| PostIndependent.com

Leftover Salmon, Marc Maron, Wynonna Judd coming to Wheeler Opera House this winter

The Wheeler Opera House unveiled its full winter lineup Thursday night, adding more than 30 events to its calendar of ski season programming.

The newly announced shows, covering the first three months of 2019 at the historic theater, include concerts by Leftover Salmon and Wynonna Judd, stand-up from comedian Marc Maron, the return of magician Jason Bishop and an evening with the Washington-based political satire troupe The Capitol Steps. On New Year's Eve, the Wheeler will host the 20-piece cabaret-style jazz orchestra Vaud and the Villains, who previously headlined the theater in fall 2016.

"This will be one of our busiest seasons ever with more than 90 events," Wheeler executive director Gena Buhler told an assembled crowd of the theater's Wheeler Wins members at Thursday night's announcement party. "Because we can sleep in the offseason, right?"

The announcement party concluded with a surprise performance by Aspen icon and pianist Mead Metcalf, who ran the Crystal Palace dinner theater for more than 50 years downtown. He'll reunite with the Crystal Palace players for two performances at the Wheeler on Feb. 1. Metcalf offered a brief preview Thursday, playing his hit "Peanut Butter on the Chin" and a new Donald Trump-inspired spoof of "I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General."

Tickets for the winter season events will go on-sale to the general public Nov. 26. Sales opened for members of the Wheeler Wins program Thursday night.

Among the newly announced musical performances are vocalist Liz Vice (Jan. 12), guitar legend Jerry Douglas (Jan. 13), Classic Albums Live performing Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" (Jan. 17), a "Living Room" show by the beloved Boulder-based jam band Leftover Salmon (Feb. 14), the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's John McEuen (Feb. 16), the tribute band Abba Mania (March 1), singer-songwriter Nikki Lane (March 9), the McCartney Years (March 15), the SteelDrivers (March 16) and country music great Wynonna Judd with the Big Noise (March 26).

Theatrical performances include stagings of "Friends! The Musical Parody" (Jan. 15), the Crystal Palace Revue (Feb. 1), the iconic political satire group The Capitol Steps (Feb. 8), magician Jason Bishop (Feb. 17), "Improvised Shakespeare" (March 2) and the shadow-dancing group Catapult (March 4).

Kid-friendly productions on the calendar are a theatrical performance of "Diary of a Worm, a Spider and a Fly" (Jan. 31) and the return of the family-focused Popovich Comedy Pet Theatre (Jan. 11), which Buhler called "the most popular show in our 130-year history."

The Wheeler season also will again host Aspen Film's Academy Screenings (Dec. 26 to 30), the Aspen Center for Physics' "Physics Cafe & Lecture" series (Jan. 9 to March 27), 5 Point Film's annual adventure film screenings (Jan. 18 to 19), broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera's "Met in HD" series (Jan. 24 to March 21) and the Aspen Historical Society's "Aspen History 101" and "Time Travel Tuesdays" (Jan. 10 to March 5).

Stand-up comedian and "WTF" podcast host Marc Maron will headline the theater March 23, continuing a recent run of the Wheeler booking some of the most high-profile comics in the country. The newly announced Maron show comes in addition to a stacked Aspen Laugh Fest lineup of comedians headlined by Jim Gaffigan, Kathleen Madigan, Tig Notaro and Jo Koy (Feb. 15 to 23). Buhler also announced Thursday that Laugh Fest is adding shows at the Limelight Lodge — a third venue — which will host spots from Alex Edelman and Gary Gulman.

The Wheeler previously announced a December lineup of shows including The Ten Tenors (Dec. 6), Challenge America's "John Denver Christmas Concert" (Dec. 20), a theatrical production of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" (Dec. 21), magician Mike Super (Dec. 22), comedian Melissa Villasenor (Dec. 23), The Fab Four Beatles tribute (Dec. 25), Robert Randolph and the Family Band (Dec. 28) and Acrobats of Cirque-tacular (Dec. 29).

Tickets for those previously announced shows are already on-sale at the Wheeler box office and www.aspenshowtix.com.

Three generations of Defiance Glenwood take stage in ‘Oliver!’ the musical

For over 40 years, Defiance Community Players has been bringing families together on and off the stage.

