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Part 2: Craig City Council candidates address economy, recreation, marijuana at election forum

Editor's note: This is the second of a two-part story about the Craig Press/Craig Association of Realtors candidate forum held Monday in advance of the April 2 municipal election. Part one, featuring candidates for Craig mayor, was published Wednesday and is available online at CraigDailyPress.com/politics

A slate of six city council hopefuls, some of whom only relatively became residents of Craig, were given the opportunity to introduce themselves to voters at the Craig Press/Craig Association of Realtors candidate forum, held Monday, March 18, at Moffat County High School in advance of the April 2 municipal election.

The two-part forum began with a modified debate between mayoral candidates, summarized in the Wednesday edition of the Craig Press and online.

Council candidates — Paul James, Eric Simo, Joshua Veenstra, Steven Mazzuca, Brian MacKenzie, and Stephen Tucker — are in the running for three seats opened by Joe Bird, who has reached his term limit; Derek Duran, who decided not to run for re-election; and Jarrod Ogden — who is challenging incumbent Craig Mayor John Ponikvar.

Each candidate made opening and closing remarks and responded to a series of six questions, solicited from readers and posed by Steamboat Pilot & Today Editor Lisa Schlichtman, who moderated the forum on behalf of Craig Press Editor Jim Patterson.

The forum was streamed live and can be viewed on the Craig Press Facebook page.

A summary of each candidate's responses, appearing in the order they first spoke, follows.

Eric Simo

Craig City Council candidate Eric Simo talks the economy at Tuesday’s election forum.

From Columbus, Indiana and now working at "John Deere in Craig," Eric Simo said, "I'm the newest person in the community. I've been here one year and one month. I came here and fell in love."

Simo is running on a platform of economic development, a "passion" that he believes requires "focus on the future and enticing new business to the community."

Simo said he is in favor of the following:

• Build a recreation center in Craig, expressing his willingness to "take a little increase" in taxes to see that it’s done.

• Put the question of recreational marijuana sales within Craig city limits on the ballot. Simo said: "I don't believe anyone should be denied something that is legal." He added that tax revenue from its sale could be used to pay the costs of a recreation center. He said he’d like to see the question on the ballot to "let the people have that choice once and for all."

• Provide support to Moffat County Libraries as a "fundamental right … I think the city should be taking on responsibility," he said, but qualified that grant funds — not tax dollars — should be sought to support the Museum of Northwest Colorado.

When it comes to managing a budget, Simo said experience owning a hardscape company, with a crew of eight and handling multiple, large-scale contracts would, along with the help of the city manager, help him oversee the city budget.

Most candidates described a similar level of fiscal experience, but as for a city budget, "none of us have any experience … with city’s help, we can move forward," Simo said.

When combining the words transparency and government, Simo laughed, before saying, "I agree we need it." He feels one simple solution is to record the meetings and post them online.

"I encourage everyone to come to the meetings … it is so easy to sit at home and complain. … Come to the meetings; let's work together; let's make Craig great," he said.

Paul James

Craig City Council candidate Paul James addresses the audience at Tuesday’s election forum.

A member of the Committee to Grow Craig, Paul James has, "been here my entire life." He said he believes in diversifying the economy, beginning with the legalization of retail marijuana.

"I'm pretty concerned about the next five years," he said, adding Craig shouldn't oppose any business.

"Definitely pro-cannabis," James said he believes in the following:

• Learning more information before supporting a mill levy to raise money for a recreation center. He added the idea of forming a special district for that purpose "does make me feel more comfortable." He's also in favor of using revenue from cannabis sales to fund such a center, should sale of recreational marijuana become legal.

• The legalization of the sale and growth of recreational marijuana. "This has been the work of my life the last three years,” he said. “It's frustrating. … Had we allowed it in the first year, Craig would not have had a budget crisis. Now, it won't solve all of our problems, but would help.”

• Looking at the option of running the museum more like a business, with an admission fee or "selling the museum to a private owner." He said he would consider asking voters to fund the library, though he said, " I feel hesitant to get the government more involved."

• Constant taxation is "unsustainable."

James said his experience managing the Craig Apothecary "pretty much by myself the last five years …" has given him an understanding of taxes and experience with numbers.

Social media is one tool James would encourage the city to use to "engage everyone." He also agreed with Simo that, "… streaming the meetings is a good idea and necessary."

