Arts Center presents unique evening of music and poetry

Photo submitted The cast of "Last Dance at the Eagles on a Saturday Night," (left to right) author Dick Blanning, Shelley Rae Korntved, Dennis Grunkmeyer, Phil Ellsworth, Ella Allen and George Allen.

On Saturday, Nov. 3, the Grand Mesa Arts & Events Center (GMAEC) will host "Last Dance at the Eagles on a Saturday Night." The unique event features music and poetry. It runs from 6-7:30 p.m. with a $10 suggested donation at the door. It concerns adult subject matter which is not intended for youngsters.

Years ago, when local resident Dick Blanning wrote a poem called "Last Dance at the Eagles," he didn't envision that his bittersweet celebration of a small town community center dance would evolve into a full-blown production.

Blanning grew up in Aspen in the 1940-50s and he spent many a weekend downtown at the Fraternal Order of the Eagles Club on Bleeker Street. In those days the Eagles' dance hall and the dance floors of other community centers in nearby Carbondale and Basalt were overflowing with colorful characters. The unique people he encountered led him to pen his first poem and then a score of others all of which offer glimpses into the inner lives of westerners.

Part of his intent was to capture the Aspen of his boyhood and describe what small towns were like before the ski boom arrived and changed them forever. To guide his vision, he invented a dancehall in an imaginary town and named it "String Town," a handle often applied to ramshackle dwellings clustered outside the city limits. He envisioned his mythical String Town as the place where "left over" people ended up when the ski craze took over.

Some of the unvarnished characters who populate his poems are people he met and some he invented. And none of them hold back their thoughts -- which is why Blanning recommends that the performance is primarily suitable for mature audiences.

"Last Dance" was first performed at Blanning's farewell party when he retired from his post as head of the performing arts department at Michigan Tech. Saturday's GMAEC performance will be a version of that original show modified to include the talents of local performers.

Joining Blanning on stage will be Cedaredge poet and Michigan Tech colleague Phil Ellsworth. Musicians Shelley Rae Korntved on guitar and George Allen on mandolin will provide songs and musical interludes. Dennis Grunkmeyer and Ella Allen will join Blanning and Ellsworth as readers.

The arts center is located at 195 West Main Street in downtown Cedaredge. For information, call 970-856-9195.

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