When Jacquie Meitler and her family moved to the Roaring Fork Valley, she believed joining Defiance would be a great way to meet new friends and share her passion for local community theater.

Meitler says she has been in or involved in every Defiance production since her first role in "Music Man" in the mid-1980s.

"I didn't really audition the first time, I was so nervous," she said. After skipping out on the audition she learned the chorus to the play and snuck into rehearsals. Meitler has fond memories of then-director Jeannie Miller telling her next time she wanted to be in a show she had to audition.

More then 30 years later, her granddaughter Kaylie Howell, 9, will take the stage with her for opening night of Lionel Bart's "Oliver" Friday at Glenwood Springs High School, marking the third generation of the family to perform as a member of Defiance.

a family affair

"I'm really excited to be in the show with my granddaughter. I was standing in the wings the other night and I was crying because I was having deja vu of when my daughter was in the 'Wizard of Oz,'" Meitler said. "I told a castmate that they were tears of happiness. I'm just so proud I get to share this with her now."

Jennetta Howell, Jacquie's daughter, a veteran Defiance player, Defiance board president and "Oliver" choreographer, will be watching in the wings.

"I have to remember to watch everyone else, I love watching and seeing what she [Kaylie] does," Howell said. "It's fun to see her be the character, she takes my breath away."

For Jennetta, Defiance Community Players was the start of a dream that blossomed into a professional acting career.

Howell worked in New York City and Los Angeles as an actor, singer and dancer before coming back to the valley with her husband James and their two children.

Jennetta has vivid memories of attending rehearsals and plays as a young child with her mother.

"I just went along. I remember just being in the theater," Howell said. "I remember that I couldn't wait to get to audition, but I wasn't quite old enough yet, "

Depending on the play, a child actor had to be 9 to audition for a Defiance production.

Howell's first role as the youngest daughter in "Fiddler on the Roof" came just after her 9th birthday. A few years later, she landed her first leading role in the "Wizard of Oz."

"I worked really hard. I really wanted to participate," she said.

stage faces

Over the years, Howell has been in or involved with 15-20 Defiance productions.

"What an experience. I was just thinking about how many people shaped who I am because of working with adults since that age," Howell said. "I really have so much respect for our town, and all the people I got to work with and know. That's really special and dear to my heart."

"I remember our first show together, because when we went into the theater I told her I'm not her mom now," Meitler said.

"I'm just a fellow actor, and you're responsible to be where you are, know your lines, and if you have a problem don't bring it to me, bring it to your producer, director or stage manager. We can talk about things when we go home."

"I just gave that speech to Kaylie," Howell said, with Kaylie shaking her head and both mother and daughter laughing.

"Oliver" isn't Kaylie's first acting gig; she says she has been in eight productions already and even made her professional debut this past spring at Thunder River Theatre in Carbondale.

"I auditioned for a TRTC's production in Carbondale, and I was the only kid there," Kaylie said. "It was for 'The Emperor's New Clothes.' It was amazing.

"It's fun to have a family in theater, working and going to rehearsals together and just talking about what I can do better," Kaylie said about her new role as an orphan in "Oliver."

Defiant return

Friday's opening night also marks the comeback of Defiance after a two-year hiatus from the valley.

Defiance began in 1972 and has given countless performances over the years and introduced Broadway shows like "Music Man," "Annie," "Meet Me In St. Louis," and "Les Miserables," to the valley over the last four decades.

Friday's opening will start a six-show, two-week run for Defiance, with the show beginning at 7 p.m. in Jeannie Miller Auditorium at GSHS.

"The best part about opening night for me is that it is always friends and family," Meitler said. "It's a different energy. This is my 57th production, and I still get the jitters; just the anticipation of the show."

The production will continue with 7 p.m. shows Saturday, Friday, Nov. 16, and Saturday, Nov. 17. There will be two Sunday matinee shows Nov. 11 and Nov. 18 at 2 p.m.