Steven Mazzuca

Craig City Council candidate Steven Mazzuca discusses talking points at Tuesday’s election forum.

U.S. Army veteran Steven Mazzuca is originally from Gunnison. He served in 2003 and during the Iraqi invasion — operation Iraqi Freedom.

He works for Comcast in Steamboat Springs, but said, "I choose to live in Craig, because it aligns with my values. … I believe in community, small business, and small business growth."

Mazzuca said he supports the following:

• A recreation center, but "I don't want my taxes to increase," he said. He'd like to see costs paid for, in part, by tenants. "Yes I support it, but we have to pay for it … and the community has to invest in going there to continue to pay for it," he said.

• Recreational marijuana on the ballot because "we should always have the voice of the people heard. … We didn't outlaw it in Craig. You can smoke it, grow it … what have we gained by not selling it?" He's also concerned that some people may be driving under the influence of marijuana between Dinosaur and Steamboat Springs as a result of not being able to purchase it at local shops. He added that, by restricting one type of business, Craig is also losing out on secondary businesses, such as shops selling lights and irrigation systems.

• The city to be conservative and not pay for the library or museum until such time as business growth trends upward. "In our current state I would not be willing to help," he said.

As part of a Fortune 500 company, Mazzuca said he manages "an entire cable system …" that includes a budget. About transparency, he said it is "one of the most important things, next to honesty."

Josh Veenstra

Craig City Council candidate Josh Veenstra delivers his opening statement at Tuesday’s election forum.

Owner of Good Vibes River Gear, Josh Veenstra said he would like to see a focus on recreation in the area.

"We live in one of the most untapped areas of recreation in the area," he said.

He believes recreational amenities are "what will bring people here to allow them to bring business here …" because "it allows their employees to have a great quality of life. … Let's get outside and explore."

Veenstra's vision for Craig includes support of the following:

• A recreation center to bring a "sense of pride" to the community. He added that he believes a special recreation district that includes Hayden would be more feasible and easier for the public to accept.

• Legalization of marijuana, and a council that is more responsive to the will of the people, rather than influenced by a few.

"I do fairly well at managing time and money," Veenstra said before describing the growth he's achieved in becoming "one of the biggest names in mesh gear …" He added that he organizes 21-day Grand Canyon river trips that are "managed to the penny."

Making sure the government operates transparently is about "being honest with everyone," rather than being worried about "getting reelected," Veenstra said. "Lay it out on the table … being upfront and honest will get you a lot further with the community."

Stephen Tucker

Craig City Council candidate Stephen Tucker speaks as Brian MacKenzie looks on at Tuesday’s election forum.

From a "homesteading family," Stephen Tucker said he "fought many years to get to Craig …" Of the city, he said, "it's where my heart is a … I want to see our kids staying here. They all leave town."

Tucker said he believes building a recreation center is important in the effort to keep families here and would seek funding from the mines and the power plant to pay for it.

He also supports the following:

• Removing sales tax from groceries.

• Having the question of legalized marijuana on the ballot.

• Rolling the library into a recreation center. He said the museum "is great …" that he loves to go there, and that his family has donated artifacts to it. "I think we need to keep it open somehow," he said.

Tucker said the 12 years he spent managing a homeowners' association saw him "budgeting, allocating, overseeing vendors, making sure every penny was well spent. I didn't want to raise rates and feel like 'why do I live here,'" he said.

Instead, Tucker said, he gave people reasons to live within the development that included such measures as opening a pool for 12 months of the year.

"Why have a swimming pool that you can't use in the winter?,” he wondered, adding that a recreation center proposal "would have that. I hate seeing the kids have to go to Meeker just for swimming."

In addition to honesty and transparency, Tucker said he believes people need to feel included.

"When I was president of the board, we didn't sit in front of you. We had a big table … when you came to our meetings you didn't feel like you were sitting in the audience, you felt part of the group. … That's what the city needs — to make people feel part of it."  

Brian MacKenzie

Craig City Council candidate Brian MacKenzie emphasizes a point at Tuesday’s election forum.

Wearing a jacket "covered" in terrier fur, because his dog "loves this jacket and won't stay off it," Brian MacKenzie said he moved to Craig from New York 2 ½ years ago to work at the college. After leaving the college he chooses to stay in Craig because "I love this community."

