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Updated: 25 min 7 sec ago

Aramark finalizes concessionaire contract with Empower Field at Mile High; mobile ordering debuts in club level

40 min 37 sec ago

A new service provider for food and drink service at Broncos games debuted against the Raiders last week with the unveiling of a $7 million investment for concession upgrades at Empower Field at Mile High.

Aramark and the Metropolitan Football Stadium District finalized a 10-year agreement Wednesday for the Philadelphia-based company to serve as the stadium’s general concessionaire after Mile High’s previous contract with Centerplate expired. Aramark, recently replaced as the concessionaire at the Pepsi Center, had operated on an interim contract at Mile High since February.

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As part of the 164-page contract, a $20 million commitment from Aramark is required for concession upgrades, including the $7 million rollout Sunday. New concession advancements included self-service checkouts, walk-through drink coolers, digital menu boards and more. Jay Roberts, Stadium Management Company general manager, said it was the first in a multi-phase improvement plan with new food/drink items also available for purchase.

Additionally, Sunday’s game was the introduction of mobile food and drink orders for club level guests with in-seat delivery offered at no additional charge.

“Eventually, guests will be able to access the service through the Broncos App, but that is still in development,” said David Freireich, Aramark’s senior director of corporate communications. “In the meantime, guests sitting in these designated sections/seats receive instructions on how to access the app via text or a QR code.”

Aramark will pay the SMC a commission of 26.5% from the gross receipts of all sales from each event held at Mile High. Its concessionaire contract with the stadium runs through March 31, 2029.

In diverse Toronto, the Raptors’ sports hijab is hailed as a win for inclusivity

43 min 47 sec ago

TORONTO — As Paul Jones browsed through the Toronto Raptors’ apparel shop at Scotiabank Arena on Tuesday afternoon, the team’s radio and TV broadcaster spotted a rack of hijabs bearing the Raptors’ claw logo along with the Nike swoosh.

The head coverings, worn in public by some Muslim women, have not always been accepted by major sports organizations. Now, they are being marketed and sold by the Raptors and Nike as part of an inclusive initiative inspired by Muslim women basketball players in Toronto.

“It’s part of our world — including people,” said Jones, who has been with the franchise for 24 years. “I like it. It says to me, ‘We include you. You’re part of this.’ ”

The Raptors unveiled their team-specific Nike Hijab Pro on Friday with a promotional video, becoming the first NBA team to license officially branded hijabs. In the days since, the headwear has inspired reaction across North America, but especially among the Muslim community in Greater Toronto, which numbers more than 400,000, according to the latest census data in 2011.

“People who aren’t Raptors fans or who aren’t Muslims or who aren’t female are seeing this as a step in the right direction for multiculturalism in Toronto and celebrating diversity,” said Amreen Kadwa, the founder of the Hijabi Ballers, the Muslim women’s basketball group that was founded in 2017 and plays every Sunday in Toronto.

Inspired by those brave enough to change the game.

The Toronto Raptors Nike Pro Hijab is available now.#WeTheNorth pic.twitter.com/D1fY1mWGhy

— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) September 13, 2019

Sports governing bodies have been slow to embrace the hijab. Until a rule change in 2017, head coverings, including the hijab and Jewish yarmulkes, were banned by the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) due to concerns that they might pose safety risks during game play. A Change.org petition, which was accompanied by the “#FIBAAllowHijab” campaign, received more than 132,000 signatures in support of Muslim women athletes. Similarly, the International Soccer Federation (FIFA) banned head coverings until 2014, a rule that restricted the Iranian women’s team from competing in multiple international tournaments.

The idea to conceive and sell the hijab was a “Raptors-led initiative,” according to an NBA spokesperson, but the league, which has focused on tolerance and diversity under Commissioner Adam Silver, expressed no reservations. Although it’s not yet clear whether other NBA and WNBA teams will follow suit with their own versions, executives from both leagues have prioritized creating products that appeal to their global fan bases and to their diverse player pools. The feedback from the NBA has been “very supportive and positive,” said Jerry Ferguson, senior director for marketing for Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, the Raptors’ parent group.

In May, as the Raptors were advancing in the playoffs en route to their championship, Ferguson read a newspaper feature about the Hijabi Ballers and wanted to know what the group thought of wearing a Raptors-branded hijab. The players liked it and agreed to appear in the promotional video.

“We think it’s beautiful film that shines a bright, beautiful spotlight on those young women who are playing basketball,” said Ferguson, who also asked the Hijabi Ballers to assist with some messaging through the large Muslim community, many of whom have become Raptors fans.

The National Council of Canadian Muslims praised the Hijabi Ballers for inspiring the Raptors.

“One of the beautiful things about sports is that everyone can play,” Mustafa Farooq, the council’s executive director, told the Associated Press. “We thank the Raptors for taking this step.”

Jones, the team broadcaster, is also a former elementary school principal, and said he foresees the message of including others filtering down through schools in Canada.

“You can now have kids in grades five and six playing in their school tournaments wearing them. Why? Because Nike and the Raptors have said it’s okay,” he said. “Before, people who didn’t know or who didn’t accept would look and say, ‘Why is that kid wearing that?’ Now it’s a powerful endorsement.”

About a half-hour drive west of Toronto in the suburb of Mississauga, Heba Mousa has already seen such benefits. Her 14-year-old daughter was concerned about volleyball tryouts because she was set to wear a hijab for the first time. But she felt better after watching the video featuring the Hijabi Ballers. Her mother took her to a Nike outlet, where there was only one hijab left.

“She was really worried about wearing a hijab because she really wanted to continue to pursue playing volleyball,” Mousa said of her daughter. “It’s nice to see other role models on social media who have decided to continue to wear or start wearing a hijab.”

Shireen Ahmed, a member of the Hijabi Ballers’ advisory board and a sportswriter, activist and podcaster, said having the item sold by the massively popular, title-winning Raptors certainly helps, too.

“There are high school teams and varsity teams in the U.S. and Canada that have purchased sports hijabs to match their uniforms, but this is a pro sports teams selling merchandise,” she said. “I am not surprised it was the Raptors because this is one of the places where this will fly. But I hope it is really something that other leagues take note of. I’d really love to see the WNBA do it.”

The WNBA has not yet had a player request to wear a hijab during games, but the league would allow it, according to people familiar with the matter.

Ferguson, the Raptors marketing executive, said he wanted the team to represent more of its fans.

