Maggie's Minute June 27: A Colorado Humanities Update

Smile when you say that!

The archetype of an old west town includes balance scales and gold dust, high noons, tin stars, quick draws and dirty spittoons, dusty saloons and dag-blamed varmints on the trail of a one-eyed jack. Match that jack with a suicide king, dark lady, deuces wild, and an ace in the hole-you've got Poker. Coming up the Mississippi in the early 1800s from New Orleans as "Poque," Poker is dear to the western heart as a legendary game of savvy play, tells and keeping it close to the vest. The post-Civil War frontier of speculators, travelers and miners survived and thrived because of the hardy, pioneer attitude toward high risk, and it's hardly a wonder that gambling was popular among these rough and tumble people. When stakes and rewards were high, the gain or loss of a dollar, a horse or a homestead could be quicker than Doc Holliday's wit, and, to prevent a trader from skipping town before making good on a game, the nuts and bolts from his wagon were placed on the poker table, hence the term "bet the nuts." It's what you do with a topnotch hand. The ubiquitous poker table was found in mining camps and prairie towns all across the west, and every saloon offered prospectors, cowboys, cardsharps, dandies, railroaders, soldiers, lawmen, gunslingers and outlaws a chance to tempt or flout the hand of fate.

For your own taste of it, play Humanities Hold 'em, a fundraising tournament for Colorado Humanities Sunday, July 14, 1-5 p.m. at the Lodge Casino, Black Hawk. You might just bet the nuts and walk away a little bit richer. For those of us who are less than expert, a free hold 'em lesson at 1 p.m. offered by casino staff before the tournament starts will help. The way it works is, the more people who join the tournament, the bigger its winnings. So register now, and tell your friends to sign up, too!  Tickets are $80 per person. The deadline for registration is July 7, so best not dilly-dally, pard. To win, you gotta play!

Reminder: High Plains Chautauqua will have activities day and night, Tuesday, Aug. 6-Saturday, Aug. 10, Greeley. With the theme "Exploring Boundaries," the festival is free and will be graced by the professional portrayals of such notables as Andrew Carnegie, Booker T. Washington, Mary Shelley, Capt. William Clark, Amelia Earhart and more. Young Chautauquans, too, will take the stage to entertain you with their historical characters and amaze you with their youthful poise and expertise during each performance's Q&A session. It's a wonderful way to spend the week together with family and friends this summer.

We celebrated our Writers in the Schools this spring with anthology release parties for 73 classrooms during the 2012-2013 academic year. Our WITS writers-in-residence worked with 1,705 students in a total of 18 elementary, middle and high schools in Beulah, Boulder, Centennial, Clifton, Colorado Springs, Denver, Evans, Grand Junction, Lakewood, Parachute and Pueblo.  Selected writings by each student are included in WITS anthologies for each school. Presented to every WITS student, teacher and school library, the anthologies are also available through our online store to anyone interested in reading some of the finest K-12 prose and poetry to be found in Colorado. With irresistible titles like No Suing the Sun (Clara Metz Elementary), Like Shining Blurs (Lois Lenski Elementary) and Holey Schmoley! ¡Hijole! (Dual Immersion Academy), they're inspiring gifts for young and old alike.

We also celebrated our 22nd annual Colorado Book Awards on June 20 in Aspen. Winners were announced, including Second Nature, by Jack Collom (poetry), Kissing Shakespeare, by Pamela Mingle (young adult literature), KOP Killer, by Warren Hammond (crime/mystery), and additional outstanding reads in our 10 other literary categories of anthology, biography, children's lit, creative nonfiction, general nonfiction, genre fiction, history, juvenile lit, literary fiction and pictorial. Held at the Doerr-Hosier Center, the 2013 Colorado Book Awards was another stellar mix of Colorado's best writers, editors, photographers and other literary mavens.

Also in Aspen, our Museum on Main Street "Journey Stories" touring exhibit in partnership with the Smithsonian Institution is at the Aspen Fire Station Museum until July 10, hosted by the Aspen Historical Society. Drop by when you're in town to see this world-class exhibit. The next stop for "Journey Stories" will be Hayden with the Hayden Heritage Center hosting, July 19-Aug. 24.

Have your Colorado Humanities membership yet? It only takes a minute!

Announcing: We've received an important grant award from the National Endowment for the Humanities to design and create the Colorado Encyclopedia, a digital resource of reliable information for scholars of all ages on Colorado history and its significant contribution to the nation. Our partners for this major project are Colorado State University and University Press of Colorado, and we're fired up about the collaborative learning opportunities the encyclopedia presents. Stay tuned.

Also: The 2012 film Centennial Statehouse: Colorado's Greatest Treasure has received a 2013 Heartland Emmy nomination in the Historical Documentary Category! Having sponsored this Havey Productions film and helped distribute it in DVD format to every school and public library in the state, we're pretty proud to be a part of the accolade.

Introducing: Three new board members have come to Colorado Humanities: Donna Griego and Herman Martinez of Alamosa, and Bridget Irish of Durango. We're fortunate to have such dedicated community members at the helm of our statewide humanities efforts!  Welcome, Bridget, Donna and Herman!

Here's to your kicker at the showdown!

Maggie Coval, Executive Director.

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