He described being active in community initiatives, including the effort to bring broadband internet services to Craig and developing a community brand. Now, he said, "I want to be that voice for you in city council and that's why I'm running.”

MacKenzie also said he supports the following:

• The creation of a "community center." MacKenzie added he would support other citizen-led initiatives, such as the group working toward an art and cultural center. He said he’s not in favor of increasing property taxes, however, recounting the tax hikes he faced in New York, he said, "I'm not going to allow that to happen here in Craig. We deserve better. We don't deserve the taxes."

• A recreational marijuana question on the ballot. "This is America. This is a democracy. Put it on the ballot, and let the voters vote," he said.

• City help in funding the library, but not the museum. He said he believes the museum can be funded in "other ways that are not taxpayer based."

After college, MacKenzie went into retail management, then worked 15 years in the marketing field “with large companies … we managed their budgets.” He said he later worked with the budget as Colorado Northwestern Community College's director of marketing.

MacKenzie noted that, in general, people are not good communicators and said it was necessary to "get the message out there and make sure it is accurate.”

In closing, many of the candidates reminded residents, as Tucker said, to "get out and vote."

Clay Thorp and Andy Bockelman contributed to this report. Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.

Student nurses wow Memorial Regional Health providers

During the eighth annual poster presentation held recently at The Memorial Hospital, second-year nursing students from Colorado Northwestern Community College spoke to providers about their research and ideas to improve medical care.

“For the Peoples Choice, and most thought-provoking poster, the winner was Tiffany Ford, with her poster on genetic testing for choosing anti-depressants,” CNCC nursing faculty Julie Alkema wrote in an email. Alkema added that the recognition for the poster with “the Evidence-Based Practice you (providers) are most likely to incorporate” was a tie between Ford and Makala Sheridan. Sheridan’s research explored the use of clean versus sterile dressings.

At least two students provided ideas about affordable, non-opioid options for pain treatment, such as the use of a TENS device — a small, portable, and powerful electrotherapy unit — which student Amy Nielson believes would provide relief for some patients. Student Taylor Schmidt, who said she’d like to be an obstetrician-gynecologist, presented her research on using nitrous oxide instead of epidurals during childbirth. Student Natasha Goncalves presented on the pain-relieving power of yoga.

Some students used their posters to present population intervention comparison and outcomes. Student Allie Herring considered what is safer, eight or 12-hour nursing shifts, and concluded eight-hour shifts result in fewer nursing mistakes. The relationship between antibiotics and the development of food allergies was the topic of student nurse Megan Gerloff’s poster.

Student nurse Tessa Briggs took a look at the benefits of on-site daycare for hospital staff, while Kylee Rodriguez looked at the role of oral care in preventing “device infections,” which can lead to pneumonia. Sadye Morgan described patients’ increased propensity to bath when given the choice to use chlorhexidine wipes, and Yunira Gomez presented her finding on reducing “alarm fatigue.”

Alkema began the poster program eight years ago as a penultimate project for student nurses planning to graduate her advanced medical-surgical program for the care of acutely ill adults.

Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.

Moffat County, Rio Blanco students assist CPW deer research

The health of mule deer herds in Northwestern Colorado has been the subject of a special Colorado Parks and Wildlife research project since 2008.

Recently, students from Moffat and Rio Blanco counties lent a hand to capture and study mule deer south of Meeker.

Moffat County High School senior Johnathon Macks shared his photos of the day, and CPW Mammals Research Leader Chuck Anderson took the time to explain more about what researchers,  volunteers were doing and why.

Craig Press: What was done?
Chuck Anderson: We used helicopter net-gunning to capture 80 adult female mule deer to assist with a long-term research project addressing mule deer and energy development interactions. This project was initiated in 2008 and will end in December 2019.

Why is the research being done?
To address mule deer responses to energy development activity and develop “best management practices” to inform future development planning to benefit wintering mule deer populations.

What equipment was used?
GPS radio-collars collecting precise locations every five hours and stored on the collar were replaced with temporary VHF radio collars that can only be tracked from the ground or aircraft. Collars were replaced so that habitat use patterns could be evaluated for the last year of the study. Captured deer received transmitters to allow birth detections in the spring, where field crews will be directed to newborn fawns to attach expandable collars for monitoring their survival over summer. We used portable ultrasound equipment to measure late winter body fat/condition and determine pregnancy and fetal rates — the number of fawns per doe. Body measurements and weights were also documented.