“This is why this thinking makes this so powerful and special,” Ferguson said.

Even though a pro basketball team is selling the product, the Nike hijab has found buyers in other sports since first hitting shelves in 2017.

When she’s sparring and in competition, Lareb Hussain, a boxer in Toronto, puts a scarf around her head with the head gear atop. In training, she wears a toque, but she said that’s “sweaty and gross,” so she is looking forward to trying this new hijab under her head gear.

“This will open up the field of sports for women who wear the hijab,” Hussain said. “There’s a whole range of combat arts that involve Muslim women around the world. We’re part of this whole society of Muslim female fighters.”

Mehnaaz Bholat also sees possibility in the new hijab. She didn’t play basketball in high school because her parents wouldn’t allow her to wear shorts, which would go against her religious views by displaying her legs. Now a 29-year-old mother of two, she wears track pants and a hijab when playing with the Hijabi Ballers, which she joined this year.

“I wish I had a girl, so she could see all this,” said Bholat, who has 4-year-old and 19-month-old boys. “But I hope when my boys grow up they will see that sports are not just meant for boys and that being Muslim doesn’t stop you from playing sports.”

The Washington Post’s Ben Golliver contributed to this report from Los Angeles.

Paxton Lynch: “I have gotten a humbling,” former Broncos QB says after signing with Steelers

1 hour 6 min ago

It’s been a long, winding road for Paxton Lynch since he was selected by the Broncos in the first round of the 2016 NFL draft.

On Tuesday, the 6-foot-7 quarterback was signed to the Pittsburgh Steelers‘ practice squad. In an interview with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, he said: “I never really had a big ego or felt like I needed to be humbled, but I have gotten a humbling.”

After being cut by the Broncos prior to the start of the 2018 regular season, Lynch worked out with a number of teams before being signed to the Seahawks in the offseason. He lost the backup job to Geno Smith and was cut at the end of preseason.

Pittsburgh signed Lynch after starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger went on the injured reserve after suffering an elbow injury Sunday that ended his season. Lynch is the third quarterback on the team behind starter Mason Rudolph and backup Devlin Hodges.

“It feels good to get on a team and kind of get back in the rhythm of a season,” he told the Tribune-Review.

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Lynch said he wasn’t sure why the Broncos cut him prior to the start of the 2018 regular season, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

“Teams move on,” Lynch told the Post-Gazette. “They make their decision. It’s a business. I don’t have any hard feelings over it. I really enjoyed my time with those guys. It was really good to be around them. I wish things would have worked out.”

Lynch, 25, played in three preseason games with the Seahawks this year, completing 18 of 37 passes for 180 yards and a touchdown. He also had 43 yards rushing on 11 carries and a TD.

In two seasons in Denver, he played in five games (four starts), completing 61.7% of his passes for 792 yards, four touchdowns and four interceptions.

Merriam-Webster adds non-binary pronoun “they” to dictionary

1 hour 59 min ago

Merriam-Webster added a new definition of the word “they” to its dictionary, declaring the pronoun may be used to refer to a “single person whose gender identity is nonbinary.”

“They” is a liberating pronoun for many non-binary individuals who identify as genders other than male or female. For many Americans, the use of “they” as a singular pronoun can be ungrammatical and confusing.

But Merriam-Webster’s announcement, made on Twitter on Tuesday, marked an official stamp of approval on a term that has become increasingly common as non-binary identities become more visible than ever.

State and city governments, including in the District of Columbia, California and New York, have begun offering a gender option of “X” on identification cards. Airlines, school districts and colleges nationwide are also allowing alternative gender markers.

“Language responds to social change. Things that need to be expressed get expressed,” said Dennis Baron, professor emeritus of English and linguistics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In recent years, a number of journalism style guides have allowed the gender-neutral pronouns. The Associated Press in 2017 announced it would permit journalists to use the singular “they” in limited cases, and The Washington Post has formally recognized the new pronouns since 2015.

But in a blog post written before Tuesday’s announcement, Merriam-Webster noted that “they” has been used as a singular pronoun since the late 1300s, “and that regardless of what detractors say, nearly everyone uses the singular they in casual conversation and often in formal writing.”

“There have always been people who didn’t conform to an expected gender expression, or who seemed to be neither male nor female. But we’ve struggled to find the right language to describe these people-and in particular, the right pronouns,” the blog post stated. The singular “they,” it said, is “not quite as newfangled as it seems: we have evidence in our files of the nonbinary they dating back to 1950, and it’s likely that there are earlier uses of the nonbinary pronoun they out there.”

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Many English speakers consider dictionaries to be “constitutional,” authorities, Baron said. “They want to have some kind of stability in language that they can point to and say ‘here’s the rules.” In reality, Baron said, dictionaries are not intended to set rules on how people should behave. “They’re a general indication of how language is being used at a particular time,” Baron said. But the inclusion in Merriam-Webster of a singular “they” for non-binary individuals is a significant recognition that the new pronouns have reached the mainstream. Baron, who is publishing a book next year called “What’s Your Pronoun?: Beyond He and She,” said he knew the singular “they” was “here to stay” as soon as people started arguing about its correct grammatical usage. For example, should the reflexive form be “themself” or “themselves?” The question is still under debate. “If people are already worried about how you express singular ‘they’ correctly, then it is already established,” Baron said.

In recent months, a number of celebrities have come out as non-binary. Last week, Sam Smith declared on Twitter that the singer has decided to go by the non-binary pronouns they/them, adding that “after a lifetime of being at war with my gender I’ve decided to embrace myself for who I am, inside and out.”

“I understand there will be many mistakes and mis gendering but all I ask is you please please try,” Smith tweeted. “I hope you can see me like I see myself now.”

The new definition of “they” was among 530 new words added to the dictionary, Merriam-Webster said Tuesday. Among the other new words were “deep state,” “dad joke” and “free solo.”

Healthy Akil Jones making impact on CU Buffs defense

2 hours 41 sec ago

The way things were going for Akil Jones, it was beginning to feel like he might not ever make an impact on the Colorado defense.

Finally healthy, however, the junior linebacker has stepped up in the past two games, coming off the bench to deliver from key plays for the Buffaloes.

“I feel like we have a ton of guys who could step up and fill the role like at any second, but I’m just thankful that the coach saw me and gave me the opportunity to step up, and I’m just happy I made some plays,” Jones said.

