Best of Boulder East County 2013: Entertainment

A Day of the Dead exhibit at Firehouse Art Center.
Photo courtesy of Firehouse Art Center

Art Gallery
667 4th Ave., Longmont, 303-651-2787
Second Place: Curating the Cool
Third Place: Dona Laurita Photography and Fine Art
Fourth Place: Muse Gallery
Fifth Place: Creative Framing

One of the conundrums — conundra? — of the art gallery is that art is eternal, some would say, but at the same time art galleries need to be connected to their communities. That’s a balance that Firehouse Art Center has learned to maintain. Its exhibits for 2013 include bicycle art, timed up with National Bike Month in June and featuring art in all media, and packaging design as art — in other words, an exhibit of beer and wine labels featuring local businesses. It also holds a special showcase for Colorado artists.

Advanced Education
2190 Miller Drive, Longmont, 303-678-3722
Second Place: Rolf Institute of Structural Integration
Third Place: Southwest Acupuncture College

Whether you’re 18 and fresh out of high school, a bit more experienced and looking for a continuing education opportunity suitable to further or even change your career, or you’re just one of those people with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, Front Range Community College may just be the perfect fit for your educational needs.

Our readers tell us that this is a great school committed to their needs and that its affordability makes it their favorite choice for advanced education. So if you’re feeling the need to throw on a cap and gown — and it’s not Halloween — FRCC is the place for you.

Classical Music
519 Main St., Longmont, 303-772-5796
Second Place: Rocky Mountain Center for Musical Arts

The Longmont Symphony Orchestra has been around since 1966. 1966! That means it’s approaching its 50th birthday, and it certainly has plowed through its middle  ages with aplomb. The mostly-volunteer orchestra performs more than 10 concerts each year, serving more than 15,000 people in the city of Longmont and beyond. Robert Olson, the music director, has helmed the ship for 30 years, rallying professional musicians to volunteer their time to bring classical music of the highest quality to Longmont. Here’s to many more decades of making classical music in Longmont.

Movie House
1164 W. Dillon Road, Louisville, 303- 926-0661
Second Place: UA Twin Peaks 10
Third Place: AMC Flatiron Crossing 14

Our readers have spoken. If you need that escape that only a movie can provide, then Regal Colony Square Stadium 12 is the best place to go. But why? At first we thought it was because with 12 screens it had the largest selection of films. But Flatiron has 14 screens, so that wasn’t it. Then we thought it might be because Regal owns more movie theaters than any other company in the U.S. and therefore, must surely get the blockbusters before its competition. But a quick look at what’s showing found this theory to be a bust as well.

And then we figured it out. It’s all about the rear end, gluteus maximus, you know, your butt. Stadium seating, baby. Comfort while you watch is what makes this movie house stand out.

Live Jazz Venue
2675 North Park Drive, Lafayette 303-665-2757
Second Place: Ziggi’s Coffee House
Third Place: Café de Paris
Fourth Place: Bittersweet Café
Fifth Place: The Speakeasy

The Champions band at Nissi’s. | Photo by Susan France

What a great concept: Combine the performance hall with the restaurant, a space where patrons can enjoy fine food while being entertained by live music and other performers. This is what Nissi’s has succeeded in doing, and it has landed them top honors in the Live Jazz Venue category. East County is lucky to have such a distinctive establishment, for those nights when you decide that the tired old dinnerand-a-movie date just doesn’t sound satisfying enough. Second-place winner Ziggi’s in downtown Longmont hosts live jazz twice a month, in addition to live bluegrass on Monday nights.

110 N. Harrison Ave., Lafayette, 303-604-2424
Second Place: Longmont Museum & Cultural Center
Third Place: Leanin’ Tree Museum of Western Art
Fourth Place: Agricultural Heritage Center
Fifth Place: Louisville Historical Museum

A blend of history, learning and activity is the philosophy for WOW!, which aims its exhibits at children ages 15 months to 11 years. WOW! also hosts summer classes for children, language classes year round and an art room to allow children to produce projects.

In Longmont, the second-place winner, Longmont Museum, offers exhibits on the history of Colorado and the region alongside exhibits on unusual art forms like dolls and carved wood.