Who assisted?
CPW personnel assigned to the project, from Area 6 and our state capture vet and capture technician; high school students from Meeker and Craig, and Mule Deer Foundation members from Rifle.

How did it go?
The capture went well.  Snow conditions and temperatures were good to excellent for helicopter capture efforts and no significant injuries or moralities were documented.

Editor’s note: Moffat County High School senior Johnathon Macks assisted CPW and contributed the photos for this story. Craig Press will have a longer story about the research in future editions. 

Moffat County theater examines love, life, pleasure, pain in ‘The Giver’

The vibrant red of a piece of fruit. The cool thrills of a sled ride through fresh snow. The ear-splitting terror of audio from wartime explosions.

These brief sensory experiences are something modern society might take for granted, but for someone who’s been numb to virtually everything, they can be completely life-altering.

Therein lies the many messages of the Moffat County High School spring play, “The Giver.”

The MCHS theater department presents Eric Coble’s stage adaptation of Lois Lowry’s young adult novel with shows this week at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, as well as a 1:30 p.m. Saturday matinee at MCHS, 900 Finley Lane. Tickets are $7 apiece.

The production depicts a futuristic community in which certain parts of life are simplified — the climate never changes, all members serve assigned functions, children are conceived with surrogates and placed with approved families.

Altogether, choices and emotions are minimal and rules are many.

A young member of this pleasant yet passionless place, Jonas (Sambu Shrestha), is on the verge of being given the job he’ll perform for the rest of his life.

But, he’s quite dumbfounded when he learns his new role will be as the Receiver of Memory, a unique career that will require solitude and special training from the current holder of the position (Maria Sanchez-Silva).

His new instructor promptly opens his eyes to exhilarating memories of the past, but with those come Jonas’s realization of how none of the people around him have any knowledge of how the world used to be. For that matter, the more he learns, the more he comes to see just how flawed his home is.

The play is the final show for Shrestha, an MCHS senior.

“It’s pretty thrilling. because you want to go out with a bang,” he said. “I’m definitely appreciating that it’s a really bizarre experience.”

His role is nearly the polar opposite from Ponyboy Curtis, Shrestha’s starring role in last year’s “The Outsiders.” While Jonas is arguably more intelligent than the average adolescent, he is far more sheltered and naive and unaware of pain beyond a skinned knee.

“Each day with The Giver is something new, and just to experience it all is a little much for him,” he said.

As the title character, Sanchez-Silva portrays an aging beacon of wisdom, whose only job is to carry the burden of knowing how life used to be — good and bad. And, though the Receiver of Memory is meant to be a valued part of the community’s leadership, they have little say in most of its operations.

Still, with training someone new, hope endures that the next generation will be able to change minds.

“Giving the emotions to Jonas, that gives him the ability to go out and create more opportunities in the community,” she said.

Playing a part that is written as male in Lowry’s book and the 2014 film adaptation provides a new twist, Sanchez-Silva added.

“I think it gives it a different perspective,” she said.

Among the downsides of Jonas’s world is that people no longer have a perception of color. All costumes are black, gray and white, though the young protagonist begins to see new hues as part of his awakening.

That’s where the Moffat County lighting and sound crew comes in, as the technical elements of the play allow the audience to share the rush of excitement that comes when Jonas takes on new memories, with bursts of crimson, visions of snow, and more.

“It’s really our job to bring everything to life,” said crew member Hunter Petree. “War is a big one, we have explosions, flashing red lights, it’s all really intense, and we try to enhance that. We’re experimenting with a new kind of mold that gives us a rainbow. It’s nothing too exciting for some people on the outside, but it’s all new for us.”

Grace Pomeleo, the show’s director and MCHS’s theater and music teacher, said she considers the tech crew a “lead role” with how they boost everything happening onstage from the booth.

“It’s a huge creative challenge, but I think it’ll be really exciting for the audience to see how those things are pulled off,” she said.

Between the visual and audio and acting talents, it all comes together to present a debate — safety with many restrictions versus a riskier but richer life.

“The main conversation is, ‘Is it worth not having pain in life if you also don’t have joy?'” Pomeleo said. “It’s about being able to make choices, sometimes right sometimes wrong, but it’s all part of life.

Craig Walmart shoppers showered with swag, snow for wearing seat belts Sunday

Members of the team responsible for dispatching emergency responders stepped out from behind their computers Sunday to meet residents and reward them for buckling up.