Jones recorded a career-high 10 tackles in 41 snaps played off the bench during Saturday’s 30-23 overtime loss to Air Force. It was a performance that could lead to more playing time for Jones as the Buffs (2-1) prepare for Saturday’s Pac-12 opener at No. 24 Arizona State (3-0).

The 6-foot, 230-pound Jones, from San Jose, Calif., is in his fourth season with the Buffaloes, but up until this year he spent his time behind veterans, while also dealing with injuries. Coming into this year, he had played a total of 40 career snaps on defense, with seven tackles.

Now, for the first time, the Buffs are leaning on him in crucial situations.

During a Sept. 7 win against Nebraska, Jones came off the bench to record four tackles in 13 snaps. He’s also got two tackles for loss and three third-down stops this season.

Despite the lack of overall experience, Jones has displayed no hesitation as he has relieved starter Jonathan Van Diest in the last two games.

“I just got enough reps in practice,” he said. “I feel like practice is honestly harder than the game; that’s just being honest. So when I stepped out there on the field, I was like, ‘Our scouts are giving us a better look than our own opponents.’ It’s really great. We got everybody working together to get better and it’s just become second nature.”

In 2017, Jones dealt with a sports hernia. Last year, it was ankle injury that bothered him. Then, this year, on the third day of fall camp, he suffered a deep laceration to his leg after, he believes, a teammate’s cleats ripped through the skin below his knee. The injury was similar to what CU safety Aaron Maddox experienced last week against Air Force.

“It took me out for longer than I thought it would,” he said. “I ended up being out for pretty much the entire fall camp.”

Jones credits CU’s medical staff for getting him back on the field as soon as possible, but with all of his bad luck, Jones wasn’t sure when he’d get an opportunity to play.

“Everyone comes from high school as the star player and everybody thinks they’re going to play (in college),” he said, “but then once the reality hits, you have to go back to humbling yourself and understanding, ‘How did you get there in the first place to be in that star in high school?’ and it was hard work just sticking with it. I feel like I came back to that and coaches are recognizing it and I’m just happy to be a part of this program.”

Coming back from his latest injury, Jones needed a few weeks to return to football shape, but said during the Air Force game he felt like he was in much better shape.

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Going forward, Jones will continue to battle for playing time. Junior Nate Landman is the Buffs’ leader at inside linebacker, but Jones and Van Diest will fight for playing time.

“I’m pretty confident (in knowing the defense),” he said. “I’m still learning a few of the packages. For the most part I feel pretty confident out there being able to make calls and checks and everything. But you know, I’m trying to get to the next level and not only know what I’m doing, but the guys next to me.”

For Jones, it feels good to put his injury frustration aside and focus on his job on the field.

“Nobody wants to be injured, but it’s just something you can’t think about when you’re out there,” he said. “You just gotta go 100 percent and just hope for the best because the moment you start dwelling on it and hoping you don’t get injured, that’s when it happens.”

Colorado Rapids podcast: Recapping the loss to Toronto FC, looking ahead to Sporting KC

2 hours 8 min ago

Hello Rapids fans! This week on Holding The High Line, Rabbi and Red are discussing the weirdest trophies in American Soccer. The guys review the loss to Toronto FC with Good Thing Bad Thing, Big Thing, We discuss missed opportunities for the Pids, a poor start, and yes, that Jozy Altidore foul.

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We then turn to Sporting KC. Mark and Matt recap what’s gone wrong for Sporting in 2019, where they’re at after their rotten week last week, and what they could look like against Colorado Rapids on Saturday.

Holding The High Line has partnered up with the Denver Post to sustainably grow soccer journalism in Colorado. Listeners can get a three month trial of the Denver Post digital for 99¢/month. Go to denverpost.com/hthl to sign up. This will give you unlimited and full access to all of the Post’s online content and will support local coverage of the Rapids. Each month after the trial is $11.99/month. There is a sports-content-only option for $6.99/month.

If you like the show, please consider subscribing wherever you get your podcasts, reviewing the show on said podcatcher, and telling other soccer fans about us. It really does help. For a full list of where to find us, click here. Follow us on Twitter @rapids96podcast. You can email the show at rapids96podcast@gmail.com. If you love us and want to give us money, head on over to our Patreon page. For full transcripts of every episode, check us out on AudioBurst.

Our artwork was produced by CR54 Designs. Juanners does our music.

Boulder e-scooter demos helping city officials craft regulations to end ban

2 hours 43 min ago

E-scooter businesses have their sights set on Boulder, and city officials are prepping for their arrival.

Despite a temporary ban on e-scooter companies operating in the city, packs of riders have been rolling up and down streets for a couple hours at a time over the last two weeks, including midday Wednesday.

The Boulder Chamber hosted one of five demonstrations on Wednesday in the Flatiron Business Park off of 55th Street with several e-scooter companies present with vehicles ready to test ride. Dozens of workers in the multi-building office complex turned out to take a spin, and some tried more than one or all of the five e-scooter brands featured at the event.

“This saves a lot of time, especially for a person like me who doesn’t own a car,” Monkek Thind said after testing a scooter. “This is going to help a lot (during lunch hour), actually.”

University of Colorado Boulder last week held similar e-scooter test runs on campus, while the city hosted two Monday and Tuesday on 13th Street near the Dushanbe Teahouse. A final e-scooter demo is planned for 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday at the Center for Community, 2249 Willard Loop Drive.

“I was a little bit terrified at first,” Jillian Morrow said after a test drive Wednesday. “It was faster than I thought. Once I got the hang of it, it was lots of fun.”

City council in May imposed a moratorium on issuing business licenses to e-scooter companies through February 2020, giving Boulder staffers time to propose regulations on where, when and how the electric vehicles can be ridden.

“We know we don’t want them on sidewalks,” Boulder Senior Transportation Planner Dave Kemp said.

He added city officials are looking into regulatory proposals that could prohibit e-scooter use on major arterial roads lacking bike lanes, in addition to disallowing e-scooters before dawn and after dusk, to prevent, in part, drunken operation as well as riding in the dark. But all the considerations are preliminary, and any rules will have to gain council approval to trigger an end to the moratorium.

“Safety is paramount,” Kemp said. “… It would behoove us to have, if not a law, encouragement of helmet use. Denver is playing catchup on building regulations for e-bikes and e-scooters. We’re going to build the most constructive regulations for council consideration.”

Boulder resident Caitlin Jacobsen earlier this year was involved in an e-scooter crash after leaving Coors Field in Denver, and was in a medically induced coma for some time after the incident. Her sister, Jennifer Jacobsen, last month testified to Boulder City Council that the woman’s condition remained serious and urged the city to approach e-scooters with extreme caution.

