Archive for November, 2017

The Meadows will be home to town’s next neighborhood park

When Castle Rock’s town council approved the 2018 budget, parks and recreation director Jeff Brauer knew he’d have $2 million to build a new neighborhood park. The big question was, where would that be?

Residents got their answer in October after the town council selected a location in The Meadows from among five sites presented by Brauer at the Oct. 17 council meeting.

The other locations — one in Cobblestone Ranch, Castle Oaks, Castlewood Ranch and Crystal Valley Ranch — will all receive a park in the future, Brauer said, but staff recommended starting with The Meadows location after soliciting public input. Nearly 550 residents participated in an online survey and 26 others attended one of two open houses held by the town, of which nearly 60 percent favored building a park in The Meadows.

The site selection criteria also included a location’s access to open space and trails, any existing public amenities, development costs, future maintenance costs, recreation potential and the area’s population density.

The Meadows’ park location, which is along Low Meadow Boulevard near the Aspen View Academy, is the smallest site from among the five options but has the largest surrounding population, Brauer said. The park will be approximately 5.5 acres and will serve nearly 1,200 homes. There are an additional 130 active building permits for the area.

“It’s a fairly easy site to go ahead and develop,” he said, stating the area was flat, had already been graded and amenities were in place. “It makes a pretty good fit for us to maximize the budget that’s available.”

Jeff Smullen, assistant director of Castle Rock’s Parks and Recreation department, said the town will contract with a landscape architecture firm starting in December and engage residents in January to learn their preferences for the park. The town hopes to begin construction this summer and have the park completed by the spring of 2019, Smullen said.

Mayor Jennifer Green said she’d participated in a field day along with town staff to visit each proposed park site. Knowing amenities were already in place made The Meadows site an attractive option and would help the town get more from its $2 million budget.

“Which sounds like quite a bit of money to each of us, but when building a park, it’s not really a significant amount,” Green said.

For the remaining four park locations, the town estimates it will build a new park every two to three years. The town council will decide in which order parks are built.

Until then, the bidding and design process for The Meadows’ park is underway. Construction will likely begin in 2018. Updates on the project will be posted to CRgov.com/FutureParks.

“It really does look like you did some good homework on this, Jeff,” Councilmember George Teal told Brauer. “It looks like the analysis is very solid and it looks like it’s going to be a great site. Very shovel ready.”

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Council OKs updated plan for Castle Rock’s future

The Town of Castle Rock has several documents mapping out its plans for the future. There are transportation plans, water resource plans, and now, a newly updated comprehensive master plan.

The comprehensive master plan is the guiding document outlining the town’s vision for the future as it grows and develops.

The latest version, which looks to 2030, will strongly resemble the original 2020 plan first adopted in 2000 then amended in 2002, town officials said during the Nov. 14 town council meeting. The four main priorities in both versions are maintaining a distinct town identity and ensuring responsible growth, quality town services and a thriving economy.

What’s new, town staff said, are updates to the plan’s technical language, the removal of some outdated policies and plans to enhance community character.

“We added some additional framework for creating future corridor and character area plans so that we can better reflect community character,” said town planner Julie Kirkpatrick, noting Castle Rock’s neighborhoods feel like individual villages within the town. “The Meadows may have a little different feel to downtown versus Founders, and so on and so forth.”

One priority for the town as a whole is to remain a stand-alone community, and not become a suburb of the larger metropolitan area, according to the comprehensive master plan document available in draft form online.

Other goals identified in the document include planning for a population of 90,000 by 2030 and retaining the current business base while providing diverse housing for the town’s employment needs.

The comprehensive master plan is more focused on land use than the town’s other master plans, Kirkpatrick said. In addition to the comprehensive plan’s four cornerstones, it includes maps of the town evaluating current and future land uses.

Director of Development Services Bill Detweiler said another key goal in the update was to make the document visually appealing and more accessible to the public.