655 Aspen Ridge Drive, Lafayette, 303-665-4342
Second Place: Longmont Humane Society
Third Place: OUR Center
Fourth Place: Art Underground
Fifth Place: Imagine

In 1970, Sister Carmen Ptacnik, a Catholic nun with the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, came to Lafayette tasked with assessing the needs of the people. She met with Lafayette parishioners to ask them about their needs, and deliver food, clothing, toys and household goods donated to her. The organization that bears her name, Sister Carmen Community Center, continues her approach, providing services to more than 7,000 individuals. Sister Carmen Community Center, which is without religious affiliation, runs a thrift store, food bank, organic garden and a family resource center that connects families and individuals to the resources at the center, including nutrition, exercise and parenting classes, as well as to state and federal programs that provide assistance in times of need. In 2012, they distributed more than a million pounds of food and $226,000 in rental assistance to help stabilize families.

Festival/Event (Non-Music)
Main Street, Louisville,
Second Place: Longmont Farmers’ Market
Third Place: Lafayette Flea Market
Fourth Place: Lafayette Peach Festival
Fifth Place: Lafayette Art Night Out

On Friday evenings from June to August, small-town pride and a sense of community we’d like to call timeless comes out for the Louisville Downtown Street Faire. The Steinbaugh Pavilion on Front Street books national acts from the Young Dubliners to the BoDeans to Tab Benoit. The more than 10-yearold, family-friendly event, which includes food, art and jewelry from more than 50 vendor booths, draws thousands of people downtown for a night the Louisville Downtown Business Association describes as quieting the young and reinvigorating the old.

Music Venue
2675 North Park Drive, Lafayette, 303-665-2757
Second Place: Oskar Blues
Third Place: Waterloo
Fourth Place: Dickens Opera House

Tucked away east of the North Park Drive and 95th Street intersection is an American-style restaurant that doubles as the home for live music in Lafayette — Nissi’s. An incredible variety of bands comes through here, from Celtic outfits to metal bands to a cappella groups to contemporary jazz. And the crew at Nissi’s, armed with a topnotch sound system, does a great job of making sure the bands come across as crystal-clear as possible. If you’ve ever wanted to catch a great show without running into the hordes of college students that tend to flock to shows at other venues around the county, give Nissi’s a try. And if you want a top-notch live music experience accompanied by excellent craft beer, check out Oskar Blues’ locations in Lyons and Longmont.

Open Mic
1555 S. Hover Road, Longmont
1800 Pike Road, Unit B, Longmont
303 Main Street, Lyons
Second Place: Waterloo
Third Place: Cannon Mine
Fourth Place: The Speakeasy
Fifth Place: Dickens Opera House

The growth of Oskar Blues over the past decade has really been astounding, and as they’ve added new places to get great beer and food, they’ve also added places to listen to live music. In addition to the original Grill & Brew location in Lyons, the brewery now boasts several establishments in Longmont, including Home Made Liquids and Solids and The Tasty Weasel, a tasting room at the brewery. Oskar Blues, with its can-do attitude, took top honors in our survey for open mic sessions, which have given our local musicians more opportunities to hone and share their craft.

Place to Play Pool
935 Pine St., Louisville, 303-665-9966
Second Place: Eagle Grill
Third Place: Billiard Express
Fourth Place: Group Therapy Bar & Grill
Fifth Place: Dillinger’s Food & Spirits

Henry Yen, owner of Henry’s Bar & Grill in Louisville | Photo by Susan France

Experienced bar pool players usually have their priorities down. Some search for cheap tables, some for good space around the table, some for a clean surface, some for good competition, many for plain old availability. And of course, it doesn’t hurt if the beer is cheap and the management is friendly, two big reasons Henry’s Bar & Grill is a favorite in East Boulder County. It also hits the mark for low-cost pool, with 75-cent tables at all hours. Located just half a block from Louisville’s Main Street, it’s an ideal spot to swing by to win your money back after dinner — if you’re good enough.

Place to Dance
2675 North Park Drive, Lafayette, 303-665-2757%u2028
Second Place: Waterloo
Third Place: Dickens Opera House

If you haven’t discovered Nissi’s by now, then take our readers’ word for it and get on out to this classic live-music venue/restaurant/bar and start moving. Life is short and time spent dancing will not be deducted from your life.

Nissi’s is all about fun. Big-name musicians and quality local bands all love to play this East County space. And live or recorded, when the music gets rolling and your feet start tapping and your fingers won’t stop drumming, there is plenty of room in front of the stage to get all your body parts into the act. That’s right, order another round and let those hips fly free.