Despite the tragedy, hopes are high for e-scooters, along with e-bike sharing and micro-transit options, such as cars smaller than buses, to be part of the formula to deter Boulder-based employees from driving into work, Kemp and Boulder Chamber leaders said.

Their availability near Boulder bus stops for regional routes could tilt the scales in favor of transit over single-occupancy vehicles, giving bus riders a convenient option to complete the “first and last miles” of their trips without walking or sweating through their work clothes while pedaling a standard bike, and help draw down transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions from Boulder residents and workers.

In 2018, people took 38.5 million trips on shared e-scooters in the United States, according to a National Association of City Transportation Officials report.

“Our goal is to fully explore all possible opportunities to improve mobility for Boulder’s workforce and residents,” Boulder Chamber Director of Public Affairs Andrea Meneghel said.

Kemp also said the city will be looking to e-scooter companies to gear their smartphone applications to promote good behavior by riders when it comes to parking and cruising in properly designated areas, perhaps by warning users they could be charged higher fees for bad placement or riding habits picked up on by companies’ location tracking technology.

The city also is looking to ensure equitable access to e-scooters and e-bike sharing programs by finding ways to get them into the hands of residents and employees who could use them, but may not have a smartphone model able to start up a scooter, or a credit card to plug into a mobile application, Kemp said.

“They’re getting the full shakedown, but ultimately we see the value,” Kemp said.

After back-to-back homicide and shooting on same Denver block, neighbors reckon with 24 hours of violence

2 hours 48 min ago

Keith Strickland tossed a handful of bullet casings at the feet of one of Denver’s highest-ranking police officers and challenged the division chief.

“How are our kids supposed to trust you guys if you’re never here?” Strickland demanded at a community meeting held Wednesday night on the street.

Elise Schmelzer, The Denver PostBullet casings sit on a post outside Keith Strickland’s Denver home on Sept. 18, 2019. Strickland collected the casings from the street outside his house after people fired guns at his next door neighbor’s home.

In a 24-hour period this week, bullets sprayed two of the houses on Strickland’s Montbello block. Strickland picked up the bullet casings from the street outside his home after his next door neighbor’s house was shot at late Monday night. The following night, he awoke again to police sirens as officers investigated a gun homicide a few houses down.

Neighbors, community organizers and police gathered Wednesday night on Lackland Place to discuss the recent violence and vent their frustrations. Some residents were angry at the police — for not patrolling the street often, not coming fast enough when called, or not coming at all. Other longtime residents said they were looking to move. They didn’t feel safe there anymore.

RELATED: Our kids are dying: Gun violence killing increasing number of teens in Denver and across Colorado

Around midnight Monday, shooters fired bullets through the front windows of Shermaine Taylor’s home, striking the couch where her 11-year-old daughter lay and peppering the girl’s bedroom. The shooting didn’t physically injure anybody, but Taylor now fears the place she’s lived for 11 years.

The shooting Monday was the second time in six months Taylor’s home had been struck by gunfire, she said. Bullet holes remained in the front windows and in the air conditioning unit on the windowsill from this week’s shooting.

“I’m afraid for my babies,” Taylor said. “I was very close to losing a child.”

The next night, a man was shot and killed in a home down the street.

The conversation in the group Wednesday soon turned to the impact of violence among teens. The number of teens killed in gun homicides in Denver has spiked over the past five years.

“Our babies are dying out here,” said Joel Hodge, founder of Struggle of Love Foundation and who lives nearby. “That’s why we come out today.”

Autumn Lawrence‘s 14-year-old son, Aiden, was shot and killed Aug. 9 in Stapleton, one neighborhood west. She urged people to become involved in violence prevention and to protect their children. No other mother should have to pick out funeral clothes and a burial site for a child, she said.

“I am sick to my stomach every day,” she said.

Twenty people have been killed in homicides in Montbello since 2015 — tying with Five Points for the Denver neighborhood with the most killings in that time period. Two people were killed in the neighborhood this year and at least six people were wounded in shootings, police data show.

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Denver Police Department Division Chief Ron Thomas listened Wednesday night as residents explained their problems with police. He listened as the neighbors grieved the loss of their sense of safety. He urged them to call 911 when they hear something.

Toward the end of the gathering, the group of about 100 joined hands in a giant circle. They bowed their heads to pray.

“We trust you God to heal us, to move us,” Glenn Garcia, of Safe Haven Denver, prayed. “We are not standing here alone.”

The Head and the Heart, T-Pain, Lindsey Stirling and more Colorado concerts on sale this week

3 hours 33 min ago

Not So Silent Night, Channel 93.3’s annual holiday show, is picking up stakes and moving to promoter AEG Presents Rocky Mountains’ new Mission Ballroom in the River North Art District, following years of operating at the FirstBank Center in Broomfield. Tickets to this year’s Dec. 5, 16-and-up event — which features co-headliners The Head and the Heart and Fitz and the Tantrums, along with opener Enzi – are on sale at 10 a.m. Sept. 20. ($52.80-$99, axs.com)

Intimidatingly talented singer, MC and producer T-Pain, who’s perhaps best known for popularizing Auto-Tune in hip-hop, is bringing the latest leg of his 1Up Tour to the Boulder Theater on Nov. 18. Tickets to this 12-date jaunt — which precedes new music from T-Pain — are on sale at 10 a.m. Sept. 20. ($32.50-$35, bouldertheater.com)

Superstar violinist Lindsey Stirling is returning for Colorado shows this fall after a planned raft of European dates. Tickets to her Nov. 25 concert at the Broadmoor World Arena in Colorado Springs and Nov. 26 show at Loveland’s Budweiser Events Center are on sale at 10 a.m. Sept. 20. ($32-$85, axs.com or treventscomplex.com, respectively)

SchoolBoy Q’s Crash Tour is barreling through Colorado and will include a Nov. 26 concert at the Fillmore Auditorium with opener Nav. Tickets to the L.A.-based headliner’s 16-and-up show are on sale at 10 a.m. Sept. 20. (Prices TBA, livenation.com)

Country-western mainstay Michael Martin Murphey is bringing his Cowboy Christmas program to the Boulder Theater on Nov. 24, featuring twang-inflected holiday tunes. Tickets are on sale at 10 a.m. Sept. 20. ($35-$50, bouldertheater.com)