When asked about opening night Kaylie Howell said, "I'm pretty happy about it. I think it will be fun to have a crowd."

kmills@postindependent.com

Garfield County Weekend Planner

Carbondale Christmas Boutique

8 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday — The 42nd annual Carbondale Christmas Boutique, the Roaring Fork Valley's longest-running holiday craft boutique, features locally crafted jewelry, natural fiber art, holiday gifts, ornaments, wreaths, leather goods, purses, succulent plants and planters, candles, homemade skin care, stained glass, toys, jams, jellies and more. Complimentary holiday treats. A portion of the proceeds from this boutique benefit the Carbondale Fire Department.

Carbondale Fire Department, 301 Meadowood Drive, Carbondale | Free admission

Rifle Holiday Craft Fair

9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday — Rifle Animal Shelter's annual Holiday Craft Fair features over 20 vendors, a bake sale, ornament gift tree and a chili lunch. Fair continues until 4 p.m. All proceeds go to care for the animals at Rifle Animal Shelter.

New Ute Event Center, 132 E. Fourth St., Rifle | Free admission

Oliver! The Musical

7 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday — Defiance Community Players presents this classic stage production with local talent of all ages. Tickets available for purchase (exact cash or check only) at Sopris Lighting, the Glenwood Chamber, and at the door one hour prior to show time. For more information, visit http://www.defiancecommunityplayers.org.

Jeannie Miller Auditorium, Glenwood Springs High School, 1521 Grand Ave. | Seniors/students: $15; Others: $20

Mountain Madrigals ready to bring holiday cheer to Glenwood Springs

With three weeks of rehearsal left and the holiday season looming, the Mountain Madrigals are hard at work perfecting this year's songs and their performance for the upcoming concert season.

It all began 37 years ago when a group of eight people joined together to sing traditional English madrigals.

"The group got together to sing and have fun, then they decided if they were going to sing they needed to perform," Madrigals director Laura Porterfield said.

Every year, the choir offers four concerts over a three-week span in December.

The free event relies on donations to help pay for the cost of the music — rights to each song cost $250 — and the intricacies that go into staging the high quality concerts, which include printing the music, programs and promotional materials for the event.

All these years later the Madrigals, an all-volunteer group, continue to entertain the Roaring Fork Valley.

Like many of the members of the group, Porterfield started performing with the group 27 years ago. A few years in, she was asked to take over the directing duties. She said she would do it for a year, and now 25 years later she is still directing the group.

"We love to sing, and we have a lot of fun," Porterfield said.

Each year, the process begins in February when Porterfield starts with 300 songs and begins to whittle it down to 30, before she and the music committee take it down to the final 15 songs.

Auditions are held in August to select choir members, and rehearsals begin the last Monday of the month.

The group meets every Monday for three months, and rehearses for two-and-half hours and also one Saturday a month for six hours to learn and memorize the songs.

According to Cliff Keen, over two decades ago, as a member of Defiance Community Players, he was alerted to the Madrigals auditions that night after rehearsal.

"They told me I had to have a piece prepared, so I went to the music store and bought a music book and chose a song," Keen said. "I think it was my worst audition ever, but for some reason they liked me."

Twenty-one years later, choir veteran Keen plans his holidays around the concert series. His entire family comes to town, renting a house on Four Mile and attending the concerts.

"It's my Christmas, and it's a time when we all get together," Keen said. "We started as a group to bring joy to the community."

For the first time in over three decades, the Madrigals will move their performance from the First United Methodist Church to the Church of Christ in West Glenwood.

This year's concert series is titled "Songs of Good Cheer" and begins Dec. 1 with a performance at 2 p.m.

The group includes 18 singers, three instrumentalists, a director and the sound and lighting team.

"It's been a great experience. My husband also joined this year, and this has been an amazing thing for him in particular. It's been very special and given him a lot of good, strong faith," first year choir member Lynnette Schlepp said.

The group's music is a mixture of secular and religious songs.

"It's not only good music, it's fun music. … People coming will have so much fun listening," first-year choir member Dave Bottroff said. "It's not your usual stuffy choir concert. The group likes to have fun with the performance.

Other performances will be Dec. 7, 9 and 15, all at 7:30 p.m. at the Church of Christ in West Glenwood.

"We just like to give the free gift to the community of wonderful Christmas music and to tell the story of why we celebrate Christmas," Porterfield said.

kmills@postindependent.com

Aspen Community Theatre stages a ‘Big River’ for our tumultuous times

It's a classic American story with an irresistible old-timey score, but "Big River" is not an escapist piece of entertainment.