Place to WiFi
210 S. Public Road, Lafayette, 303-665-0625
Second Place: Starbucks
Third Place: Ziggi’s Coffee House
Fourth Place: Bittersweet Café and Confections
Fifth Place: Proper Grounds Coffee Roasters

Lafayette’s oldest coffee shop, Cannon Mine Coffee, takes home the award for having the best wireless Internet connection in East County. But it’s more than just a connection fast enough to let you browse Facebook and use Google Docs and YouTube at the same time. It’s about having an atmosphere that allows you to focus, while inspiring you to do your best work. And Cannon Mine fits the bill there, with a quaint decor that will ensure maximum efficiency for both screenplay writing and Twitter checking. And their coffee is pretty good, too — they were the first coffee shop in Boulder County (so they say) to serve shade-grown, fair trade organic coffee.

Private School
10455 Dawson Drive, Lafayette, 303-665-6679
Second Place: The Patchwork School
Third Place: Saint Louis Catholic School
Fourth Place: Catalyst High School
Fifth Place: Adventure Montessori

Out with the chalkboards. In with the iPads. Out with single-minded focus on reading, writing and ’rithmetic. In with Mandarin, improvisational theater troupes, music ensembles and week-long field trips focused on experiential learning. Out with football practice. In with a rock climbing gym and ropes course. Out with 30 or more students in a class, in with an average class size of 15 and a total student enrollment of 460.

In an effort to “achieve excellence of mind, body, and character,” the Alexander Dawson School assembles a K-12 curriculum with a college preparatory program that uses an array of opportunities, including the arts, overseas language immersion programs, and a service learning requirement for high school students to prepare young men and women for the world. May they go brightly forward.

Sports Bar
585 E. South Boulder Road, Louisville, 720-890-7900
Second Place: Buffalo Wild Wings
Third Place: Dillinger’s Food & Spirits
Fourth Place: Headliners Pub & Pizza
Fifth Place: The Parkway Sports Grille

Smoking is bad for you and others. Please do not do it. But if you do smoke, that doesn’t mean you should have to miss the big game, or the little game, or the relatively inconsequential-butfun-to-watch game, that you came to the bar for. That’s why Ralphie’s Sports Tavern features TVs outdoors, as well as all around the interior of the Louisville restaurant and bar. As with runner-up Buffalo Wild Wings, Ralphie’s makes a point of featuring pay-perview sporting events for free.

Public School (K-8)
400 Hutchinson St., Louisville, 720-561-7200
Second Place: Ryan Elementary School
Third Place: Lafayette Elementary School
Fourth Place: Flagstaff Academy
Fifth Place: Central Elementary

We like this school’s motto: “Every day, we make a difference for each child.” Apparently, Louisville Elementary is succeeding in making a difference, because it got top billing in our survey question on the best public school in East County, among those teaching kindergarten through eighth grade. While there is pressure these days for elementary school teachers to simply teach to what will get the school good scores on the state’s standardized test, we appreciate schools like our winners, which strive to go beyond that limited scope.

Public School (9-12)
329 Campus Drive, Louisville, 720-561- 4200%u2028
Second Place: Peak to Peak Charter Academy
Third Place: Centaurus High School
Fourth Place: Silver Creek High School
Fifth Place: Niwot High School

So what does it take to be a great high school? We think that it starts by not resembling any high school ever depicted in a TV series.

In other words, students should not be breaking into song and well-choreographed dance routines at the drop of a hat. Football players are not all unibrowed thugs whose only function is to stuff small kids with glasses into lockers. Likewise, all small kids with glasses are not super-intelligent geeks incapable of defending themselves. And finally, cheerleaders should not always be viewed as jealous, infighting, vain exhibitionists who are, as Nanci Griffith likes to say, heavy on thigh and light on integrity. OK, scratch that last one, cheerleaders will be cheerleaders.

But all kidding aside, a great high school is a place where everyone feels safe, is respected, and gets a great education while having fun and getting to participate in a wide variety of activities. It’s a place where scholarship is honed and lifelong friendships are made. Our readers tell us that Monarch High School is just that kind of place, and we’re pretty sure that all of our top five schools are as well. Congrats to all.