August 2010


New Spin on Old Fashioned Fun

Janis and Jaz 

The sign near the door simply says, “Smile”. The playful music begins, colorful animals start their up-and-down trot and the carousel ramps up to speed. I wonder, why does anyone need to be reminded to smile? A smile seems as natural as breathing as we take our inaugural ride on the Carousel of Happiness in Nederland, Colorado.  Kangaroo and Kid

A menagerie of animals represent decades of carving by Scott Harrison. No two alike, each whimsical character embodies Harrison’s inspiration, devotion and talent. Horses dominate many carousels. Not the Carousel of Happiness, here we find a worldwide representation. From down under a  kangaroo with tiny Joey holds the whole world in it’s hands. A black and white panda represents China; an alpaca in ballet slippers comes from South America. From Africa there’s a zebra, camel, cheetah, long-necked giraffe and gorilla. A basket-like seat atop the elephant is the perfect spot for very young riders – would be maharajahs and maharanis. Of course, we note a lion and tiger and bear, oh my.Child on Elephant

From under the sea we identify a dolphin, fish and shapely mermaid. Animals native to the surrounding Rocky Mountains include a moose, lynx, coyote, a deer with real antlers and an Indian pony. Not overlooked are farm and domesticated animals – donkey, saddled pig, sheep, rabbit, St. Bernard, calico cat and a cow with real Swiss cow bell.

An ostrich and proud peacock strut their stuff while a great blue heron appears to lift into flight with a fish in it’s mouth. Folklore provides a dragon.  A duck and swans are gracefully depicted while a time conscious frog appears ready to take a flying leap

Monkey Each animal deserves a closer look to appreciate the details, spirit and attitude carved into each one. Birds perch on the moose’s broad antlers and on the tip of the upturned elephant trunk. A mouse peeks out of the furry rabbit tail. A snake winds its way up the giraffe’s neck. We find it easy to understand why each carving took about six months. Not all carvings can be ridden. A baby orangutan clings to a brass pole. Looking up, a raccoon offering a flower bouquet elicits a smile and at the very top a girl twirls in free-spirited rapture. Smaller transformational figure carvings separate the Victorian outer running boards. Swans, frogs and a child evolve from eggs to celebration stature.

Boy on Cheeta At first glance the choice of which animal to ride seems daunting. I observe as both adults and children climb atop one, change their mind and switch to a second or third choice. The solution is as simple as a smile, ride several times. At $1 per ride – child or adult – this is affordable family fun.

Enthusiasts can purchase a Carousel of Happiness Passport and keep track of each animal ridden. When they’ve made the “rounds” on all the animals they’ll receive a gift certificate for the adjacent shop.

In addition to 25 moving animals several stationary animals welcome those wanting less motion to climb aboard. A bear in red galoshes leans over the back of a bench seat while a gorilla wraps his arm around a passenger in a padded chair or a wheelchair. There’s a choice for every ability and need.

Age needs to be no consideration. Our family visit included four adults and one 11-year-old. The seventy-something had absolutely as much fun as the youthful granddaughter. The staff told about a gentleman who came for a turn on the carousel on his 101 birthday. Now, there’s a goal I can adopt.

Judy on Deer Bob in Dragon Boat Janis on Calico Cat

The story behind the Carousel of Happiness is as meaningful as the experience is magical. As a Marine serving in Viet Nam in the 1960s Harrison found solace from a small music box sent by his sister. As he listened to the Chopin etude he dreamed of a carousel in a mountain meadow.

Carousel Sign After moving to Nederland in the 1980s Harrison began carving carousel animals. Initially he used scrapes of lumber left over from constructing the family home. Soon he switched to basswood popular with craftsmen because of the ease of carving yet the durability of a hardwood. After completing several animals he heard of an antique carousel being dismantled in Utah.

Built a century ago the carousel operated in Saltair Park on a pier at the Great Salt Lake from 1910 to 1959. With the demise of Saltair the carousel resided on the grounds of the Utah State Training School in American Fork for 27 years. In 1987 the animals carved by the famed carousel creator Charles I.D. Looff were sold to collectors. Harrison purchased the working parts and pieces of the stripped carousel and brought them to Colorado to begin the restoration process.

Carousel BuildingAs a completed carousel came nearer to reality a non-profit organization was formed. The Nederland community came together in support of the project, raising funds for a building and offering volunteer construction labor. Volunteers continue in vital roles of the operating carousel.

The Carousel of Happiness officially opened Memorial Day 2010. During the summer thousands have come for the classic carousel experience, leaving with youthful joy and broad smiles.

Smile Sign

 

 

When You Go:

The Carousel of Happiness is located in the heart of Nederland at 20 Lakeview Drive, 303-258-3457. From Memorial Day to Labor Day the carousel is open daily 10am-8pm. After Labor Day it will open Monday, Thursday and Friday from noon-6pm, Saturday and Sunday 11am-6pm. There is also a gift shop and puppet theatre. The facility will open for birthday parties and private events.

Come Blow the Alphorn

Alphorn 1

The slopes of Mt. Crested Butte echo with the sonorous tones of a 14-foot- long alphorn. Not a Ricola cough drop commercial but one of the world’s foremost professional alphorn players – Arkady Shilkloper; plus, dozens of fascinated youngsters.

