- you begin to wonder how you ever lived without it. I bought a ton of them, exclaiming their greatness to everyone around me as I paid, and continued on my way with a delightful snack in hand. As I continued to look around, I noticed many foods that I haven’t seen at the markets lately. The new abundance of squash, beets, and other new produce could only mean one thing- the harvest season has begun.

To many of us, autumn means school or breaking out our winter jackets, but there is a long tradition of harvest all around the world that we might not often think about. For example, in ancient Israel special offerings were made at Temples three times a year: first when seeds were planted, then when farmers reaped the first crops, and finally when the harvest was in full swing. Who knew that holidays such as Passover had some association with the harvest season? And while it seems logical to think of the sun when we think of crops (the sun does help produce grow, after all), long standing Chinese traditions rejoice in the harvest moon instead. Harvest moon celebrations occur in mid-August, when the moon is said to be at its brightest, for it is s symbol of abundance. There are so many different ways to think about the harvest season. How do we celebrate harvest in our own community, here in Fort Collins?

We are certainly fortunate in this city, where fresh produce is farmed nearby and delicious peaches are available as soon as they are picked. But the idea of harvest seems to go way beyond food. A great example of this is a Fort Collins based company called the Northern Colorado Food Incubator. The name suggests something very technical, and also very food-centered. However, browsing their website, I surprised at all the Food Incubator does for our community. They are dedicated to a “Living Economy,” which means that they “support independent community- and land-based businesses and advocate for a whole, resilient community and bio-region.” This mission statement says little about farmers specifically, but rather emphasizes encouraging independent and entrepreneurial local endeavors. I was also excited to see how much of their website was dedicated to local events and community building projects. I found out about that Lyric Cinema Cafe, a local independent movie theatre, is showing a series of films that highlight food and sustainability, and that author and food activist Gary Nabhan will be giving a free lecture at the Lincoln Center next week. In supporting local food-bases businesses, the Northern Colorado Food Incubator helps boost the Fort Collins economy, while at the same time engaging the public in fun and interesting ways. What first appeared to be a food-only business is actually affecting the entire community.

The Northern Colorado Food Incubator shows us what an impact the harvest has on our lives here in Fort Collins. When you think about it, this is true for all cultures as well. The offerings at harvest time, or the celebration of the wondrous moon, are all activities that bring people together.

Homegrown Fort Collins

So as the harvest season comes to our city, think about how our community celebrates and what that celebration really means to you. At Beet Street, we want to help commemorate not just the harvest but its effects on Fort Collins. Beginning September 25th, Beet Street is bringing Homegrown Fort Collins to our community. Homegrown Fort Collins celebrates the harvest season and its contribution to community and local culture. Beet Street will be featuring events ranging from Downtown Tasting Tours, to VIP chef’s tours of the local farmers’ markets, to cooking competitions and demos (all using local produce). Bringing people together is a cornerstone of the Fort Collins lifestyle. Enjoying good food with friends and family while engaging in the unique elements of our community is one of the things that make living in northern Colorado so special.

To keep on top of Homegrown Fort Collins updates follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

Calling us home: Art, Festivals and Pillows

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If an artist sings deep enough, he takes you to the frontiers of your soul.

—Wynton Marsalis, 2009 Nancy Hanks Lecturer

How can I be me without allowing you to be you?

After our month of finding home and discussions of art, identity, history and community, I was reminded of Wynton Marsalis’ lecture and performance of The Ballad of the American Arts at the 22nd Annual Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts & Public Policy earlier this year. For Marsalis, the arts tell us who to be, and throughout his lecture, he discusses how American virtuosity rose from its diverse class roots to show us that who a person is, is always more definitive than what a person is.

Marsalis also asks us to assess the value of an artistic heritage, arguing that music, as does all art, carries memory and therefore, meaning. Spirituals, and their singing, for example, give community a purpose, making people believe and providing them with a home. Tracing an entangled social and artistic history through many of the turning points of emerging cultural identity and progress in the US, Marsalis provides an inspiring, enlightening and humorous portrayal of a people’s struggle through and for their artistic heritage.

Just as our arts call to us on a very deep, spiritual, emotional and physical level, so do our festivals. I never really understood the power of a good festival until I lived in Japan. As I watch the cherry blossoms bloom over the last few weeks, I am transported back to celebrating Hanami, which for me, always indicated Spring had arrived. Hanami (flower viewing), involves gathering with friends and family wherever the trees bloom to feast into the night. There are processional walks through larger municipal parks and the flowers provide an opportunity to reconnect with the community after the winter and renew people’s spirits.