American Authors, Magic Giant and Public are uniting for a 16-and-up concert at the Ogden Theatre on Feb. 11, 2020, with tickets on sale at 10 a.m. Sept. 20. ($25-$30, axs.com)

The high-energy newgrass of Montana’s festival-favorite Lil’ Smokies will ring out at two shows along the Front Range this fall — first at Denver’s Ogden Theatre on Dec. 20, then at the Boulder Theater on Dec. 21. Tickets for both are on sale at 10 a.m. Sept. 20. ($25-$75, axs.com and bouldertheater.com, respectively)

English piano-rock act Keane is bringing its Cause and Effect tour, featuring as-yet-unannounced “special guests,” to the Ogden Theatre on March 13, 2020. Tickets to the 16-and-up concert are on sale at 10 a.m. Sept. 20. ($49.50-$125, axs.com)

EDM producer Robert DeLong is bringing his Oxpecker Ball 2019 to the Exdo Event Center on Nov. 2 with Denver’s Tiger Party, a show that will double as a fundraiser for the RiNo ArtPark project. Tickets for the all-ages show are on sale at 10 a.m. Sept. 20. ($15, oxpeckerball.com)

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“Fantastic Fungi” doc shows growing appetite for mushrooms — magic or otherwise

3 hours 45 min ago

The mushroom boom is here.

It didn’t arrive as quickly, or with as much fanfare, as the Green Rush that followed the statewide legalization of cannabis in 2014. But it’s here.

“It’s certainly drafting off of the expanded awareness that cannabis brought to the market,” said Louie Schwartzberg, the Los Angeles-based director of a new documentary, “Fantastic Fungi,” which explores the world of mushrooms. That includes psilocybin mushrooms, a.k.a. the “magic” or psychedelic ones.

As the first city in the United States to decriminalize the possession and use of psilocybin mushrooms, Denver is taking early steps toward normalizing a drug that’s still federally illegal. But even as places like Oakland, Calif., follow our lead in making mushrooms the lowest law-enforcement priority, big questions still surround the benefits and risks of this powerful drug.

“Fantastic Fungi” is here to answer them. Some of them, anyway.

RELATEDSpores of a psychedelic mushroom industry are sprouting in Denver after decriminalization

“I was ahead of the curve when I started this film 13 years ago,” said Schwartzberg, an award-winning director and cinematographer whose work includes the Netflix nature series “Moving Art.” ”Who could have predicted that $17 million grant to Johns Hopkins University last week? Or that cities in Colorado and California and Oregon would now be decriminalizing them? The timing is really, really good.”

Appropriately, “Fantastic Fungi” will have its world premiere at Denver’s Sie FilmCenter on Friday, Sept. 20, followed by a screening at the 40th anniversary Aspen Filmfest on Sept. 23, with Schwartzberg in attendance at both events. The decision to launch the film in Colorado was no fluke, Schwarzberg said, as he, too, is drafting off the momentum of Denver’s progressive drug laws.

“I thought it would be cool to work with local groups in Denver that were the pioneers in this movement,” he said, noting that the Sept. 20 premiere is sponsored by Decriminalize Denver, the group that lobbied voters to approve I-301 in May.

Narrated by Oscar-winner Brie Larson, “Fantastic Fungi” covers more than just the growing medical and scientific interest in psilocybin, with dazzling imagery that takes viewers underground and inside the fascinating mycelial networks of earth. These fungal-bacteria structures can consist of a few spores, or miles upon miles of growth, but they all serve to decompose, connect and regenerate diverse plant and animal life across the planet.

It’s recently been the stuff of science fiction — see “Star Trek: Discovery’s” subspace “spore drive” — but research confirms nearly everything that Schwartzberg and his interview subjects assert in “Fungi,” from the ecological dreams of longtime mycologist Paul Stamets to the social and culinary interest of Eugenia Bone, a nature and food writer (and former Denver Post contributor) who sees a world of opportunity in mushrooms.

“There’s a huge subculture of mycophiles, of people who are fascinated with mushrooms,” she says in “Fungi.” “They hunt mushrooms together and they eat mushrooms together, and they’re sort of bloated pleasure-seekers with a scientific bent. Really, my kind of crowd.”

For all its focus on the ways humans use mushrooms, “Fungi” doesn’t necessarily try to turn their squishy, fuzzy realm into a warm or cuddly place. What it does is tap into viewers’ sense of wonder at the hidden complexity around them.

“I’m good at making the invisible visible,” said Schwartzberg, whose 3-D IMAX film “Mysteries of the Unseen World” used slow-motion and time-lapse photography to capture imagery too small or fast for the naked eye. “I enjoy taking people on these journeys through time and scale, and that’s what this film is. It’s a way to show the wisdom and intelligence of nature.”

The opening narration of the documentary speaks of “the pulse of eternal knowledge” and “the oneness … From your first breath to your last, in darkness and in the light, we are the oldest and youngest,” Larson says in her reverent, quasi-spiritual tone. “We are the wisdom of a billion years. We are creation.”

Audiences would be forgiven for rolling their eyes at this broad, touchy-feely language, which has been used lately in describing pretty much anything that connects or drives us — from beer to subatomic particles to the written word. But the funny thing is, she’s right. It’s a lot for a documentary to take on — telling this complicated and, at times, highly technical story with minimal exposition and loads of illustrative shots of natural processes. But the science backs it up.

“The fungal networks are here to help heal the planet, help heal your body and perhaps, even, shift your consciousness,” Schwartzberg said. “They can clean up the atmosphere. They can clean up an oil spill. It’s pretty remarkable stuff. But there are many entry points for (this subject), whether you’re into natural foods or yoga or psychology or medicine. It’s exciting, because we’re finally starting to move out of the dark ages with it.”

Advocates of psychedelic drugs, in particular, have been pushing psilocybin as a treatment for anxiety and depression for nearly a half-century. But it wasn’t until last week, as Schwartzberg noted, that Johns Hopkins Medicine revealed its new Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research, which plans to study compounds such as LSD and psilocybin for a range of mental health problems including anorexia, addiction and depression, The New York Times reported.

“(Dr.) Roland Griffiths likens the therapeutic experience of psilocybin to a kind of ‘inverse PTSD’ — ‘a discrete event that produces persisting positive changes in attitudes, moods and behavior, and presumably in the brain,’” wrote journalist Michael Pollan (who’s also featured in “Fungi”) in a 2015 New Yorker article dubbed “The Trip Treatment.”