“I think it’s great, especially for the younger generation. I always have to remind my kids to buckle up,” said shopper Laura Houston.

Houston was among about a 20 Craig Walmart shoppers to receive small gifts from Colorado State Patrol Craig Regional Communication Center dispatch staff on Sunday, March 10, in CSP’s effort to meet the public and raise awareness about the importance of wearing seat belts.

It was not an enforcement effort, but CSP dispatch supervisor Carlene Sanders did use the opportunity to remind some drivers and passengers of the importance of buckling up.

A driver she approached told Sanders he was wearing his seat belt because a family member had recently been killed while not wearing one.

“It reinforces what we are trying to do here,” Sanders said.

She was accompanied on a snowy afternoon by dispatcher Isabel Valdez.

Valdez was initially a little hesitant to approach drivers, but after their initial surprise, drivers reacted positively, making for a fun afternoon, she said.

Throughout March, CSP communication officers will continue showing up in Craig parking lots and streets, and at intersections, to surprise people who are wearing their seat belts.

"We will be in parking lots at businesses and schools watching for people pulling in wearing seat belts. We will thank them for buckling up and give them swag," Sanders said.

Communications officers will clearly identify themselves and will be wearing polo shirts with the Colorado State Patrol logo — a flying wheel on the left — or their CSP hoodies and lanyards with official CSP identification.

"We are not asking anything of them, so don't give out any personal information," Sanders said.

For more information or to verify a communication officers' identities, call dispatch at 970-824-6501.

In the event of an emergency, call 911.

Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 orsnelson@CraigDailyPress.com.

Moffat County hockey earns shutout victory, last-minute loss in playoff tourney

DENVER — As the snow came down across the state, many may have been seeking out warmer opportunities, but Moffat County Bulldog hockey was staying cool on the Front Range.

Bulldogs went 1-1 during the weekend’s Colorado Recreational Hockey League playoff tournament, a single-elimination event that saw the Northwest Colorado squad enter as the top team.

At 11-0 in official league play, the Dogs held first place in the conference and earned a first-round bye to start the tourney, setting them up for the quarterfinals against Northern Colorado, out of Fort Collins, which Moffat County swept 9-3 and 8-3 in a doubleheader when the Junior Eagles came to Craig.

Bulldogs didn’t run up the score nearly as much this time around but still skated away with a healthy win in a 4-0 shutout Saturday at Littleton’s Ice Ranch.

Wyatt Boatright knocked in the first goal in less than a minute, with 53 seconds off the clock when he scored off an assist from Corey Scranton.

Garett Stockman promptly followed on the scoreboard in about another 30 seconds, aided by Clay Durham and Grady Anson.

The next Moffat County goal took some time, but Boatright put it in about 10 minutes into the second period with Grady Anson and AJ Barber getting the assists. Boatright made it thrice as nice with a hat trick unassisted to close the period.

“It was a good first game so we could get a feel for the rest of the tournament,” Barber said. “We came out and made sure we didn’t underestimate them. For so many years, we’d come out and teams would do that to us, but then we’d beat them.”

On the other end, Bulldog goalie Jack Doane’s work was limited to five saves as heavy defense by Logan Knez, Garret Anson, Jesse Earle and the rest of the MoCo crew kept the Eagles slowed.

“We just kept pressuring, pressuring, pressuring,” Logan said. We started out strong and kind of cooled off a little bit in the second period there, but the whole team just went out on fire.”

Head coach Tim Knez noted he didn’t want players to think Northern Colorado would provide no challenge.

“Every weekend is a different game,” he said.

Sunday morning saw the Dogs suit up at Centennial’s Family Sports Center for the semifinals against the Littleton Hawks.

A swift score by the Hawks’ Alex Bowen got the Bulldogs behind at the beginning, only for Barber and Boatright to open the second period with one goal each, the two both providing the pass to the other for the score.

As it looked like the Bulldogs would move on to the championship game that afternoon, Littleton came back to life in the final two minutes of the game as Luc Forrest scored a tying goal and Bowen got the go-ahead to give the Hawks the 3-2 win, later moving on to take the tourney title with a 2-0 victory against Hyland Hills.

The Bulldogs, 19-4-1, will complete the season this weekend with a series in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Battle of the Bulldogs: Moffat County basketball faces off with University to start state tourney

EATON — Thanks to a mix-up with their uniforms, Moffat County High School girls varsity basketball players will have at least one memorable anecdote about the start of the 3A state tournament.

