Sunday, February 25, 2024

A Science and Culture Celebration Day at the Colorado Capitol

Last week, on a bright blue sky day, my husband and I drove to Denver, Colorado, to attend the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District --known as SCFD--2024 Celebration of "Culture For All" event being held on the first floor of the Colorado State Capitol building.

The SCFD is a seven-county tax district created and approved by Colorado’s General Assembly, and renewed by voters multiple times over more than 30 years. It is the second-largest cultural funding mechanism in the United States. We fund nearly 300 organizations across our front-range urban corridor, distributing more than $60 million annually.

You can read more about the SCFD on this link and see a list of the many organizations it supports on this link.

In our invitations, we were told we would "experience interactive exhibits on the first floor of the Capitol hosted by a selection of our funded partners, including Mr. Bones from the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, the Filipino American Community of Colorado, HawkQuest, Mudra Dance, and the Broomfield Veterans Memorial Museum," and that  "pastries and beverages will be provided!"  How could we resist this fun opportunity?

I was greeted by the big SCFD mascot bear and we were given a bag to hold all the information handouts that the organizations present that day would be handing out.

It was hard to miss "Mr. Bones" sponsored by the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, which was actually a man wearing a dinosaur costume.  The schoolchildren who were visiting that day were excited to see him!

We then went around the room to visit all the booths. The first stop was at the Philippine-American Society of Colorado.
"The Philippine American Society of Colorado is a nonprofit organization dedicated to cultivating, preserving, promoting, and sharing the Philippine culture and heritage through educational and cultural opportunities that would enrich and enhance the lives of its members and the people of Colorado."  They host multiple events during the year and have a choir and dance troupe.

Next, we stopped at the Butterfly Pavillion booth. The Butterfly Pavillion has been a favorite place to take our grandchildren over the years. You can read prior blog posts I wrote about those visits--here-- and here.  The famous "Rosie the Tarantula" was in attendance and my husband was brave enough to hold her this time! I opted to just take photos with my cell phone.  We were excited to learn that a new larger Butterfly Pavillion is in the works with fundraising still going on--click here to read more about that.

The next booth was HawkQuest.  HawkQuest's approach to education in classrooms and lecture halls is participatory, allowing the audience to experience HawkQuest's eagles, owls, falcons, and hawks at close range. They do not have a facility to visit, but bring the raptors to events.

Information from their website:

"HawkQuest offers four distinct outreach programs, plus booth appearances and special events. We bring live birds of prey to people of all ages, from preschool children to senior citizens. We strive to impress upon our audiences the importance of preserving ecosystems and the wildlife that depend on them. Through understanding the world around them, diverse populations will appreciate that they can influence the environment positively."

Volunteers displayed the birds on their arms and told us some of the fascinating facts about the raptors found in Colorado.

We saw a wonderful HawkQuest presentation at an outdoor Buffalo Bill Day fair in Golden, Colorado--click here--to see that blog post.

An interesting part of the HawkQuest display!

Next, we visited the wonderful Broomfield Veterans Museum exhibit. 

Information from their website:

"The Broomfield Veterans Museum honors local veterans of all the United States conflicts and peacekeeping efforts, from the Civil War to the present, from all branches of service. The museum not only shares the stories of Colorado veterans, but it is also a center for veterans to connect, students to learn about our nation’s history, groups to explore the rotating exhibits, and families to honor their loved ones who served in the military.
The museum houses nine rooms of exhibits, a library with over 3,000 history/military books and hundreds of archived videos of veteran interviews, and a multimedia room that seats over 40. The museum is free and open to the public and offers docent-guided or self-guided tours, and, twice a month, a presentation called Coffee and Conversation, where you can hear fascinating stories from local veterans and historians."
We definitely hope to visit this museum one day soon.

 The last booth display was for the Mudra Dance Studio located in Cenntenial, Colorado. Mudra celebrates East Indian cultural diversity using the medium of dance and music.

Information from their website:
 Our students learn the beautiful rhythmic movement of the North Indian classical dance “Kathak” (dancing a story) with folk and modern elements. Their performance group performs all around Colorado, extending to other states and countries as well, and is available for hire for dance performances, cultural events, private, and public, and in schools.
You can see photographs of past dance performances on their website at this link. I gave them my name and e-mail address to be notified of their next dance performance.

The Colorado State Capitol is a beautiful building!  I could not resist taking some photos of it as we walked around the SCFD celebration.   We have visited the capitol before on free tours and I blogged about an exclusive guided tour we were able to take a few years ago where we were able to visit the entire building including the very top of the dome, which you can read on this blog link.