“The intent is to have it in the community. The intent is to have it everywhere, so that when you walk into any store, when you walk into the library, when you walk into any town facility,” Detweiler said, “you’ll be able to pick this up and have a general idea of what the vision of the Town of Castle Rock is.”

That push for greater accessibility for the public received praise from Mayor Jennifer Green ahead of the council’s 5-0 vote approving the plan.

“I do like what you mentioned, this was not intended to sit at town hall. It’s intended to be out in the public,” Green told Detweiler. “So that residents can sit down and actually review this.”

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School board weighs options on superintendent search

Hiring a permanent superintendent is a school board’s most important job, multiple members of the Douglas County School Board said at a Nov. 28 board of education meeting in Castle Rock.

At the meeting, the school board was supposed to vote on one of three options for hiring a permanent superintendent for the 2018-19 but instead discussed the pros and cons of each option. The board was expected to come to a decision at a special meeting that was scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 4 at DCSD’s administrative building, 620 Wilcox St.

“We want to be thorough,” said school board president David Ray. “It is certainly possible that we might decide on a path but it’s also possible that we will say no and continue to do more deliberation and research.”

The three options include selecting one of three firms to do a national search, conducting a regional search in-house or hiring interim superintendent Erin Kane as permanent superintendent.

Kane was hired in 2016 after former superintendent Elizabeth Fagen resigned and took a position in the Humble Independent School District in Texas. Many teachers and parents blamed Fagen, who was hired in 2010 by a school board majority of reform-minded members, for policies that led to an exodus of teachers and administrators over the past several years. During her tenure, the school board severed ties with the teachers’ union.

Kane, a Colorado native with an engineering degree in applied mathematics and computer science from the University of Colorado, helped found charter school American Academy. Executive director of the school from 2013 until taking the interim DCSD post, she pointed to her leadership of the school’s community in her bid to win the job.

In January 2016, the Douglas County School Board extended Kane’s contract through the 2017-18 school year.

Hiring a permanent superintendent was a hot topic leading up to the Nov. 7 school board election, when voters elected four anti-reform candidates, Kevin Leung, Krista Holtzmann, Chris Schor and Anthony Graziano, who in their campaigns promoted a permanent superintendent search. They filled the seats of four reform-minded members, Meghann Silverthorn, Steven Peck, Judi Reynolds and Jim Geddes.

“I’m struggling because our conversation before the election was an MLO (mill levy override) and a superintendent search,” Schor said at the board meeting.

Board member Anne-Marie Lemieux questioned if there would be an option C, which is hiring Kane as permanent superintendent.

“We need to clarify if Kane is interested,” she said.

The school district did not comment on whether or not Kane plans to apply for the position.

The pros of hiring Kane would be familiarity and stability for the district, said Ray. He noted that a national search could warrant a higher salary because of the competition among other school districts that are also searching for a new superintendent.

“A plus is we’ve seen the performance of this leader,” Ray said.

Board member Wendy Vogel isn’t confident that the school board would be successful in passing a tax measure for more funds in 2018 if a new superintendent is hired. She pointed out that option C gives flexibility to search for a new superintendent at a later time.

“… I think who we have now is highly capable,” she said. “The plus of option C is moving forward sooner with an additional revenue stream.”

Board members voiced concerns about high costs and time associated with a national search. A plus of a regional search is attracting a candidate who is familiar with the district and community, Graziano said.

“Timing is a factor,” he said, “for recruitment and training.”

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‘Give where you live’

The Douglas County Community Foundation hosted the first Douglas County Gives Rally on Nov. 29 at Schomp MINI, 1001 Plum Valley Lane, in Highlands Ranch. At the hour-long event, 37 nonprofit organizations from Douglas County celebrated and anticipated Colorado Gives Day, an annual statewide movement to increase philanthropy in Colorado by donating online. This year, the day of giving falls on Dec. 5.