But, donning different colors Friday will likely be the thing they’ll remember the most about the close of the season.

MCHS girls fell 50-41 in an upset by Greeley’s University Bulldogs, the tourney’s No. 21 seed compared to Moffat County at 12th.

In what was set to be a battle of the Bulldogs, MoCo girls instead headed out on the court of Eaton High School — one of eight hosts of the weekend’s regional events, the Round of 32 and Saturday’s Sweet 16 — dressed in the jerseys of the Fightin’ Reds, borrowing the attire of Eaton players after an issue with their own home jerseys, which they were required to wear as the higher seed.

Despite being clad in white and scarlet instead of their usual royal blue while tipping off against their navy doppelgangers, Bulldog pride — Red Dog? — was prevalent from the start as Madie Weber drained a three-pointer to kick things off with Kinlie Brennise following suit.

Tiffany Hildebrandt put up one from the post, while Weber added a layup and sophomore Emaleigh Papierski sunk her own shot from beneath as the first non-senior to score for MCHS in the match to put them ahead 12-10 to end the first period.

Freshman Halle Hamilton sunk a 3 to start the second quarter with Hildy back in the paint, Brennise adding another triple and Papierski a hook shot to get the Lady Dogs their biggest lead of the night at 22-15.

However, University barked back, adding another nine points off a combination of high-pressure jumpers and free throw success, overtaking MoCo at 24-22 to end the opening half.

After keeping the pace slow, University played stall ball for a good minute in the third period before Moffat County’s Jaidyn Steele got fed up with the tactic, snatched the ball and got a fastbreak bucket to tie it at 24.

Hamilton’s first trip to the foul line got it evened up again at 26, but from there, University got on a run, adding 13 straight points before Hamilton and Brennise thundered back down the court to get back on track with a combined six to make it 39-32 going into the last quarter.

“They got on a roll, and we just struggled. We did get on our own run for a bit, but we never should have got down by that many,” Hamilton said.

University doubled down on their keep-away antics to keep the clock ticking and their shooting minimal, while Lady Dogs’ attempts on the rim weren’t falling as frequently as they needed, with their increased defensive efforts creating late free throw opportunities for U’s Daphne Halverson and Taylor Gollhofer.

“We had our chances to be better, and sometimes the ball just doesn’t roll your way,” MCHS coach Jim Loughran said. “We had seniors who did a lot for us. I thought we played well. We cooled off a little, but we played well.”

MCHS ends the year 17-6, while University moves to 14-9 and faces Patriot League rival Eaton in Saturday’s Sweet 16 after the Reds downed MoCo’s fellow Western Slope team Coal Ridge 48-33 Friday.

In senior scoring, Brennise had 10 points, Weber nine, Hildy five and Steele two in what would be their final high school game.

“I’ll definitely miss these girls,” Weber said.

Though not all the seniors were able to finish the season — Quinn Pinnt couldn’t travel to Eaton following surgery — upperclassman Brittnee Meats noted the night was a memorable one if not the ending the team desired.

“It was a rough, bittersweet last game, but we fought,” she said.

Having to switch jerseys took them by surprise, she added, though even with the different numbers and color scheme, it was hardly a factor in game play.

“A uniform’s a uniform,” Meats said. “It was definitely a good year, good memories.”

Hamilton led the team in total points with 11, while Papierski added four. Juniors Stephenie Swindler and Jenna Timmer also collected multiple minutes, while Hamilton’s fellow freshmen, Rylie Felten, Reese Weber and Jacie Evenson, filled out the rest of the roster.

Felten rotated in repeatedly, which she said was “nerve-wracking” given the playoff atmosphere.

“I think everybody was kind of nervous and overwhelmed, but it was so much fun. Having all the seniors there to encourage us and help us through was so awesome,” Felten said.

The introductory season to MCHS hoops was one Hamilton said she will cherish, working her way up to starter and playing alongside older talent.

“I love every senior, they made it the best season,” she said.

Hildebrandt likewise said she’ll be looking back fondly on her last year of basketball between the faithful fans and beloved teammates.

“I’m going to miss everyone and playing on the court, but at the same time, we have the memories,” she said. “We played as a team and worked hard together.”

