Cyndi Palmer: Blues and Bowl melt away winter frost
With Fat Tuesday/Mardi Gras celebrations just around the corner, Grand County audiences have a chance to chase away cabin fever and those winter blues with a little soulshine from the southland.Grammy-nominated blues musician Tab Benoit is set to heat things up with two events this upcoming week. The sweet-natured Southern boy, who is an advocate for the wetlands of his home state of Louisiana, is not only the guest speaker for the Winter Park/Fraser Valley Rotary Club but plays a feature role in IMAX film Hurricane on the Bayou, which will be presented free at the Rotary meeting Tuesday.Rueben Williams, who has been his manager for 18 years, said Benoit’s music has always had a purpose behind it and that everything he does helps promote the culture of Louisiana. As one of the founding members of the Voice of the Wetlands organization, the guitarist/singer had already been raising awareness of the eroding wetlands, and Williams said there just happened to be a camera rolling along the way.The powerful film first began as a cautionary tale about what could happen to the wetlands if a hurricane hit the area and became a reality with Hurricane Katrina. It is narrated by Academy Award-winning actress Meryl Streep and also stars legendary New Orleans music producer, songwriter and Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame inductee Allen Toussaint, as well as fiddle prodigy Amanda Shaw, Queen of Gospel Marva Wright and Chubby Carrier, Zydeco accordion player.Later on in the evening on Fat Tuesday, Benoit and Louisiana’s Leroux start sizzling at Smokin’ Moe’s as they showcase the sounds the musicians grew up with. John Catt of the Grand County Blues Society, which has invited Benoit to the area for his fourth Fat Tuesday celebration in the county, said the event is their biggest party of the year.In other blues news, Catt and Maria Chavez, who is also a GCBS board member, left the county Wednesday for Memphis to check out the International Blues Challenge. The two went there to cheer on musician John-Alex Mason who was performed in Grand County at the end of December, playing his signature deep country blues at Rocky Mountain Roastery’s Java Mic Night. The incredible one-man band is the GCBS’ entry in the competition and rightly so as his Town and Country album was listed Number 1 on the Roots Music Report for at least the past week.I’m also pleased to announce several news items in the county’s culinary world. Kudos go out to four teenagers from Middle Park High School’s Pro Start culinary class who brought home a first place award for their dessert at the Chef’s Cup. Dan Walker, Levi Sapien, Joey Coucke and Josh Van Natta have bright futures ahead of them and I wish them luck at their next competition in Grand Junction Feb. 15. May the fork be with you.Congratulations go out to Chef Ken Ohlinger and his cooking team from the Ranch House Restaurant at Devil’s Thumb Resort who swept 50 percent of the awards at the Chef’s Cup. He said it was a good crowd and that everyone was really receptive. He also let me know about a second restaurant opening out at Devil’s Thumb by the end of February. The restaurant, which he says will offer casual fare, will be called Heck’s.There are some big changes afoot at the old County Seat Cafe in Hot Sulphur Springs. New chef Josh Riffle and his sous, Gabe Adams, join operations manager and cook Teresa Horne in putting the finishing touches on a new image for the restaurant, including a new name and new menu. Already well on their way to becoming local favorites are the incredibly tender pot roast and Jo Mama’s meatballs.For those of you suiting up to watch the New England Patriots play against the New York Giants during this Sunday’s big Super Bowl XLII, there are several places to watch the football game around the county. The Parshall Inn, west of Hot Sulphur Springs in Parshall, has several specials planned for the day and boasts a couple big screens to catch not only the game and those fascinating commercials, but Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers at half-time.Items to mark ahead on your calendars include the Fourth Annual Tab Benoit Classic. The Grand Elk Golf Course is hosting the golf tournament Aug. 22. Food for thought: Go ahead and play the blues if it’ll make you happy. – Dan Castellaneta.
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