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“But what about average people?” Schwartzberg said. “What if you just want to come home, put your kids to bed and chill out for a bit? If you’re micro-dosing (psilocybin), it’s an almost infinitesimal effect on your body, but it might just improve your mood and make you more optimistic. I’d much rather people do that or take a toke (of cannabis) than drink alcohol, which is a harmful depressant.”

As with cannabis, there are concerns from the anti-mushroom camp that people with depression and other mental illnesses can actually be triggered into psychotic episodes by ingesting psilocybin, no matter how small the dose. “Fantastic Fungi” likely won’t sway them into thinking the potential harm of decriminalization is outweighed by its benefits.

“That’s a debate that’s going to continue for awhile, no matter what,” Schwartzberg said. “Should it be given to everybody, or do we need restrictions and very controlled licenses for the distribution of it? I don’t have an answer. But I want this film to work on a level of feeling, not just intellect, so I tried to make it beautiful. It takes you on a journey that’s meant to make you more open-minded. This film could be the catalyst for a movement.”

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Nevada desert towns prep for possible “Storm Area 51” influx

3 hours 46 min ago

LAS VEGAS — Visitors descending on the remote Nevada desert for “Storm Area 51” are from Earth, not outer space.

No one knows what to expect, but the two tiny towns of Rachel and Hiko near the once-secret military research site are preparing for an influx of people over the next few days.

“It’s happening. We already have people from all over the world,” Little A’Le’Inn proprietor Connie West said Wednesday from her bustling cafe and motel, where volunteers have arrived from Poland, Scotland, Australia, Florida, Idaho and Oklahoma.

Neighbors, elected officials and event organizers said the craze sparked by an internet joke inviting people to “see them aliens” might become a cultural marker, a monumental dud or something in between.

Area 51’s secrecy has long fueled fascination about extraterrestrial life, UFOs and conspiracy theories, giving rise to the events this week and prompting military warnings not to approach the protected site.

“This phenomenon is really a perfect blend of interest in aliens and the supernatural, government conspiracies, and the desire to know what we don’t know,” said Michael Ian Borer, a University of Nevada, Las Vegas, sociologist who researches pop culture and paranormal activity.

The result, Borer said, was “hope and fear” for events that include the “Area 51 Basecamp,” featuring music, speakers and movies, and two festivals competing for the name “Alienstock” starting Thursday.

Some neighbors and officials in two counties near Area 51 are nervous. The area of scenic mountains and rugged desert is home to a combined 50,000 people and compares in size with New England.

Elected officials signed emergency declarations after millions of people responded to the Facebook post this summer.

“We are preparing for the worst,” said Joerg Arnu, a Rachel resident who could see from his home a makeshift stage and cluster of portable toilets in a dusty area recently scraped of brush surrounding West’s little motel and cafe.

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Arnu said he installed outdoor floodlights, fencing and “No Trespassing” signs on his 30-acre property. He’s also organized a radio-equipped night watch of neighbors, fearing there won’t be enough water, food, trash bins or toilets for visitors.

“Those that know what to expect camping in the desert are going to have a good time,” Arnu said. “Those who are looking for a big party are going to be disappointed.”

He predicts people showing up in the desert in shorts and flip-flops.

“That doesn’t protect you against critters, snakes and scorpions,” Arnu said. “It will get cold at night. They’re not going to find what they’re looking for, and they are going to get angry.”

Officials expect cellular service to be overwhelmed. The nearest gas station is 45 miles (72 kilometers) away. Campers could encounter overnight temperatures as low as 41 degrees (5 degrees Celsius).

“We really didn’t ask for this,” said Varlin Higbee, a Lincoln County commissioner who voted to allocate $250,000 in scarce funds to handle anticipated crowds.

“We have planned and staged enough to handle 30,000 to 40,000 people,” Higbee said. “We don’t know how many will come for sure.”

Though the creator of the Facebook event later called it a hoax, the overwhelming response sent local, state and military officials scrambling. Promoters began scouting sites. A beer company produced alien-themed cans. A Nevada brothel offered discounts to “E.T. enthusiasts.”

The Federal Aviation Administration closed nearby air space this week.

“People desire to be part of something, to be ahead of the curve,” said Borer, the sociologist. “Area 51 is a place where normal, ordinary citizens can’t go. When you tell people they can’t do something, they just want to do it more.”

George Harris, owner of the Alien Research Center souvenir store in Hiko, welcomed the attention and planned a cultural program focused on extraterrestrial lore Friday and Saturday.

The “Area 51 Basecamp” promises up to 60 food trucks and vendors, trash and electric service, and a robust security and medical staff.

Harris said he was prepared for up to 15,000 people and expected they would appreciate taking selfies with a replica of Area 51’s back gate without having to travel several miles to the real thing.

“It’s exactly the same,” Harris said. “We just want people to be safe. As long as they don’t go on the desert floor and destroy the ecosystem, everyone will have a good time.”

West, the motel owner, is planning an “Alienstock” Thursday through Sunday in Rachel, a town of about 50 residents a more than two-hour drive north of Las Vegas on a normally lonely road dubbed the Extraterrestrial Highway. She plans 20 musical acts, plus food vendors and souvenir sellers.

West said she refunded some camping reservations after Matty Roberts, who created the Facebook post, broke ties with her event. Roberts, 20, of Bakersfield, California, is supporting an “Alienstock” festival scheduled for Thursday at an outdoor venue in downtown Las Vegas.

Roberts’ attorneys told West to stop using the “Alienstock” name, but she refused, saying, “I’ll just worry about the legalities later.”

The U.S. Air Force has issued stern warnings for people not to approach the gates of the Nevada Test and Training Range, where Area 51 is located.

Area 51 tested aircraft ranging from the U-2 in the 1950s to the B-2 stealth bomber in the 1980s. The government spent decades refusing to acknowledge the site even existed, before releasing documents confirming it in 2013. Its secrecy still fuels speculation that it’s where the government studies aliens.

County lawmakers in Nye County, home to a conspicuously green establishment called the Area 51 Alien Center, are discouraging Earthlings from trying to find extraterrestrials there.

“We’re taking precautions and checking the back roads,” Sheriff Sharon Wehrly said.

Her deputies last week arrested two Dutch tourists attracted by “Storm Area 51.” The men pleaded guilty to trespassing at a secure U.S. site nowhere near Area 51 and promised to pay thousands in fines.