Craig Middle School wrestlers split with Hayden, Meeker to start season

The season will go by quickly for the athletes of Craig Middle School, yet a short but sweet schedule started well for the Bulldogs.

All three schools split in team scores during a Tuesday triangular meet at CMS between Craig, Hayden and Meeker.

The Tigers and the Cowboys began the night, Hayden taking a narrow victory at 49-48, while a well-rounded Meeker roster followed with a 66-48 win over CMS.

The Bulldogs gave up too many empty weight classes to the Cowboys, though Craig grapplers took seven pins in varsity matches, including Colt Call (85 pounds), Kaden Hixson (90), Brody Wiser (95), Tyren Schaefer (105), Brendon Wait (120), Billy Lawton (155) and Blake Hill (170).

At the JV level, Kaleb Duzik (90), Zane Durham (100), Zach Hedman (100), and Hunter Faulk (170) also took wins.

Hayden and Craig squared off for the third and final dual, with a 17-4 technical fall for Call, decisions of 8-4 for Shaffer, 8-7 for Wait and 10-2 for Lawton, among seven more wins by fall the Dogs would collect in the 63-36 victory against the Tigers.

While Ian Hafey took a loss to Meeker’s Dagen Dade in the 145 weight along with a knock on the head, he recovered well for his bout with Hayden’s Wes Gioia, nearly gaining the pin twice in the second period before officially picking up six points in the third.

“I was trying to get him into a cradle, but it took a little longer than I wanted,” Hafey said.

While the sixth- and seventh-grade grapplers are no slouches, the CMS eighth-graders are especially prepared for the season ahead said Mark Voloshin, who coaches along with Chad Lawton and Tyler Seislove.

“We just picked right up where we left off last year. They know the system by now,” Voloshin said.

The school schedule will include a tournament in Montrose this Saturday, as well as events hosted by Soroco and East Grand leading up to the district tournament March 16 in Meeker. Athletes who want to continue from there can also participate through Rocky Mountain Nationals, going as far as regional and state tourneys.

“Our team’s going to be even better as a tournament team than a dual team,” Voloshin said. “Montrose will be a good test coming up, see what kind of competition they’ll have in the southwest part of the state.”

Hafey said the level of competition hasn’t been too different from last season, though he’s made a point of working harder.

“It’s a lot more responsibility,” he said.

Winter tea raises funds for Luttrell Barn Cultural Center in Craig

Cups of tea and conversation filled the old red barn as more than 60 people gathered Sunday, Feb. 24, to enjoy a Victorian-era tradition — afternoon tea — and raise funds for ongoing improvements and maintenance of the historic Luttrell Barn Cultural Center east of the Moffat County Fairgrounds.

In addition to plentiful cups of tea, Luttrell Barn Cultural Center board members made savory and sweet canapés served by a team of seven volunteers, including three students from the Moffat County High School Key Club.

Sundays Annual Winter Tea marked the fundraiser’s third year and the second consecutive year it has been held in the restored barn.

“We want the barn for our community to enjoy, and they do in so many ways. Special family occasions are celebrated there and meetings. The WiFi, sound system, and large screens are a plus,” said board member Delaine Voloshin.

The tradition of afternoon tea is believed to have begun in 1840 in England, created by Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford. The duchess regularly became hungry between breakfast and the evening meal, so she began requesting tea, cake, bread, and butter be brought to her in the afternoons, according to historic-uk.com/CultureUK/Afternoon-Tea. When Anna began inviting friends to join her, she established a tradition that was adopted across the British colonies.

One of the first mentions of a tea hosted in Northwest Colorado was a published by the Routt County Courier March 18, 1909.

“Nothing is more delicious for luncheons and ‘high teas’ than a Virginia baked ham,” wrote Emma Paddock Telford, who went on to provide her recipe and instructions.

In the 1940s, the Craig Order of the Rainbow Girls hosted teas to raise funds for good causes. One such event was described in the Craig Empire-Courier on July 1, 1942, which reported: “The Order of Rainbow for Girls were hostesses at a silver tea Tuesday afternoon at the Masonic Hall, and over 50 persons were served. The table decorations were lovely with pink roses in a brown basket as the centerpiece and with a beautiful crystal punchbowl and cups and tea service.”

The proceeds raised went to the United Service Organizations to aid military families.

