The Council Tree, once a gathering place for people of the Arapahoe and Cheyenne tribes, has been replaced by a stretch of I-25. But people of all backgrounds are reclaiming northern Colorado as a place to exchange cultures and ideas. "Over 21 different tribes considered northern Colorado their home," notes Beth Higgins, development coordinator for the Fort Collins Museum, host of today's Crossroads at the Council Tree Native American Music Festival.
The free event presents a lineup as varied as the prairie grasses that covered the area long ago. Although all of the performers are of Native American ancestry and many are enrolled members of tribes, their styles are diverse. Denver's Julian B. is a hip-hop artist, while the Atoll, a Fort Collins band, plays world-groove tunes influenced by reggae, rock and Native American rhythms. Rose Red Elk of Boulder is a singer-songwriter and storyteller, and South Dakota's Jackie Bird performs traditional healing hoop dances as well as self-described "Indian blues rock." Emcee Chance Rush, a motivational speaker and comedian, will lash it all together.
The festival presents a fine opportunity for collaboration: The schedule is set, but an element of suspense remains. Even organizers don't know exactly what to expect. It's hard to say whether Jackie Bird will perform a hoop dance, a blues set or both, or whether Julian B. will perform solo or with a mysterious guest. Whatever the artists decide, the outcome is sure to be a dynamic melting pot of musical talent.
"Working with members of the Native American community has been a great learning experience," says Higgins.
The Crossroads celebration takes place at the museum's Library Park from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Vendors will sell food and beverages as well as Native American artwork. The museum itself, at 200 Matthews Street, will be open (and free), with a featured exhibit titled Activist Posters From Indian Communities.
A 7 p.m. performance by Indigenous, a blues band that has opened for Bob Dylan and Dave Matthews, will cap the day's activities at Fort Collins's Lincoln Center, 417 West Magnolia Street; tickets are $16. Call 1-970-221-6738 for more information. -- Jonelle Wilkinson Seitz
Insignia collectors rally their troops
Local military enthusiast Steve Johnson, vice president of the American Society of Military Insignia Collectors, has been hoarding shoulder patches, wings, medals, flags, uniforms, hats, field gear and other military items since he was a boy in rural Georgia during the Korean War. Back in 1952, his brother paid another kid a nickel for a bag of patches and shared it with Johnson. Before long, the retired engineer admits, "Word got around that we'd spend our lunch money on those things." It was the beginning of a lifelong addiction he shares with ASMIC's 3,000 or so members, a collection in itself of folks from all walks of life. The motley crew will gather this weekend to sell and swap items at the ASMIC 2003 National Convention and Show, which opens to the public from noon to 8 p.m. today and continues through Sunday at the Holiday Inn DIA, 15500 East 40th Avenue. "Some have been in the military, and some were military kids who'd follow the soldiers around and bug them for things," Johnson explains, but proximity to the armed forces isn't a prerequisite. All it takes is an undying fascination with the stuff. "You just have to have some kind of twisted gene for it," he says.
Johnson says ASMIC aims to draw newcomers to the pastime, which some consider a dying avocation. "We hope to appeal to all those people who've just opened their granddad's trunk in the attic. Some people collect beer cans or comic books, but our hobby actually has some historical significance." Admission is $6; call 303-277-1077. -- Susan Froyd
Ring of Fire
It's going to be hotter than blazes this weekend as chili chefs in their peppery best compete in Winter Park's Famous Flame Throwers High Altitude Chili Cook Off. The masters of the "honest bowl of red" will turn up the heat at the International Chili Society's sanctioned event. The Village at Winter Park, which has hosted the spicy gathering for over twenty years, ignites with the Tequila Shoot N' Holler (for those over 21) and a pickled-jalapeño-eating contest (for those with an iron gut). The wild weekend is both a colorful crowd-pleaser and serious business. "These people are the very best of the best," says Karen Gadberry, Winter Park's director of guest services. "The Cook Off attracts some of the top chili-heads from around the nation."
Admission is free, but taste tickets (three for a dollar) will garner a sample of peppery potions with names like Red River of Death, Atomic Blast and Chernobyl Chili. The Cook Off runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today and Sunday, with proceeds benefiting the National Sports Center for the Disabled. Call 303-316-1689 or visit www.skiwinterpark.com or for details.
Feel the burn. -- Kity Ironton
Plein as Day
Estes Park painters perform a quick draw
Plein Air (or on-location) painters move in their own little culture; for them, there's no test of artistic skill more challenging than that exacting exercise in light, line and color that occurs totally in the moment, using a limited set of tools and a very sharp eye. They have only one chance to paint what they see, and if they don't get it right away, it's gone forever. And that explains why 145 artists from across the nation have be setting up their easels outdoors at spots around Estes Park for the past couple of weeks. The fruits of their evanescent labor will go on display for Estes Park Plein Air 2003, a painters' paradise taking place today and tomorrow in downtown Estes with a full schedule of events. Official judging begins at 10 a.m. today, and a Plein Air Artwalk and participatory Peoples' Choice and Artists' Choice judgings follow at noon; awards will be announced at 4 p.m., and gallery receptions will be held at several Estes Park venues this evening. The artwalk continues tomorrow from noon to 5 p.m.; exhibits remain on display through the end of September. For more information, log on to www.paintingtheparks.com or www.rmpaplochvale.com. -- Susan Froyd