Summer and early Fall though, is real festival time. There is barely a weekend without some deity being celebrated at local temples where everyone gathers in the warm evening air to eat, drink, pray and come together. Some of my most powerful memories of Japan involve the smell of grilled mochi, yakisoba and teriyaki from the festival stalls, shaved ice drinks for walking with the processions, the smell of incense which clouds the temples, wearing yukata and the dark, dark blue of the sky against the brightly lit paper lanterns which swing in the evening breeze.

One of my all time favorite festivals is the Kurama fire festival, one of the three most famous in Kyoto. In the evening, watch fires are lit at the entrances to local houses in this little town, and at 6:00 in the evening, the town is lit up with torches carried by children. Soon after that, the local people, wearing straw warrior sandals, parade through the streets carrying larger and larger torches, including the great torch weighing near 100kgs, and yelling along the way until they gather at the sacred precincts of the shrine. Two portable shrines are hoisted on shoulders amid the sparks from the torches. It’s spectacular, primal and communal and it connects you to past and present experiences of home in extraordinary ways.

If there are no good fire festivals, cherry blossoms or temples near you though, how about a pillow fight and/or neighborhood party? Believe it or not, April 4 was World Pillow Fight Day. Next year we need to get Fort Collins on the map for this event. If Boulder can do it….you get the picture…Follow the link above for a how to guide!  For something on a smaller scale, we had the pleasure of attending a friend’s neighborhood party this weekend, a pot luck affair where complete strangers brought an international dish to share with everyone that lived in the area. The weather was not great and a group of people completely unfamiliar with each other found themselves thrown into a kitchen and conversations. What was most astounding though, was how quickly friendships and community connections sprang forward so that after three hours, a new set of friends spilled back out into the neighborhood, brought together by food, drink and small children bringing a piñata to its knees. Imagine if as a community, we all decided to have a ‘neighborhood party weekend’ and every neighborhood held a party simultaneously. Makes you wonder what would happen with the collective consciousness (there have been studies connecting collective community meditation and a simultaneous reduction in violence in large metropolitan areas, you know).

Through song, nature, history and food, we reconnect with each other and realize how we need each other to live to our fullest potential as individuals and as a group. As we march through spring and into summer, how can we hold onto the conversations started in our ‘finding home’ series? What new promises can we make to take different routes around our community and explore the hidden gems of where we are? What diverse cultural contributions can we celebrate and bring into our ‘homes’ for our children? I’m going to the Museo de las Tres Colonias. Where are you headed?

Remember – art is part of our everyday life.

Kirsten Broadfoot

Curiosity and Creativity: The Hidden Gems of Communities

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Last week when I interviewed Tom Borrup and he discussed the impact of globalization as well as the ways in which all communities have often untapped and obscured pockets of creativity, I was reminded of the ways in which my own community manages to surprise me on a weekly, if not daily, basis.

Recently I read a research brief by Maria Rosario Jackson on the impacts on arts on communities. Sometimes we think that the creativity of a community lives in artist neighborhoods, amateur arts practices and companies, even audience participation in downtown venues and events; but in fact, creativity lives and runs through not only these events but some more ‘mundane’ places and practices as well. For both Tom Borrup and Maria Rosario Jackson, these pockets of everyday cultural creativity are reservoirs for the creative spirit and presence of multicultural diversity in ‘our homes’.  They can be festivals, gatherings, community celebrations, informal but recurrent gatherings in parks and community centers, church based artistic activities — anything that maintains and invents group traditions. As Maria Rosario Jackson puts it, these are ” often important aspects of communities that go overlooked and are missed only when they are gone.”

These simpler forms of community arts and creativity provide important grounding devices for newcomers as well — they communicate home, help build social capital and individual as well as collective efficacy in terms of making a home for one’s family. They also socialize newcomers into dimensions of work and the working life of the community, mitigate crime and improve public safety. I remember living in Japan and even in the early hours of the morning, there were always lights on in houses, people out in the streets talking and walking. You were never alone. Someone was always watching for you. You were always safe.