Another resident recalled: “My grandmother, a singularly well-bred old lady, and her women friends always poured tea from cup to saucer and drunk from the saucer, which was, very thin but of a generous size. In too many hotels and even in some private houses, the cups are too thick. A sensitive person finds the tea served in them tasteless. As for that, few women know how to brew tea. As a rule, it is too strong. For this and other reasons, I prefer ale in its native pewter,” reported the Moffat County Bell on Nov. 30, 1916.

Many of the guests at Sunday’s Winter Tea wore hats and dressed in period costumes or used props provided by Katie Johnson of Katie’s Kostumes. Volunteers poured guests tea from pots into porcelain cups — many of them antiques — owned by board members.

Proceeds from ticket sales to the tea, along with other fundraising efforts, including an online auction, will go to pay for repairs to the barn.

As a result of previous fundraising, the loft, where hay was originally stored, has been opened into a large space with room for dancing, concerts, or theater presentations.

The board hopes to raise enough money to install a lift to allow people with disabilities to access the second floor and build an awning over the north entrance to help keep that entryway free of ice and snow.

“We continually work toward improvements,” Voloshin said. “The entire building can be rented by the hour or the day. Renting the barn also helps keep it operating.”

Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.

Moffat County Bulldog hockey has Senior Night scoring spree

The wintertime has been heavy with wins for the oldest athletes of Craig Youth Hockey Association, and though they’ve been picking up victories largely on the road, a W at home Saturday night meant all the more.

Moffat County Bulldogs celebrated Senior Night at Moffat County Ice Arena with a sendoff for Grady Anson, AJ Barber, Wyatt Boatright, Jesse Earle, Logan Knez and Colton Lodato leading up to a match with the Northern Colorado Junior Eagles Yellow team.

Coach Tim Knez pulled goalie Jack Doane temporarily to begin the game to let all six seniors start. However, the opening faceoff surprised even him as Barber knocked the puck to Boatright, who took off like a missile and put it in the net only 18 seconds into the game.

“I truthfully did not expect to score that quick, but it worked for us,” he said.

It was the first of six total goals Boatright had throughout the evening in a season-best scoring spree. As the Bulldogs’ top goal-getter last year, he’s been eager to get back that status after missing six weeks for a broken leg, as well as last week’s Mile High Meltdown due to a minor concussion.

The double hat trick was a welcome marker to meet.

“I’ve been trying to get that for a while,” he smiled.

The goals by Boatright — who’s also suited up for Steamboat Springs varsity this winter — alone were enough to give the Dogs the game, though Lodato and Barber each flicked in a close wrist shot to light the lamp, whereas Logan Knez provided a high, long slap shot as part of the effort on offense.

“I kind of hate smoking teams by that much, but our passing was good, and everybody was skating well,” Logan said.

MoCo took the win 9-3 with two assists each for Barber and Clay Durham and one apiece for Lodato and Garett Stockman.

Doane had 14 saves in the crease, with each of the Eagles’ goals coming from a heavy rush on the net as opposed to the Bulldogs’ mix of marksmanship and multi-player approaches against the Northern Colorado keeper.

“That’s what it takes to win, and these kids have been doing it all year,” Tim Knez said.

The Bulldogs remain undefeated in conference play within the Colorado Recreational Hockey League’s 18 and under Midget level.

They moved to 18-3-1 overall, with a follow-up 8-3 win Sunday morning.

Despite only fielding seven players for the Mile High Meltdown, the roster is full once again, and they are the top seed in the CRHL playoffs, which grants them a first-round bye as they prepare for the two-day tournament in Denver March 2 and 3.

“As long as we don’t get cocky, I think they have what it takes to win the whole things,” Tim Knez said.

After the season tourney, the Bulldogs will spend the following weekend in Cheyenne, Wyoming before wrapping up the schedule.

For Boatright, it will hardly mean the end of hockey. He’ll be taking two years for church mission work after finishing high school but will also play the sport in Switzerland. He also looks to play at the college level in the next few years.

“There’s not any one team I want to play for, I just want to play,” he said.

As for this season, Logan Knez noted the group is not taking their success lightly; after multiple years of struggle, they want to do whatever it takes to keep things running smoothly.

“It’s just nice to have a winning season like this, especially for senior year,” he said.

The experience has been a rewarding one, Lodato said, noting that the entire roster’s skills within the game keep improving, as do their chemistry with one another.

“We’ve actually been playing like a team this year,” he said. “We’ve had a real connection.”