“Give where you live,” said Donna Scott, chair of Douglas County Community Foundation, which partners with people and organizations in the county to build funds that serve the public. “The big thing is trying to get people in Douglas County to know about the nonprofits so they can support where they live.”

During last year’s Colorado Gives Day, Douglas County nonprofits received 2,018 donations totaling $813,527. This year, the goal is to increase the number of donations by 15 percent, said Scott.

Nonprofits in Douglas County bring a variety of services to the community. For example, Wellspring Community, based in Castle Rock, offers work, enrichment and educational opportunities for adults with special needs. The Chelsea Hutchison Foundation in Lone Tree serves individuals, families and communities affected by epilepsy. In Parker, HawkQuest educates the community on rescue eagles, owls, falcons and hawks. Other nonprofits include Crisis Center, Douglas County Libraries Foundation, Douglas County Search and Rescue, Promise Ranch Therapeutic Riding.

The list goes on. Run by mostly volunteers, the organizations benefit greatly from the annual day of giving.

“It’s a chance for us to get the financial support that we so desperately need,” said Mary Lou Fenton, executive director of Wellspring Community.

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Ray named school board president as new members take seats

Dozens of people crowded around the front doors of the Douglas County School District Administrative Building in Castle Rock on Nov. 28. Inside, the conference room was maxed out at more than 100 guests, meaning those outside would have to wait for any seats that might become available.

Parents, teachers and community members were there to witness four school board members depart and four new members, each elected on Nov. 7, fill their seats. They also saw the appointment of a new school board president.

“I am here because I know that there is serious work to be done and you know that better than any of us,” parent Kristen Hirsch said during the public comment portion of the school board meeting. “But you have such community support.”

The addition of members Anthony Graziano, Kevin Leung, Chris Schor and Krista Holtzmann signals a change in the direction of the school board, which has been in the spotlight since the 2009 election of a reform-minded majority of members, who espoused policies such as pay-for-performance evaluations for teachers and a form of school choice that would later include a controversial voucher program.

For six years, supporters of the reforms held all seven seats on the board. They introduced new policies that, in the eyes of many, caused an exodus of hundreds of teachers and administrators. A shift occurred in 2015, when sitting candidates who opposed the reform policies — David Ray, Wendy Vogel and Anne-Marie Lemieux — each were elected to the board. The result was a divided board, with votes frequently falling 4-3 in favor of the former reform-minded members, Meghann Silverthorn, James Geddes, Judith Reynolds and Steven Peck. They were recognized for their service at the Nov. 28 meeting.

“We know that the sacrifice is tremendous,” Ray said to Silverthorn, Geddes and Reynolds, who each held a plaque of honor. Peck was absent.

At the meeting, Lemieux nominated Ray for board president, a motion that was unanimously approved. Ray succeeds Silverthorn in the position.

“You have been organized and thoughtful in your decision making, as well as how you have dealt with our staff, board members and community,” Lemieux said to Ray.

Ray and his wife have lived in Parker since 1989. His two children attended Douglas County Schools. Ray worked as an elementary school principal in Douglas County for 23 years, during which he oversaw the opening of three schools: Coyote Creek Elementary in Highlands Ranch, Prairie Crossing Elementary in Parker and Mammoth Heights Elementary, also in Parker. He helped launch the district’s outdoor education program and has served on several committees, including the fiscal oversight committee and building specification and review committee.

Before accepting the nomination, Ray listed the type of leader his is not: he doesn’t need control, he isn’t charismatic, he has no political aspirations.

He said he is a facilitator. He will lead with integrity. He knows that the board will make mistakes and that there will be do-overs when needed.

“My job is to enhance the conversation and to make sure that all voices are heard,” Ray said.

Vogel, of Highlands Ranch, will serve as vice president. Vogel has two children in Douglas County schools. She serves on the district’s Long Range Planning Committee, which studies facility and capacity needs, and several school accountability committees. Vogel previously worked in federal prisons doing substance abuse treatment and case management and now owns a quilting business.