Arnu said the military added razor wire to barbed cattle fencing on the Area 51 boundary near his home, installed more cameras and battery-powered lighting, and erected an imposing spike barrier just inside a gate. He noted a new sign telling trespassers they’ll be arrested and fined $1,000.

Hundreds of law enforcement officers and medics will be on hand, along with the Nevada National Guard.

Government watchdog to testify about Trump’s alleged “promise” to foreign leader

3 hours 47 min ago

WASHINGTON — The government’s intelligence watchdog is set to testify Thursday in a closed session before the House intelligence committee about the handling of a whistleblower complaint.

The Washington Post reported the complaint involves an intelligence official’s allegation that President Donald Trump made an unspecified “promise” to an unidentified foreign leader. The Post cited two anonymous former U.S. officials.

The Associated Press has not confirmed the report.

Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., says inspector general Michael Atkinson determined the whistleblower complaint was “credible and urgent” and should be “transmitted to Congress.”

Atkinson is scheduled to testify Thursday.

The White House had no immediate comment.

Joseph Maguire, acting director of national intelligence, has refused to discuss details. He is expected to testify publicly about the whistleblower complaint on Sept. 26.

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Schiff subpoenaed Maguire, saying he was withholding a whistleblower complaint from Congress and questioning whether he had been directed to do so by the White House or the attorney general.

Schiff did not divulge the subject of the complaint, but said the committee “places the highest importance on the protection of whistleblowers and their complaints to Congress.”

In a letter Tuesday, the general counsel for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Jason Klitenic, wrote that the agency is protecting the whistleblower and argued the allegation does not meet the definition of “urgent concern.” He said the complaint “concerned conduct from someone outside the intelligence community and did not relate to ‘intelligence activity’ under the DNI’s supervision.”

Schiff said last week that Maguire is required to share the complaint with Congress and said the attempt to hold it back “raises serious concerns about whether White House, Department of Justice or other executive branch officials are trying to prevent a legitimate whistleblower complaint from reaching its intended recipient, the Congress, in order to cover up serious misconduct.”

Trump administration wants to vet worries about drilling near national parks from regional offices

3 hours 56 min ago

WASHINGTON – The Trump administration has told park superintendents around the country they must notify Washington supervisors before issuing comments to other parts of the federal government when they are worried about drilling and other proposed developments near national parks.

In an Aug. 13 memo obtained by The Washington Post, David Vela, the National Park Service’s acting deputy director, told field offices they need to notify headquarters in Washington if they want to submit comments to other agencies considering proposals on a broad swath of issues.

Former park officials and park advocacy organizations who reviewed the memo criticized it as an effort to rein in regional officials who may object to development such as the erection of oil rigs or cellular towers near national parks, potentially hampering the experience of park visitors.

“Certainly, it seems to be a pretty big change from the days I spent my 40 years in the National Park Service,” said Phil Francis, who has served as the top official at the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. He is now chair of the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks, an advocacy group.

Jeremy Barnum, a Park Service spokesman, countered that the guidance memo is simply clarifying existing policy and does not make any substantial changes to how park officials share information with other parts of the federal bureaucracy.

“This is not anything new,” Barnum wrote by email. “The memo was sent to provide common sense guidance to National Park Service managers on how best to provide consistent, productive, and timely engagement in other agencies’ proposals and projects that may affect parks and the visitor experience.”

The guidance may make it easier to allow development on government land adjacent to national parks, which are meant to give visitors a reprieve from the grind of modern life despite the fact that civilization often lurks at parks’ edges. Many national parks abut federally controlled areas that could be used for oil drilling or cattle grazing, which are often administered by the Bureau of Land Management. Both the BLM and NPS are agencies in the Department of the Interior.

But a park can lose some of its wild luster with cell towers looming in view or oil drillers obstructing migrating animals trying to make their way to the park. That has led park superintendents to offer written feedback on proposals outside Park Service borders.

In 2017, for example, local park officials in Utah asked BLM to hold off on leasing 17,000 acres of public land for drilling.

Staffers were concerned about how dust and smog from the oil and gas activity could worsen air quality and obscure the night sky across the canyon-cut parklands in southern Utah and southwestern Colorado.

“The visiting public expects high-quality experiences across federal land, and we are concerned that continuing to offer parcels for oil and gas exploration and development in proximity to our parks will be detrimental,” wrote Kate Cannon, superintendent of the Park Service’s Southeast Utah Group, in an October 2017 comment on the potential impacts to Arches and Canyonlands national parks and Hovenweep and Canyons of the Ancients national monuments.

BLM went ahead with the sale anyway.

Further north, the outcome was different near Dinosaur National Monument, a fossil-filled wilderness at the Utah-Colorado border.

A proposed lease sale in 2017 at the doorstep of Dinosaur stoked opposition from both its superintendent, Mark Foust, and Utah Gov. Gary Herbert – a Republican – as well as environmental groups.

The bureau ultimately decided to spare two parcels from an oil and gas lease sale.

Natalie Levine, program manager for government affairs at the National Parks Conservation Association, suggested that kind of candid communication – available for all to read on BLM’s website – may now no longer be made public under the new guidance.

“This is limiting the public’s ability to see and hear what the Park Service might be concerned about,” she said.

According to Vela’s memo, parks must submit weekly reports notifying headquarters if they plan to file official comments on any “projects that relate to DOI priorities,” ideally giving Washington officials at least three weeks’ notice before submitting them to other agencies.

Those priorities include leasing for oil and gas, building hiking trails, maintaining wildlife migration routes and constructing power lines and cell towers.

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Vela said that park superintendents should be prepared to provide headquarters with drafts of the comments if needed. He reassured park workers that “[w]e continue to rely heavily on the expertise and professional judgment of parks.”

NPS spokesman Barnum noted that past administrations have sought to make sure comments filed by field offices are in line with department-wide priorities. “As has been the case in any administration, Washington may ask parks to provide the comments they are preparing should Washington determine that senior level awareness and coordination are needed,” he said. “That is not anything new.”

Francis, superintendent of the Blue Ridge Parkway from 2005 to 2013, said he did not need guidance from Washington higher-ups when submitting comments. He remembers writing to the U.S. Forest Service with his concerns about clear-cutting trees near his park, which runs for nearly 500 miles through Virginia and North Carolina.

“It makes me wonder what the motive really is,” Francis said. “I know that there’s a lot of interest in energy development.”