And that's the point of Aspen Community Theatre staging this musical adaptation of Mark Twain's "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" this fall, according to director Marisa Post: It's important.

Though peppered with whimsy, it is still Twain's timeless tale of Huck fleeing his abusive dad and Jim fleeing slavery on the Mississippi River — a story of America's original sin of slavery and the brutality of American racism. In this bitterly divided moment in American history, punctuated by police shootings of young black men and racially motivated acts of terrorism in the headlines, "Big River" is a vital show to stage, Post believes.

"Given some of the tumultuousness in the world right now, telling what I think is the quintessential anti-racism story seemed important," Post said. "It's important that, through art, we tackle dicey subjects."

The community theater experience, with your friends and neighbors joining their talents and volunteering their time to put on a show, Post suggested, is a powerful way to deliver a message like the one in "Big River."

"Somehow you come into a theater experience, and you take it in and you feel it, you get it, nobody has to preach at you," Post said. "And it just gives perspective in a beautiful and loving way that can open up conversations."

It's a show that reflects Jim's words to Huck about the "considerable trouble" and "considerable joy" life serves you, and that offers both ugliness and uplift. Songs like the unifying Huck and Jim duet "Worlds Apart," Post hopes, will resonate all the more with an Aspen audience in 2018.

"It's so deep in terms of the reality of our situation," she said.

The production comes on the heels of Theatre Aspen's searing summer production of the musical "Ragtime," which similarly thrust the history of American racism onto the Aspen stage in a timely show that became a high point of the summer season here.

"Big River" opens Friday at the Aspen District Theatre and runs through Nov. 18. The Broadway show won the Tony Award for Best Musical in 1985.

The longtime local actor Gerald DeLisser is taking on the slave Jim in his highest profile role after more than a decade performing with Aspen Community Theatre.

DeLisser, 36, might be the hardest working man in the Roaring Fork Valley theater scene these days. A prolific performer, he pops up regularly in productions at Thunder River Theatre and Theatre Masters, in the comedy troupe Consensual Improv and at the Glenwood Vaudeville Revue, where he is a full-time player. He's been performing in Aspen Community Theatre productions going back to "Fiddler on the Roof" in 2006. But playing the co-lead Jim in the beloved annual Aspen Community Theatre production is a crowning moment for DeLisser.

"It's definitely a complicated character; in some aspects he seems wise, and in others he's not," DeLisser said this week. "He's not educated, but he says some of the wisest things in the play. It's a fine balance."

DeLisser is paired with Carbondale's Patrick Keleher as Huck. A precocious 16-year-old who has starred in Theatre Aspen School productions of "Mary Poppins" and "School of Rock," he's also worked with DeLisser on local productions and developed an easy rapport that translates into their onstage bond as Huck and Jim.

DeLisser noted that the production's first dress rehearsal fell on Election Day 2018, when Colorado voters were asked to take provisions allowing legal slavery out of the state Constitution. These issues of freedom and racism haven't faded so much since Twain's time, DeLisser suggested, but Huck's conversion remains instructive for our moment.

"A lot of racism is just lack of knowledge," he said. "Lack of people having experiences with other groups of people and being closed off from each other. For Huck, it's really just getting to know Jim that he learns his beliefs weren't true."

DeLisser caught the acting bug as a teenager at Oakwood Friends School in Poughkeepsie, New York, where musical productions were a point of school pride. He dug into Aspen's theater scene during summers as a teenager, and has been a fixture of it since moving here at 18 working with mentors like Post and Beth Malone.

"The people I admired most when I first got out here were the Crystal Palace players," he said, referring to the legendary Aspen dinner theater that closed in 2008.

He's since gotten to work with many Palace alumni like Travis Lane McDiffett, who plays Pap in "Big River." And these days he performs improv with Palace players Nina Gabianelli and Mike Monroney and works alongside the Palace's John Goss at the Vaudeville Revue.

DeLisser has been working with Post, the "Big River" director, for nearly 20 years — going back to his first summers here as a teenager in Aspen Theatre in the Park student productions.

"I knew in my gut that this was his role and this was his time," Post said of casting him as Jim. "He auditioned, and it turned out it was his time."