“She builds bridges with a wide array of people,” Ray said. “She is one who will find the means to do whatever it takes to do this role well.”

Holtzmann will serve as secretary. She and her husband have lived in Parker for 17 years. Their two sons attended Douglas County schools. She worked as an assistant district attorney in child protection and as a volunteer attorney at the Rocky Mountain Children’s Law Center. She also has served on multiple school accountability committees.

Lemieux will be the treasurer. Since 2004, she has lived in Highlands Ranch with her family. One of her two children is a student at Douglas County schools. Lemieux taught elementary school for seven years before becoming a stay-at-home mother. She helped develop Douglas County Parents, a group of parents and community members formed in 2013 to inform the community on issues in the school district.

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Littleton college gallery shows photos from students’ journey

In May, a group of Arapahoe Community College and Colorado Mesa University students traveled to London to “experience a country of diverse architecture, art, food and culture,” said ACC photography professor Trish Sangelo. Their photographs from the trip are exhibited at Colorado Gallery of the Arts from Dec. 5 through Jan. 11, with a reception from 4 to 7 p.m. on Dec. 7. Free admission. (Closed Dec. 25 to Jan. 1.)

Holiday lights

“A Hudson Christmas” opens Nov. 24 and will sparkle with holiday lights on selected evenings through Dec. 31 at 6115 S. Santa Fe Drive, Littleton. Hours 5-8 p.m. Dec. 1-3, 8-10, 15-24, 26-31. Santa will be in residence. Tickets: $7 members; $9 non-members. Hudsongardens.org.

Chorale to perform

The Castle Rock Chorale will perform at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 8 at Christ’s Episcopal Church, 615 Fourth St., Castle Rock and at 4 p.m. Dec. 10 at Smoky Hill United Methodist Church, 14491 E. Smoky Hill Road, Centennial. The program is entitled: “A Spotless Rose: Songs of Christmastide.” Tickets: $10 adults; $7 seniors. Students and children admitted free.

Littleton Symphony

The Littleton Symphony, directed by Jurgen de Lemos, presents its Annual Holiday Concert at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 8 at Littleton United Methodist Church, 5894 S. Datura St., Littleton. Ten-year-old piano prodigy Madison Suh will perform the “Mozart Concerto No. 21.” Tickets: $21/$19 and $5 for 21 and under. Littletonsymphony.org, 303-933-6824.

Victorian celebration

“A Victorian Holiday with the Molly Brown House Museum” will be celebrated at 2 p.m. Dec. 4 at Bemis Library, 6014 S. Datura in Littleton. Special historical performance. 303-795-3961.

Castle Rock Band

The Castle Rock Band will perform at 3 p.m. Dec. 10 with the Faith Lutheran Church Choir at 303 N. Ridge Road, Castle Rock.

The program will include Percy Grainger’s “The Sussex Mummer’s Christmas Carol,” and Leroy Anderson’s favorite, “Sleigh Ride,” as well as “Festival of Carols,” arranged by Warren Barker.

The band invites new members from high school age up. Castlerockband.com.

Painting in city gallery

Centennial resident and painter Pam Roth O’Mara’s colorful work “Fall Haze” will hang in the Centennial People’s Art Gallery in 2018. It is located in the Centennial Civic Center, 13133 E. Arapahoe Road.

Governor’s mansion

Free holiday visits to the Colorado governor’s residence at the Boettcher Mansion, 400 E. 8th Ave., Denver, are available Dec. 7-10 and 14-17 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. A commemorative holiday ornament is available for $30.

Hattie McDaniel

“Hi-Hat Hattie: A Musical Biography,” a story of screen legend Hattie McDaniel of “Gone With the Wind,” plays through Dec. 21 at the Aurora Fox, 9900 E. Colfax Ave. Performances: 7:30p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets: $18-$37, aurorafox.org, 303-739-1970.