When we first moved to Fort Collins, we lived in Colorado State University Village where many international families make their homes. The same sense of community prevails there also. Residents attend multicultural events, celebrating all their diverse cultures; children learn new games and ways of working with diverse others and languages; residents share belongings, food, toys, children run around all day between the buildings, in and out of homes, gardens and communal spaces. Everyone shares in the responsibility of the community.

This weekend I went to the International Children’s Carnival and as always, I am amazed at the diversity of people present. Sometimes when I attend these events, I can barely believe that this is the Fort Collins in which I live. The rich tapestry of peoples, languages and performances that surrounds me at these events ground myself and my family in what we consider ‘our world home’ and remind us of the often unseen gems of our community. Over the course of April, we encourage you to take some detours in your everyday life and walk some less familiar paths, sharing in some diverse celebrations of art, crafts, narrative, architecture and performance. Just this week alone, the Traveling Heritage Quilt Project presences itself in our community, there is our usual First Friday Gallery Walk on the 3rd, the Fort Collins Museum and Open Stage Theatre present “The Move to Fort Collins – Local History Stories of Immigration” and we celebrate the first open house of the Museo de las Tres Colonias this Saturday. Finally, OpenStage Theatre & Company begins their season of Anon(ymous) which will run over the course of this month.

Remember…Wherever you go, there you are!

With thanks to strollerdos and Ana Carol Mendes for their wonderful images!

Kirsten Broadfoot

Raising a Creative Economy

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“the Creative Economy at its best, is about communities taking responsibility for their condition and creating meaningful work and a viable economy with the most powerful resources at their disposal. These include the distinct nature and culture of their place, and the creativity of the people — all the while welcoming and learning from those who pass through or who decide to stay” (Tom Borrup, 2009).

When we say someone or something is creative, what do we mean? Imaginative? Innovative? Inventive? Artistic? Fantastic?

Now imagine these adjectives combined with the word ‘economy’ (meaning management of the house)….imaginative economy, inventive economy, artistic economy, fantastic economy…. getting the idea?

The term and phenomenon of the “creative economy” describes industries that have their origin in individual creativity, skill and talent, and have a potential for wealth and job creation through the generation of ideas, products and/or services. These industries and activities are critical not only because of their contribution to the knowledge economy which is in the process of engulfing the globe, but also because of their capacity for urban and civic regeneration, the preservation of cultural heritage and cultural identity and the creation of places and communities as ‘destinations’. Tom Borrup consults, teaches, and writes about community transformation, cultural infrastructure, and the creative economy. He believes that the creative economy grounds itself in an active community of artists, an eternal and constant spring of respect for indigenous/multiple cultures, and finally and most importantly, cultural and economic equity.

In their recent report on the state of the arts in Colorado, the Colorado Council on the Arts issued some surprising statements on the nature of the creative economy in our communities. Indeed, it seems that Colorado is actually quite a creative state, ranking 5th nationally in terms of the concentration of artists overall; 2nd in concentration of architects, 7th in concentration of writers, designers, entertainers and performers, and 8th in concentration of photographers. Interestingly only New York, California, Massachusetts and Vermont rank higher. Here in the Northwest of Colorado, we grow arts and music festivals, visual artists hang down in the Southwest corner where the red rocks, white snow, and green pines blind us with their beauty and the literati hang in the center of the state, inspired by the clear air of the mountains and lakes.

These creative activities, industries, communities and populations are sustained through their emotional and aesthetic appeal to others as they engage in work which is inherently creative and artistic. Why is such work meaningful? Because long before we were literate, art and our artistic endeavors formed the base of a universal language and a dominant form of communicating place, identity, purpose and membership. Tom Borrup believes that creative economies and communities hold onto the distinctiveness of place, remain open to learning and reinvention and accept new ideas from unlikely places, forming common and strong bonds between those involved in local cultural practices and the economic livelihood of their communities. Drawing from the Houston based Project Row Houses, Borrup proposes that in creative communities and economies, art and creativity are woven into the very fabric of life through rituals, ceremony and other utilitarian activities; quality education and strong neighborhoods sustain social safety nets for the community and facilitate social responsibility; economic development is essential for all residents both present and future and architecture as a social practice, should make sense of and preserve a community’s character.

So, make 2009 your year to raise the arts and creative life of your community – check out our website to see and experience the extraordinary offerings here for you – see a show, hear a speaker, go to a festival, and bring your friends!

With thanks to Amanda Woodward and *Sally M* for their fantastic art!

Kirsten Broadfoot