Post has watched DeLisser hone his craft over two decades, and is proud to see him take center stage in "Big River."

"It's so heartening," she said. "He was a great kid, and he is such a great actor. It's such a deep story that it requires deep people like Gerald."

Post has also been working with Keleher since he was 12.

"He is just a super talented kid, and this is huge for him," Post said. "It's a starring role where he's never not onstage. So he is learning a lot about himself and the kind of grit it takes to hold your own up there."

The supporting cast includes familiar Aspen Community Theatre faces as well as some newer ones, like Glenwood Springs High Schooler Curtis Madden as the scene-stealing and rambunctious Tom Sawyer and Shaunice Alexander — a New York-based performer who spent the summer as a Theatre Aspen apprentice — as a slave billed as Alice's Daughter who booms out the show-stealing "How Blest We Are."

The show's winning score is full of throwback country songs, rustic bluegrass and fiddle-heavy gospel composed by the great Roger Miller. They're performed here by a 10-piece band — led by the stalwart local music man and pianist David Dyer — that includes the bluegrass icon "Pastor Mustard" himself, Dan Sadowsky, on guitar.

There are jaunty sing-along bluegrass songs like "The Boys," "I, Huckleberry, Me" and "Arkansas" and show-stopping Huck-and-Jim duets like "Muddy Water," "River in the Rain" and "Worlds Apart." But it's a dialogue-heavy show, so much so that some have called it a "play with songs" rather than a musical.

All of the sets, props and costumes come from the Utah Shakespeare Festival's summer production of the show. The stage has been painted in an impressionistic river design, which gives way to a grand Mississippi River backdrop. Huck and Jim's raft moves around the stage in a bit of wizardly stagecraft. (In fact, it's human-powered with an adapted motorized wheelchair inside, operated by the brave Evan Piccolo, who spends the whole show inside its cramped interior).

The "Big River" script has been revised to remove most of the racial epithets from William Hauptman's 1985 original. Hauptman rewrote his script in 2010 after seeing a revival of the musical and being shocked himself by the 18 uses of a racial slur in it.

"(E)ven my selective use of the word seems excessive," he wrote in a note included in the Aspen Community Theatre program. "It would not do to eliminate the word … entirely — I have to be true to the world of Twain's novel or we can't have Huck's conversion — so I am suggesting that half the uses of the word be eliminated or altered."

In the Aspen Community Theatre version, from Hauptman's revised script, it's used five times. The show may spark debate about whether even that usage is appropriate, spoken by white actors for a predominately white audience in overwhelmingly white Aspen. But Post is confident that the musical, and the context of placing the word only in the mouths of racists in it, is treating the material appropriately.

"The first time, people might feel like, 'Ugh!'" Post said. "But then it's understood that it's in context."

When she and the Aspen Community Theatre leadership saw the Utah production, she recalled, it was an evening of thundering uplift with a largely Mormon audience that stood and cheered as Jim was finally freed from slavery during his triumphant song "Free at Last."

atravers@aspentimes.com

5Point Film Festival names Regna Jones new executive director

5Point Film Festival has appointed Regna Jones as its executive director, the Carbondale-based nonprofit announced Friday.

A longtime Roaring Fork Valley local, Jones has worked as an educator and producer in the arts for more than 20 years. She comes to 5Point from Aspen Film, where she was the director of operations and education, working to produce the nonprofit's three annual festivals, education program and community film programs in Aspen. Jones is also the current board chair for Carbondale Arts.

"The board could not be more pleased to have Regna Jones at the helm of the organization," 5Point board president Connor Coleman said in the announcement. "Her wealth of experience in the film world and strong background in art, culture, and education will undoubtedly perpetuate 5Point's reputation as one of the premier adventure film festivals."

Established in 2006, 5Point is an adventure film festival. Its flagship festival runs in Carbondale in the late spring. Jones replaces Meaghan Lynch at the helm of the festival.

"It is an honor to be joining 5Point Film Festival in the community that I love and to be an agent for positive change through work that inspires adventure, creativity, and connectivity, both in one's self and in others," Jones said in the announcement. "I will bring energy and thought to building relationships and look forward to continuing to offer opportunities for wonder, reflection, conversation, and action in support of artists, audiences, and the communities 5Point serves."