Avenue Theater

“Santa’s Big Red Sack” returns to the Avenue Theater, 417 E. 17th Ave., Denver, through Dec. 24, at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and 4 p.m. Sundays. Tickets: $27.50. Avenuetheater.com, 303-321-5925. (Mature audiences.)

`Redneck Christmas’

“A Good Old Fashioned Redneck Country Christmas,” by Kris Bauske, is presented by the Northglenn Players at the DL Parsons Theatre, 11801 Community Center Drive, Northglenn.

Directed by Warren Sherrill. Performances: 7:30 p.m. Dec. 8, 9, 15, 16 and 2 p.m. Dec. 10, 17. Tickets: $14/$12, NorthglennArts.org.

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Author thrills readers with visit to Denver

More than 1,000 excited readers arrived at the Denver Marriott Tech Center on Nov. 15 for “An Evening with Dan Brown,” jointly presented by Douglas County Libraries and Tattered Cover Book Store. Despite publication of millions of his books in multiple languages (more than 52 million), the mild-mannered Brown reminds one of his globe-trotting college-professor/protagonist, Robert Langdon — bright, articulate, humorous — and certainly confident, but not ostentatious at all … This is a guy one would love to chat with over coffee or a beer.

Many of those present bought not only a ticket, but a shiny blue copy of the new book, which will require some late nights of reading as Langdon travels in and out of trouble — mostly in Spain this trip. (He commented that the cover design is inspired by his experience looking down from the top of a steep spiral staircase at the Sagrada Familia Cathedral in Barcelona — Antonio Gaudi’s ongoing masterpiece.)

Brown is touring to introduce his latest thriller, published in October — “Origin” — and his publicists have provided a preliminary short background film that allowed this highly imaginative author to quickly get to the story at hand when he bounds to the platform. Like previous books, it deals with his ongoing interest in the juxtaposition of science and religion in our world today: “Will God survive science? Where did we come from? Where are we going?”

Research for “Origin” began with a visit to the famous Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, designed by Frank Gehry — Brown wished to be brought somewhat up to speed on modern art, which was not familiar territory.

And that’s where “Origin” begins its convoluted tale. “It was fun to throw Langdon into that scene,” he said with a grin.

Brown is the son of a math teacher and a devout church organist and was educated at Phillips Exeter Academy, Amherst College and the University of Seville. He said he published his first book at age 5, dictated to his father and “tied together with red string: `Giraffe, Pig and Pants on Fire.’”

He recalled asking a priest which creation story is true and being told, “Nice boys don’t ask!” He graduated from Amherst College and taught at his alma mater until he could devote his attention to writing. He gets up at 4 a.m., faced with an empty page and produces yet another exciting chapter.

But, when asked “What’s next?” he gently reminded the questioner that “Origin” has just been out three weeks. “You’re a mother, aren’t you? What if someone talked about the next baby three weeks after you’d given birth?” Asia, Africa and Latin America would all like to be settings for a Langdon visit — Brown said he’d spent time in India, but wasn’t yet familiar enough “because it’s not in my tradition. Would you be interested in setting big questions in the developing world?”

Several questions about his personal beliefs were parried. He sees “The Divine in interactions of people — I sense in moments like this love between you and me …” With a strong mother and a strong wife, he would never write about a “woman tied to the railroad tracks,” he added.

One participant probably spoke for all present: “Thank you for making us think!” she said.

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‘Own an Original’ exhibition back for 52nd time in Littleton

Visitors filled the Littleton Museum’s lobby and gallery on Nov. 16 to see the latest “Own an Original” art exhibition (the 52nd in the series), which had 477 entries — the most ever — according to Littleton Fine Arts Board Chair Denise Weed. She added that 60 pieces by 45 artists were selected for the varied show by juror Kathryn Charles, whom Weed introduced.