The Divine Family Concerts are a yearly feature of the Crested Butte Music Festival. Aimed at younger audiences, the 2010 informal concerts included Brass for Kids, Bluegrass for Kids, Legends for Kids, a children’s opera – Hansel and Gretel, and Blow the Alphorn.Alphorn 5

Russian born Arkady Shilkloper started playing the alto horn at age six and spent seven years as a cadet at the Moscow Military Music School. Today he lives in Germany and plays horn, fugelhorn and alphorn with orchestras and small groups around the world.

2010 is Shilkloper’s second summer as guest artist at the Crested Butte Music Festival. Between songs he shares history and facts about the lengthy alpine instrument. Alphorns date back at least 600 years. Traditionally the horn is carved from a single piece of wood with no lateral openings – no holes nor keys. The one Shilkloper plays for the mountain slope concert is made of carbon fiber and comprised of multiple telescoping pieces. He talks about the similarities to theAlphorn 3 indigenous Australian dijurido, renaming the alphorn an “alpurido.”

Shilkloper’s alphorn repertoire ranges from traditional Swiss songs to improvisational jazz. For the Divine Family Concert he included several of his own compositions including Alpine Trail and A Tribute to Crested Butte which he wrote after his visit five years ago.

Then it’s time for eager youngsters to step up to the mouthpiece. Eyes pop when they successfully hit a harmonious note – or two or more. Shilkloper patiently encourages the shyest and those who initially struggle in their efforts. A five-year-old face-painted “tiger” immediately succeeds with a short melodic tune and is pronounced by the maestro as a natural. When others have difficulties Shilkloper asks the “Natural” to teach them in, “kid language”. One amazing three-year-old needed no instruction. If a stockpile of alphAlphorn 2orns were available there would be an entire alphorn orchestra on the slopes of Crested Butte.

Arkady Shilkloper appears in a concert entitled Alpine Romance August 1, 2010 with the Crested Butte Festival Orchestra at the Center for the Arts.

The Crested Butte Music Festival completes its 13th season in 2010. Each year programs and concerts present a wide variety of music styles – classical, chamber, jazz, bluegrass, opera, western and more.

 

Family-Style Fried Chicken & All the Fixin’s

Grandma’s Sunday fried chicken dinner is a treasured memory from my youth. When visiting Crested Butte, Colorado we’ve established the tradition of Sunday night dinner at The Slogar for family-style platters of fried chicken and all the fixin’s.

Slogar Exterior - Large

The weathered building was built in 1882 when it was one of 18 taverns in the mining town of Crested Butte. The Slogar was the first one the miners came to each evening as they came down from the Big Mine on the Bench. Stepping into he 21st-century Slogar feels like stepping into a 19th-century movie set. The antique bar, back bar and red upholstered Victorian furniture set the stage.

As soon as we’re seated our cheerful waitress, Kelli, brings bowls of cottage cheese, tomato chutney and a relish tray with celery and carrot sticks, butter pickles and cinnamon pear slices. My favorite is the sweet/sour coleslaw made from an early 1800s Pennsylvania Dutch recipe. Is this like Grandma’s, or not?

Kelli soon returns with our drink order and a basket filled with homemade baking powder biscuits accompanied by crocks of honey butter and homemade strawberry preserves. After tasting the preserves you’ll want to purchase a couple of jars to take home. Wish I could make biscuits as good as Slogar’s to go with the strawberries!

Slogar Chicken Dinner Our waitress offers to refill any of the dishes; but, knowing what’s ahead we decline. After clearing the debris from the first round Kelli brings out a platter piled high with crispy skillet fried chicken – four pieces per person. The flavorful recipe dates back to 1915. Since I prefer dark meat I negotiate my breast for Eric’s thigh – chicken pieces, of course. We pass around the dishes of mashed potatoes, gravy and creamed whole kernel corn. Once around and the mashed potato bowl is empty. Kelli quickly brings a refill as well as more biscuits.

Our table falls silent as we dig in; after all, we’ve eaten lightly all day saving up for The Slogar. We note that the same thing happens at other tables. As soon as the main course is served conversation ceases, eating is paramount.

My only complaint is the thin gravy. Our family has always made a thick cream gravy with the chicken pan drippings; it’s hard to change expectations. Also, if they provided a bread plate one wouldn’t have to work so hard keeping the biscuit from getting soaked with thin gravy and corn cream.

As we sit back with satisfied sighs Kelli brings individual dishes of rich vanilla ice cream. We like to top the ice cream with any leftover preserves. Yum! Eric gets the doggie bag of four chicken pieces and biscuits for tomorrow’s lunch.

Slogar Sign When You Go: The Slogar Bar and Restaurant is open nightly 5-9pm. Steaks ($26.95) and a vegetarian entree are offered in addition to the fried chicken dinner. Specialty beers, wine list and full bar are available. The chicken dinner is $15.95/adult, $8.95/children 2-12, and includes ice cream, tea coffee and milk. The restaurant is located at 517 2nd St., at the corner of 2nd and Whiterock. Reservations strongly advised, 970-349-5765.

The Slogar changed ownership a couple of years ago. All the positives including traditional recipes remain. The reception, attitude and cleanliness are much improved.

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