We enjoyed the refreshments available to visitors at the celebration, before leaving the building. We enjoyed the event very much and learned about many new places that we hope to visit and performances to see.

We also took a brief walk around the outside of the capitol. It's always fun to see the "mile high above sea level" markers on the front steps of 5280 feet (1609 meters),  As measurement became more exact over the years the markers' location changed a few steps.

A close-up of a marker engraved into the Capitol step

A closeup of the view of snowy 14,130-foot (4,306 meters) Mount Blue Sky in the distance (formerly known as Mount Evans). The Mount Blue Scenic Highway is the highest paved road in America to the top and is open from late spring to early fall. 

The SCFD Celebration at the Colorado State Capitol event was a fun event to attend and to learn about some of the 300 organizations in the seven counties of Colorado that it supports. 

Other Organizations from across the metro area, such as the Denver Art Museum, the Denver Zoo, the Museum of Nature and Science, the Denver Botanic Gardens, and the Denver Center for Performing Artsalso provide hundreds of free days and free programs each year made possible, in part, by funding from SCFD.-- the dates for those free days in 2024 are on this printable free day updated bookmark.

There is so much to see and do in Colorado!

Sunday, February 18, 2024

Derry, Northern Ireland


Our bus tour of Ireland left Galway, and headed towards a stop in Northern Ireland, called Derry, officially Londonderry.  It is the largest city in County Londonderry, the second-largest in Northern Ireland, and the fifth-largest on the island of Ireland. The old walled city lies on the west bank of the River Foyle, which is spanned by two road bridges and one footbridge. The city now covers both banks.

Derry is the only remaining completely intact walled city in Ireland and one of the finest examples of a walled city in Europe. The walls constitute the largest monument in State care in Northern Ireland and, as part of the last walled city to be built in Europe, stand as the most complete and spectacular. The Walls were built in 1613–1619 by The Honourable The Irish Society as defenses for early 17th-century settlers from England and Scotland. The Walls, which are approximately one mile (1.5 kilometers) in circumference and vary in height and width between 12 and 35 feet (3.7 and 10.7 meters), are completely intact and form a walkway around the inner city.

It was a beautiful autumn day in late October as we drove into the city of Derry on our tour bus and we soon passed some of the building murals about the Irish Troubles--political and nationalistic conflicts that occurred between 1960 and 1998 in parts of Northern Ireland. More about the murals later in this post.

Our tour bus parked at the historic Guildhall building, in which the elected members of Derry City and Strabane District Council meet. 

During the visit, we were able to use the bathrooms inside and browse the exhibits on display. The building's stained glass windows were beautiful!

Please click on the photo to enlarge it to see more detail.

I was particularly impressed with a quilt that was hanging on the wall.

We had a few hours of free time to walk around on our own, so my husband and I headed over to the Bogside neighborhood of Derry to see some of the murals we passed on our way into the city. 

Please click twice on the photo collage above to enlarge it to full size to see more detail about the neighborhood where the majority of the murals are located 

The Bloody Sunday Memorial.

Bloody Sunday, demonstration in Londonderry (Derry), Northern Ireland, on Sunday, January 30, 1972, by Roman Catholic civil rights supporters that turned violent when British paratroopers opened fire, killing 13 and injuring 14 others (one of the injured later died).

Please click on the photo above to read the placards in front of the Bloody Sunday Memorial to read more about what happened that sad day.

On a prior visit to Northern Ireland in 2011 I took a "Troubles" bus tour of Belfast --the capital of  Northern Ireland --click here-- to read that blog post, and I was even more impressed with the amount of murals about the Troubles in Derry.  Belfast and Derry contain arguably the most famous political murals in Europe  It is believed that almost 2,000 murals have been documented since the 1970s.

Civil rights leaders around the world were also depicted on some of the murals.

This touching mural, called "The Death of Innocence,"  is of a 14-year-old student, Annette McGavigan, who was the 100th victim of the Troubles in Derry.

We also passed this colorful mural of a dove of peace. 

Derry--Londonderry has officially been declared a United Nations (UN) International City of Peace. The accolade was awarded in recognition of the city and district's transition to peace over the years following Northern Ireland's Troubles.


I'll admit when we were back on the tour bus again and passing bright green fields full of grazing cows I breathed a sigh of relief and felt far removed from the reminders of the sad times Ireland has faced in its history. I wish and pray that the entire world could also solve its continued "Troubles" of war, hatred, and prejudice, and work towards peace for all.

We were now headed for Belfast, Northern Ireland, where we were staying the night and then later the next day taking a ferry to Scotland--see my next post.