The exhibit was started more than five decades ago by the original Fine Arts Board to give local artists a chance to exhibit and local residents the opportunity to consider purchasing original art for their homes and businesses. The original board was set up by the Littleton City Council to screen offered art items when the then-new Bemis Library was under construction. It then evolved into an active part of the local art scene.

Charles, who grew up in Littleton, invited the crowd to come back and explore/discover/rediscover the museum, as she had: the other inside exhibits as well as the living history farms, with their historic buildings, costumed interpreters and assorted furry and feathered residents. Charles attended Littleton schools and went on to CU-Boulder for a bachelor’s degree and an MA in art history. She has been a curator at several museums, designed independent exhibitions, represented individual artists and recently directed a large-scale permanent installation for Lackland Air Force Base with two Colorado public artists.

She spoke of “six hours in a dark room,” reviewing all the entries and selecting a number that would fit in the available space. She also commented that in the installation by Exhibit Curator Kevin Oerfil, “one artwork flows to the next like a symphony.” She spoke of a “theme of vigor, verve …” affecting her 60 choices, complimenting artists who “picked boundaries” for their works.

Her selections cover a wide range of individual visions, styles and artists — many amazingly proficient in technique — including more than one “how-in-the world-did-they-do-that?” piece.

Awards for 2017 went to:

Best of show: Paul Gillis’ good-humored oil on canvas, “Itinerary.” One in a group of three related paintings, all technically very well executed, it depicts an otherworldly landscape, at the waterfall’s edge and a purple boat perched, pointing away from the steep drop. The “passenger” is a steaming red cylinder with a long nose. Gillis’ other titles are “Colloquium” and “Maelstrom,” done in the same style and size—also featuring that red cylinder. Bordering on the comic realm, these paintings reflect a creative mind we’d like to know more about. Unfortunately, Gillis was not in attendance to talk about his works. A 2014 story by Westword’s Michael Paglia says the prolific artist, represented by Rule Gallery, is in his 70s and paints a world that may be in outer space … Viewers, including young ones, will want to concoct a story of their own.

First place: “Kairos: The Turning” by Christina Carfora is a beautifully crafted ceramic sculpture of two female figures, descended from the classic Greek, but with a story as well, we’d guess. Carfora lives and teaches in Boulder.

Second Place: Frederick Pinchon’s painting “Sea Arches” depicts a mythical-looking ocean scene, magical in quality and presentation.

Third place: Heidi Rounds created a wonderfully rendered pastel portrait of a thoughtful child, “My Light.” Careful lighting really makes it glow.

In addition to Weed, city council-appointed Littleton Fine Arts Board members are Carolyn Bradish, Allison Eaby, Juliana Barnard and vice chair Kathleen Eckel.

While you can’t take it home until January, you might want to consider adding a new work to a personal collection — or giving a one-of-a-kind gift. In any case, a visit to this exhibit will be a most pleasant holiday diversion.

BREAKOUT BOX

If you go

“Own an Original 2017” will be open at the Littleton Museum, 6028 S. Gallup St., Littleton, through Jan. 7, 2018. Hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays; 10 to 5 p.m. Saturdays, 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays. Admission is free. (Closed Dec. 10, 23, 24, 25 and after noon on Dec. 22.) 303-795-3950.

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Littleton Youth Ballet among companies staging `Nutcracker’

Soon, Tchaikovsky’s beloved music will be playing wherever one goes, and dancers—both professional and younger — will become snowflakes, Clara, party guests, military mice, princes and that Sugar Plum Fairy. Dancers in the Littleton Youth Ballet will present their annual production of “The Nutcracker” on Dec. 1-3 in the beautifully renovated Joanna Ramsey Theatre at Westminster High School. (Ramsey was Littleton Youth Ballet director Allison Jaramillo’s teacher in high school, we are told.)