Garfield County Weekend Planner

Teddy Bear Sleepover

Friday noon — Children can bring their furry friends to a special stuffed animal sleepover. There will be games, snacks and drinks for the stuffed animals, and their owners will receive a personalized scrapbook of pictures the next day. Drop off your stuffed animal between noon and 5 p.m. on Friday.

New Castle Library, 402 W. Main St., New Castle | Free | 970-984-2346

Fun with Art on the Rosybelle Mobile Maker Bus

Friday 1 p.m. — Children are invited to register for hands-on art events featuring the Rosybelle Mobile Maker Bus. Rosybelle is a 72-passenger school bus that has been retrofitted and transformed into an interactive and accessible mobile arts classroom and maker space. These free events are part of the Fridays @ Your Library series. Space is limited to 12 each day, so register at the library or by phone.

Rifle Library, 207 East Ave., Rifle | Free | 970-625-3471

Harvest Festival

Saturday noon — Celebrate the changing of seasons on First Friday evening and Saturday, Nov. 3, during the day with music, local makers and early holiday gifting, food and hot cider. Email info and a little bit about your art to jes@wayhome.co

The Way Home, 689 Main St., Carbondale | Free

'Ten Thousand Villages' International Gift Festival

Friday, Saturday and Sunday noon — Purchase handcrafted, fairly traded home decor, personal accessories and jewelry, gift items, toys, holiday items and more from artisans in 38 different countries at the 32nd annual International Gift Festival through Ten Thousand Villages; noon to 8 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. For more information, call 970-945-6848.

Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, 1630 Grand Ave., Glenwood Springs

‘Oliver’ takes the stage in Glenwood Springs

KDNK hosts Carbondale’s premier Halloween party for adults

"We really wanted there to be an alternative to going to Aspen," says KDNK Station Manager Gavin Dahl of the radio station's big dance party for adults that's coming up Halloween night in Carbondale.

"So often, Halloween is an Aspen thing, and we just feel like Carbondale is such a great place to be and the energy and crowds are great," Dahl said.

Dahl said attendees to the event are in for a big treat, as this year's Halloween Dance Party in the Community Hall at the Third Street Center in Carbondale will include headliner Paul Miller, aka DJ Spooky, a composer, multimedia artist, writer and activist based out of New York City.

"It's a really big opportunity for us to not only give access to fans of his to see him in person in this intimate setting, but also to turn more people on to his work," Dahl said. "He's just a really inspiring guy, and has worked with a lot of really amazing artists."

According to Miller's website, he has collaborated with recording artists ranging from Metallica to Chuck D, Steve Reich to Yoko Ono.

Miller immerses his audiences in a blend of genres, global culture and environmental and social issues.

"We're a data-driven society, so I kind of celebrate the idea of moving between patterns and trying to understand the way the human mind works," Miller said in a phone interview with the Post Independent.

Miller, who has been sharing time between New York City and Colorado working on finishing his next book, called "Digital Fiction – The future of storytelling," spent this past summer working with the Aspen Institute.

"I'm always trying to support progressive movements and causes," Miller said. "I want to support more local and independent art initiatives. I love what Gavin is doing at KDNK."

Doors open at 6 p.m. Wednesday evening, and festivities will feature, for the first time this year, a music video mix tape, which is a collaboration by KDNK DJs featuring new dance and Halloween music videos to get the party started from 6-8 p.m.

Other activities will include a free photo booth, games, a food truck, drinks and more.

The annual costume contest will get underway at 8 p.m. All in attendance are invited to participate.

DJ Spooky will take the stage at 9 p.m. for his one-hour, 45-minute set.

"I will be supercharged and ready to go, I love the whole Carbondale-Aspen corridor, it's a really fascinating area of the country," Miller said.

"It's going to be a party, I don't want it to be too conceptual, I do live remixes and mash-ups with the software I developed," he said.

Ticket are $12 for members, $17 for the public, and there will also be a VIP ticket for $49 which includes four drink tickets, a meal ticket and admission to the event.

