Grand County River Days fills weekend |

Grand County River Days fills weekend

by Cyndi Palmer
Sky-Hi Daily News

Celebrate Grand County’s wide-open spaces as the first-ever, county-wide River Days rounds the bend in the Fraser Valley this weekend with waves of fun and educational activities, a sculpture dedication and live music.

The Winter Park/Fraser Valley Chamber of Commerce invites everyone out to learn about the relationship communities have with the rivers and forests around them with guided hikes, environmental education seminars, raptor education, a “Green” expo and a silent auction to benefit river projects. Fraser Linear Park will be host to Native Americans storytelling and inflatables for kids to play in.

The public can learn about the local waterways, reel in some fly fishing, cut over to the Lumberjack Show (logrolling, axe throwing, chainsaw cutting and other competitions), watch the sculpture unveiling and relax at Winter Park’s new outdoor amphitheater while listening to some live music during the two-day festival.

Sculptor honors Ike and the river

The long-awaited unveiling and dedication of sculptor Howard Neville’s statue of Dwight D. “Ike” Eisenhower fishing the Fraser River will take place at 10 a.m. Saturday, beside the Fraser fishing ponds (next to Safeway).

The event, made possible through the Fraser River Valley Lions Club, began two years ago when Neville came to the club with the idea of a 9-foot bronze statue commemorating the former president’s frequent visits to the area.

Club member Kirk Klancke and many others know America’s 34th president made Fraser his “Western White House” and loved to fish in its rivers. The Lions and Neville collaborated to sell miniature replicas of the statue to generate donations for the larger-than-life statue planned for the river dedication. A limited supply of the miniature version is still available.

Fundraising branched out and more than 100 Grand County’s businesses and residents showed their support, in part Klancke believes, because “Ike was known as a pleasant, very reachable person.”

Eisenhower was also one of America’s best-loved military leaders and presidents. It was during the 1952 campaign that he first caught sight of Byers Peak Ranch and he returned to the Fraser Valley every year until his death in 1955.

When he wasn’t conducting the regular duties of office, he could be found out painting and loved to cook flapjacks, trout and steaks (bills signed in the Fraser Valley included the Social Security Reform Bill, a Farm Bill, one that opened several nuclear power plants, and one outlawing the Communist party in the United States).

A majority of his free time was spent fishing ” favorite spots were St. Louis Creek and the Fraser River, headwater tributaries to the Colorado River and quite fitting as the statue’s new location.

“The Fraser River today is not the same river that attracted Ike in the 1950s,” Klancke said. “The FRVLC, through this project, is also focusing on the plight of Grand County’s rivers. The need for balance between Colorado’s growth and Colorado’s natural environment ” which attracted Ike then and millions of visitors each year today ” remains a concern for all Coloradans.”

The club invites the community to come out in honor of the rivers and area Eisenhower loved so much, and the rich history he and they have carved into the community.

Almost $100,000 in cash and in-kind services has been raised from a total of 120 business and individual donors who have contributed to the project so far. They and others interested in sponsoring the project are to be recognized through bronze plaques and bricks throughout the garden.

Wonderland brings melodic soul to the Fraser Valley

Fraser and Winter Park are up for a treat as soulful blues artist Carolyn Wonderland performs at two locations this weekend.

“There is not a day without music in my life,” said the red-locked sultry songstress who used to sneak out growing up to listen at the local clubs. Now, one of Austin, Texas’ best-kept secrets, she has burst onto the national scene after being established as the “heir-apparent” of Texas blues legends (her sound has been said to be reminiscent of Janis Joplin and Stevie Ray Vaughan).

Wonderland is tuning up her vocal chords and guitars for what promises to be an incredible set at Smokin’ Moe’s at Cooper Creek Square in Winter Park starting at 9 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 9. Then, Wonderland plays a free concert during the Grand County River Days noon to 1 p.m. and again 3 to 4 p.m. Sunday at Hideaway Park in Winter Park.

Cole El-Saleh (keys and keybass) and Michael “Lefty” Lefkowitz (drums) will be joining her for both performances as part of a trio that has been touring with her for the better part of this past year. (Acoustic world/reggae artist REL-I performs as the live music feature noon to 1 p.m. and 2 to 3 p.m. Saturday for the River Days event.)

She has had the honor of playing at the Blues from the Top festival for several years, has played New Year’s Eve at Smokin’ Moe’s, and the Wonderland performance Friday, brought to the area once again by the Grand County Blues Society, offers a more intimate setting for a mere $10 admittance.

The GCBS, through proceeds from concerts like this one at Smokin’ Moe’s, was able to get Wonderland to make a stop in the Fraser Valley while touring in support of her new release “Miss Understood.”

“So you see, it’s a serious love affair we have with your area,” she said. “You folks really have it going on. I’d like to thank everyone in Colorado for making us feel at home, all ways.”

Her deep-seeded soulful blues-inspired music has made her a favorite of musical legend Bob Dylan and her newest (seventh) album, produced by “that amazing cat” nine-time Grammy winner Ray Benson of Asleep at the Wheel, reached No. 14 on the Billboard Blues Chart. It features six new songs from Wonderland, as well as rare work by Bruce Robison, J.J. Cale, Rick Derringer, Lloyd Maines and Terri Hendrix.

Everything in the world inspires her ” love, fear, conversations, ideas, and that her biggest influences, many of which she grew up listening to in Houston, include Joe Guitar Hughes, Jerry Lightfoot, and Little Kenny Blachet.

She said she feels something spiritual every time she touches a guitar and that connection has also been felt with her audiences for the last 10 years she has been playing and singing.

“Sometimes the best prayer that I have to offer on a given day is to share what I can play,” she said. “There’s an intention I put with it: May the ‘spirit of good’ go through what I do. Let the music be the vessel. Then get out of the way.”

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