The company had long performed at the Loretto Heights Theatre, and with the sale of that property, it was not available this year. By the time Jaramillo and her co-director/mother, Bobbie Jaramillo learned about Loretto Heights’ unavailability, finding another stage that offered adequate fly space for set pieces was difficult — some book three years ahead.

A friend had a suggestion and Allison is most pleased with the comfort and sound qualities in the Ramsey Theatre, she writes — and invites Littleton audiences to experience it, hoping they will “fall in love with it,” as the Jaramillos did.

The production features two casts of over 170: children, pre-professional dancers in the Littleton Youth Ballet and guest artists, as well as lovely sets and costumes that suggest Littleton in the early 1900s.

Academy dancers progress to more complex parts each year as their skills increase: first wee mice and angels, then clowns and candy canes, then snowflakes and flowers and finally leading roles … Some dancers in this year’s program have performed since Littleton Ballet started presenting “The Nutcracker.” Each year features some subtle changes in choreography, Allison says. (We recall enjoying her own performance as young Clara, back when the David Taylor Dance Company was located on Main Street, up a couple blocks from the Littleton Independent’s onetime office space.)

Colorado Ballet soloist Francisco Estevez and a female guest artist, to be announced, will perform as Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier on Dec. 1 and 2.

BREAKOUT BOX

If you go

The Littleton Youth Ballet production of “The Nutcracker” will be presented Dec. 1-3 at the Joanna Ramsey Theatre in Westminster High School, 6933 Raleigh St., Westminster. Ticket prices for reserved seating range from $20 to $36 in advance, $2 more at the door. 303-794-6694, littletonyouthballet.org.

And there are more dancing flowers and snowflakes to be found in the Denver metro area through the season:

● Colorado Ballet is staging several performances of its 57th annual production of “The Nutcracker” through Dec. 24 at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House, in the Denver Performing Arts Complex at 14th and Champa streets in downtown Denver. Costumes and sets are lavish and there is a live orchestra. Performances are daytime and evening — see coloradoballet.org or call 303-837-8888, ext. 2.

● “Nutcracker of Parker” is presented Dec. 14 (7 p.m.); Dec. 15 (7 p.m.); Dec. 16 and 17 (2 and 7 p.m.) by Parker Arts and the Colorado School of Dance at the PACE Center, 20000 Pikes Peak Ave., Parker. Tickets: 303-805-6800, parkerarts.org.

● Ballet Ariel presents “The Nutcracker” at 2 p.m. Dec. 9, 10, 16, 17, 22, 23 and 7 p.m. Dec. 16 and 22 at the Lakewood Cultural Center, 470 S. Allison Parkway, Lakewood. Tickets: 303-987-7845, at the box office, or Lakewood.org/Tickets. Dancers include students, the professional company and special guest Paul Noel Fiorino as Herr Drosselmeyer.

● Denver Ballet Theatre (David Taylor) presents “The Nutcracker” at the Newman Center, 2344 E. Iliff Ave., Denver on Dec. 22, 23 at 2 and 7 p.m. Newmantix.com/tickets, 303-871-6200.

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Local musician takes to Boulder’s famous eTown

The way Denver musician Barry Shapiro sees it, people don’t find themselves in Colorado by accident.

“Denver is the kind of place where people move here because they want to be here,” he said. “Denver draws people here for the right reason, and that openness extends to the music scene as well.”

Shapiro knows what he’s talking about — he was born in Brooklyn, and lived in Boston before coming to Colorado 27 years ago, when he was 18. He was inspired to start in music thanks to the inspiration of his mother and grandmother, who played piano. In high school, he got inspired by the work of Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen.

After years of playing in the Colorado scene, Barry Shapiro will be playing at Boulder’s famous eTown Hall, 1535 Spruce St., at 7 p.m. Dec. 9. He’ll be joined with Sean Kelly from local favorites The Samples, and his band includes Steve Gaskin, an Arvada West jazz band alumni.

