For the past twenty years, Denver has had a special connection to Antarctica, primarily because the firms that support the U.S. government's research there have operated here, training the hundreds of employees who spend up to a year on the continent. After spending time on "the Ice," however, many former employees come back to Denver or decide to stay here, developing a bond over having done time on the coldest, most inhospitable point on the planet.
Which is why a group of Antarctica vets living in Denver, including members of bands like Monroe Monroe and Crash, wanted to do something to help the people of Christchurch, New Zealand, after a devastating February 22 earthquake destroyed the central business district and killed nearly 200 people. Christchurch is the city that almost everyone flies through to get to Antarctica -- and it's the first place they see once they return.
"It's a beautiful city with great gardens and fantastic weather," says Jon Emanuel, executive chef at Denver's Project Angel Heart and the former top dog in the kitchen at South Pole Station. "Coming back in February, which is their spring, you fly into the Christchurch airport. You are coming directly from the ice where you haven't seen a tree or a dog or a child for at least four months and you land at Christchurch airport and...you can immediately smell freshly cut grass and flowers in bloom.
"When you have a place that gives you so much comfort after being in a place that is so challenging, you naturally have a strong bond to that place," adds Emanuel, who worked at the South Pole for each of its summers between 1999 to 2005. "Plus, the locals are an amazing, outgoing group who are great to be around. It's a happy place."
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After the earthquake, Emanuel and another ice vet, longtime Denver-area punk rocker Jay Fox of Crash, decided to organize a fundraiser. The result is Ice-Aid for Rebuilding Christchurch, a concert and party on Saturday, April 16 at the Bug Theatre that will raise money for the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal Fund.
There will be half a dozen bands, most featuring musicians who have performed on the Ice, including headliner Monroe Monroe, whose lead singer, Frank Abbatecola, worked in Antarctica, and folk band Bone Orchard Revival.
There will also be a live auction and food from the Steuben's truck. Doors open at 5 p.m., with the first band scheduled to take the stage at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 at the door. In addition to the fundraiser, employees of Raytheon Polar Services, which currently holds the government contract in Antarctica, have been raising money with other events.
For more information, see the Facebook page, Ice-Aid for Rebuilding Christchurch.