Monday, February 12, 2024

Galway, Ireland, along the Wild Atlantic Way


After departing Limerick, Ireland,  the "Highlights of Ireland and Scotland" bus tour my husband and I went on in October 2023, continued traveling along the west coast of Ireland on The Wild Atlantic WayThe Wild Atlantic Way is a road that was officially opened in 2014. The 1,600-mile (2,500 km) driving route passes through nine counties and three provinces, stretching from Kinsale, County Cork, in Munster, on the Celtic Sea coast. to County Donegal's Inishowen Peninsula in Ulster.  We were on our way north to Galway, where we would make a stop for lunch and sightseeing.

Galway is a harbor city on Ireland’s west coast, where the River Corrib meets the Atlantic Ocean. Our tour bus stopped in the Latin Quarter of Galway, known for its cafes, pubs, shops, and art galleries.

We walked around the winding streets, enjoying the views. Galway is known for its vibrant music scene, especially traditional Irish music. It also has the largest Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking community) in Ireland.

Galway is also known for the ancient fishing village of Claddagh which became the birthplace of the Claddagh symbol of a crowned heart being held by two hands. Claddagh is known worldwide thanks to the popularity of the Claddagh ring. The ring is said to originate from the village over 400 years ago! Traditionally the Claddagh ring was handed down from generation to generation as a wedding ring. Today it is a token of friendship and love. The Claddagh ring has become a symbol of Irish heritage and is much loved for its unique design that is representative of  love loyalty and friendship

We stopped to have a light lunch at The Kings Head Pub

The Kings Head is a true piece of living history, as the building itself dates back over 800 years to the 13th Century. We both chose a bowl of fish chowder and had a Murphy's stout.

More scenes from our walk around Galway.

We returned to our bus and continued on our way along the Wild Atlantic Way towards Sligo, Ireland, where we would be having dinner at a hotel and staying the night.

The town of Sligo, in the north of Ireland, straddles the Garavogue River where it meets Sligo Bay. It’s known for its literary heritage and rugged countryside. Ruined medieval Sligo Abbey has carved tombs and a 15th-century altar. Sligo County Museum displays memorabilia of local poet W.B. Yeats, paintings, and Stone Age artifacts.  

I enjoyed watching all the beautiful rugged scenery that passed by our bus window.

One of the touching sights we passed was the ruins of abandoned "famine houses." Between 1845-52 Ireland suffered a period of starvation, disease, and emigration that became known as the Great Famine. The potato crop, upon which a third of Ireland's population was dependent for food, was infected by a disease destroying the crop while other crops were shipped to England in disregard to the plight of the starving. Part of my heritage is Irish that immigrated from this area in Ireland and they arrived during the famine years, as did many other refugees from Ireland. Between 1845 and 1855, at least 2.1 million people left Ireland.--it was one of the greatest exodus from a single island in history.

Monday, February 5, 2024

A Medieval Banquet in Limerick, Ireland

We were traveling on the Highlights of Ireland and Scotland bus tour in October and left the charming town of Adare--see prior post-- and drove north to Limerick, Ireland, where we would be staying for the night. Limerick is the third largest city in the Republic of Ireland, after Dublin and Cork, and is located next to the Shannon River.  It was founded by Scandinavian settlers in 812, during the Viking Age.

We arrived just in time to settle into our hotel room and then leave for an optional outing to attend a banquet and show at a Medieval-era castle now called Knappogue  Castle.

Our tour bus drove through the beautiful pastoral countryside as the sun was beginning to set.

We arrived at Knappogue Castle and were greeted by some of the actors and actresses who were performing that evening.

Please click on the photos above to read the interesting history of the castle built in 1467 by Sean MacNamara.

We were offered a glass of mead when we entered the castle, as musicians performed, and a few members of our tour were chosen to be the King and Queen and were given crowns and cloaks to wear.

There were quite a few fun "My Lords and Ladies" dialogues and skits from the performers during the evening.

 There were a few harpists playing during the evening. 

 The harp has been a national symbol of Ireland for over 1,000 years, playing a central role in Irish myths, folklore, and literature.

We enjoyed watching the entertainment -- acting, singing, and dancing-- as we dined. 

A short video above of some of the singing and dancing during the show

The food was very good. We had a smoked salmon appetizer, root vegetable soup, roast chicken and vegetables, along with unlimited bread and wine, and dessert.

The next morning we were on our way for a stop at the scenic Cliffs of Moher, then on to Galway and Sligo.

There was a heavy fog hanging over the outskirts of Limerick, as you can see from this photo I took from the bus window, but we were hopeful the weather would cooperate later in the morning...more about that in my next Ireland post.

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