Shapiro recorded his full-length debut album called “In Remission “ in 2000 about the healing power of music, followed it up in 2005 with “Beacon Street,” inspired by life in New England, and his most recent release is called “Boardwalk Rain.” His music is largely inspired by places he visits, and that includes Colorado.

“The Colorado music scene is a scene of nooks and crannies, and great little rooms that people don’t know about, and those are some of my favorite rooms to play,” Shapiro said. “My favorite thing about playing is when my creativity inspires somebody else to create something else.”

For tickets and more information, go to www.etown.org/events/etown-presents-barry-shapiro-band.

Murder at the Golden History Museum

There’s a more than decent chance you’ve never heard of Robert S. “Batt” Battalino, and even if you have, it’s probably because he was the first person executed for committing a crime in Jefferson County for a murder he committed in the foothills west of Golden.

But he was also a prizefighter who made an appearance on the TV show, “The Greatest Fights of the Century.”

History buffs can learn more at the Murder and the Shanghai Prize Fighter event, held 6-7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 30, at the Golden History Museums, 923 10th St. The cost is $10 for Golden History Museums members and $15 for non-members.

Led by Dennis Potter, a retired captain with Jeffco’s Sheriff’s Department, the program will dive into the story of Battalino’s life, the crime he committed, and the bond he formed with the sheriff as he waited for death in the gas chamber. Potter uses genuine artifacts from Golden’s archives, including the actual handcuffs Battalino wore.

For further information, visit www.goldenhistory.org.

An interactive classical listening experience

When the Denver Art Song Project was founded in 2015 by Eapen Leubner, Mallory Bernstein and Michael Bevers, the idea was to create themed art song programs that blend spoken word, art, and super-titles. They also wanted to use this art to build a community of fellow performers and audiences. This led to the release of their first album, “A Single Step… Songs of Beethoven and Donaudy.”

At 7 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 1, the Denver Art Song Project will bring the works of Dvorak, Barber, and Vaughan Williams to the Arts at Cabrini, 6773 W. Chatfield Ave. in south Jefferson County.

Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children younger than under 18. There will be food, wine and non-alcoholic beverages available by donation.

For more information, call 303-979-7688 or visit www.artsatcabrini.com.

Practice photography with flying friends

No matter how cold it gets outside, there’s always a warm place to spend with crawling and fluttering insects at Westminster’s Butterfly Pavilion.

The facility, 6252 W. 104th Ave., is also helping photographers with their wildlife skills with a Tripod Photography class, beginning at 7:45 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 2. The cost is $15 for non-members and $13.50 for members.

The self-guided event lets photogs-in-training get photos of butterflies and tropical flowers in the pavilion’s tropical rainforest. There aren’t many places in Colorado, particularly as we move into the long dark of winter, where you’ll find these kinds of flora and fauna.

For information, call 303-469-5441 or visit www.butterflies.org/rainforest-photography.

Booze tasting and adult milk and cookies

Breweries all over the metro area are rolling out holiday and seasonal drinks this time of year, and you can sample several offerings over the weekend.

Wheat Ridge’s Colorado Plus brewery, 6995 W. 38th Ave. will be showing off its Milk and Cookies Imperial Stout and made from scratch cookies at its Milk and Cookies Pairing.

The free event goes from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 2, and will feature a specialty crowler edition of imperial stout, which received a gold medal at the All Colorado Beer Festival 2017.

Molly’s Spirits, 5809 W. 44th Ave., is celebrating its second anniversary with a party from 4 to 7 p.m. on Dec. 1, and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 2. The party will feature live chalk artist painting by Mythica, who recently competed on TV’s “Skin Wars,” free food trucks, and Campo Viejo wines from Spain and Left Hand Brewing tastings.

To learn more, head to www.mollysspirits.com.

Clarke Reader’s column on culture appears on a weekly basis. A community editor with Colorado Community Media, he can be reached creader@coloradocommunitymedia.com.

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