"I'm hoping people are going to come with the expectation of having a good time, and celebrating local creativity and to support the radio station," Miller said.

kmills@postindependent.com

Woman fished 52 rivers in a year, encourages others

DURANGO — Shelley Walchak fell in love with fly fishing like a teenage girl falls in love with a boy. She was about 59 at the time, so older than a teenager, but the draw was similar. The woods and the water became her church, allowing her to examine her thoughts and connect with living things.

At age 62, Walchak decided to pursue her love and follow her dreams. She left her stressful job in 2012 and hit the road, fishing a different river every week for a full year in the Rocky Mountains, which included seven states.

"The experience was about being able to stand in the middle of a river and see all this beauty around me and to be able to understand the river well enough to get a fish out of it," Walchak said. "There are so many different things that need to come together to make that happen, and some of that is science, and some of it is art."

Walchak, who is director of the Pine River Library, completed the trip in 2013 and wrote a blog-turned-book titled "52 Rivers" to document the adventure. She has given more than 100 presentations about her experience and encourages women to chase their dream, no matter what it looks like.

The Bayfield resident attended a conference in 2012 about risk-taking and realized she needed to get uncomfortable to fulfill her dream. She wanted to show a woman could master the art of fly fishing, and do it alone.

Walchak said her father had died and left her some money. She bought a 13-foot camper, fishing gear, camera equipment and supplies and set off in January 2013, starting her trip on the South Platte River near Denver.

She worked her way through Colorado, Arizona, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana and New Mexico, taking photos and journaling along the way. She would post to her blog daily and had 2,000 followers by the end of her journey. For Walchak, it wasn't just about the fishing; she wanted to share her experience to inspire others to take chances.

Walchak said she never would have accomplished fishing 52 rivers if she thought of all the things needed to make it work. She had to take small steps, like learning about how to match a fly with a bug and knowing where to find fish on a sub-zero day.

In "52 Rivers," Walchak wrote: "One of my goals for this year was to encourage others to follow their passions … and to try fly fishing."

Find people who support your dream

Carol Oglesby was one of those friends. Oglesby met Walchak at a fly fishing show when Walchak was looking for encouragement.

"No man has done what she's done," Oglesby said. "She stuck with it and saw it through, even during the winter months. She's a gutsy woman."

Oglesby has fished for 30 years and said her favorite part of fly fishing was meeting Walchak and supporting her dream.

"Shelley's such a strong supporter of other women and encourages them to find their passion, whether it's fishing or writing or art or something else," Oglesby said. "She's a great mentor in all areas."

Walchak learned to face fear and tackle small goals. During the yearlong trip, there were plenty of challenges, but nothing she couldn't handle. She felt accomplishment with each river fished and felt stronger as a woman.

Felicia Libo, a licensed professional counselor practicing in Durango for 18 years, said taking small steps toward a goal looks different for all women, depending on their background and upbringing.

She said financial and health issues can get in the way of fulfilling a dream, but positive thinking turns situations around.

"It's important to choose people who are encouraging and limit time with people who are not, even if they are in your family," Libo said. "People need to be heard so their dreams are taken seriously."

Walchak said her husband was supportive, and she found friends who understood her passion.

Walchak got snowed in her camper for five days, fished in minus-11 degrees and locked her keys in her truck the same day she dropped her camera in the water.

She looks back on the year and says there wasn't anything that was too hard to deal with on her own.

"I think fear really gets in the way of a lot of things," Walchak said. "We can't do anything about our past, and we have no idea what the future is going to bring. So we better just live in the moment and take the next step."

'Take the next step'

Dr. Donna Rockwell, a therapist who specializes in celebrity mental health and helping women develop mindfulness and self-love, said in an interview with The Durango Herald that women are naturally drawn to caretaking, and as a result often neglect themselves.

"Millennial women seem to have found a better middle ground, and it would be wonderful for older generations to explore areas of interest, dedicating time, effort and presence to fully manifesting these self-fulfilling enterprises," Rockwell said. "It is never too late for self-discovery and personal growth."

Walchak said toward the end of her trip she focused on turning her blog into a book. This became her next goal. After publishing, she worked on perfecting her presentation and encouraging women to take chances.

What's next for Walchak? She plans to re-create the fly fishing adventure in France.

"Does it seem a little intimidating? Yes. But right now, I just have to figure out how to take it one step at a time," she said.