Rockies Insider: Shortstop Trevor Story leaving no doubt that he should win this year’s National League Gold Glove Award

4 hours 30 min ago

It will be a baseball injustice if Trevor Story doesn’t win a National League Gold Glove Award this year.

The Rockies’ shortstop showed off his 24-karat mitt once again on Wednesday at Coors Field with several highlight plays, which Story’s had a habit of making all season and going back to when he first debuted in 2016.

“He should absolutely be considered Gold Glove material, and he showed it again this homestand,” Colorado manager Bud Black said. “He had a couple more of those plays today — hard plays, where he’s showing range, hands and arm strength.”

First, it was a second-inning grounder that Story dove to stop from going up the middle, before spinning and throwing out the Mets runner at first from his knee. Then in the fourth inning, Story followed another five-star grounder putout with a leaping grab of a would-be line-drive gapper the very next batter, ending New York’s threat.

All of that fancy glove work seems like improvisation, but Story constantly practices those dives and spins each season, starting in spring training on the back fields of Salt River.

“I learned to practice those plays from Nolan (Arenado) and (Troy) Tulowitzki and guys that that,” Story said. “It shows during the game, because I feel confident making those plays and I don’t have to think twice about it.”

Fall color changes are about to begin. Here’s where to go leaf peeping in Colorado.

4 hours 32 min ago

Mother Nature has been teasing us this year, but Coloradans eagerly awaiting the onset of fall color changes in the high country may not have too much longer to wait for the show.

Last year, the peak of the color change came earlier than normal because of drought in much of the state. Only a couple weeks ago, it looked like this year’s timing would be fairly typical, with color-changes starting around mid-September. But now, aspen experts are noting a delayed onset of the transformation, which typically moves from north to south across the state.

“We originally thought leading into this that we were going to be right about on-average for peak times, but it’s been so warm, and we haven’t had any cool temperatures come through,” said Dr. Dan West, a Colorado State Forest Service entomologist who teaches at Colorado State University. “We are seeing them delayed now. This isn’t an exact science. From what I’ve been seeing around northern Colorado, it looks like we’re one to two weeks behind what we would normally see on average.”

Still, there are signs that it may be close. Marcia Gilles, deputy district ranger for the Eagle-Holy Cross Ranger District, said she saw indications of that last weekend when she made the drive on U.S. 24 from Minturn to Leadville.

“I was just up there and it is probably going to start drastically changing from this weekend into next week,” Gilles said. “You can see some of them starting to go, turning this lighter green, so you’re like, ‘Oh, it’s going to happen soon.’”

RELATED: 20 Colorado hikes for spectacular fall color

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West noticed that, too.

“I was just up in Estes Park and they were just getting that off-greenish color, which means they are just starting,” West said. “With the cooler weather we’re supposed to be getting in, I thought, ‘OK, next week should really start to get things up and going.’ That puts us a week or two behind what I thought we were going to be leading up into the season.”

In any case, it’s time to start making plans. West gave us a list of his favorite leaf-peeping spots:

U.S. 285 over Kenosha Pass

This is one of Colorado’s favorite road trips for aspen-viewing, although it can be difficult to score a parking spot on the pass. In fact, ”It gets kind of ugly up there,” U.S. Forest Service district ranger Josh Voorhis says. If you do find a parking spot, there are trails to hike through spectacular aspen stands. For a more extended trip, continue driving west from the pass on 285 to Como, then take the gravel Boreas Pass Road over to Breckenridge. You can return to Denver by way of Interstate 70.

Peak to Peak Highway

Otherwise known as Colorado Highway 72, the stretch between Nederland on the south and Allenspark on the north is a great place for aspen-gazing by car or bike ride. You might want to consider a side trip to Brainard Lake, too, which you’ll find at a turnoff to the west about halfway between Nederland and Allenspark.

Endovalley in Rocky Mountain National Park

You’ll find this by taking U.S. 34 (also known as Fall River Road) west from Estes Park. About 2.5 miles past the Fall River Visitor Center, turn right (west) at Endovalley Road. About two miles up Endovalley Road, there is a loop with a picnic area. You can take this loop and then head east back to U.S. 34 or continue west on the Old Fall River Road. This is a gravel road that is one-way westbound until it dead-ends at the Alpine Visitor Center high on Trail Ridge Road. From there, you can take Trail Ridge to the park’s Grand Lake Entrance to view the Kawunechee Valley (see below) or return to Estes Park via Trail Ridge.

Kawunechee Valley in Rocky Mountain National Park

This valley on the west side of the park runs north and south along U.S. 34 (Trail Ridge Road), paralleling the upper reaches of the Colorado River.

Poudre Canyon/Laramie River valley

Take Colorado Highway 14 west from Fort Collins into Poudre Canyon to see colorful cottonwoods. About 50 miles up the canyon, turn north at County Road 103 and head into the Laramie River valley for gorgeous aspens and willows.

Poudre River Trail in Fort Collins

Here you will find cottonwoods turning yellow, which can turn a simple evening stroll in town into a special autumn treat.

Vail/Eagle area

There are great aspen stands all over this area, including slopes that rise above Interstate 70 east of Vail Village. One great option is to drive south on U.S. 24 from Minturn to Leadville over Tennessee Pass. Another goes north from Vail on Red Sandstone Road to Forest Service roads 700 and 701, terminating at Piney Lake, which is simply one of the most beautiful spots in Colorado. Here, rugged peaks of the Gore Range serve as a stunning backdrop for an idyllic lake where you can see their reflections — along with changing aspens, too. “Oh my goodness, it’s gorgeous up there,” said Marcia Gilles, deputy district ranger for the Eagle-Holy Cross Ranger District. Yet another good drive goes west from Vail Pass over Shrine Pass to Red Cliff via Forest Road 709.

Flat Tops Trail Scenic Byway

Get away from the crowds and experience this beautiful 82-mile drive between Yampa and Meeker, much of which traverses open rangeland and about half of which is paved. It traverses the White River Plateau to the north of the Flat Tops Wilderness Area. Dunckley Pass (9,763 feet) and Ripple Creek Pass (10,343) offer panoramic views. Visitors are advised to check their fuel gauges before making the drive because there are no gas stations between Yampa and Meeker.

La Veta Pass

This drive on U.S. 160 west of Walsenburg crosses the Sangre de Cristo Range between the eastern plains and the San Luis Valley. At the pass (9,413 feet), there is a panoramic vista overlooking an open bowl.

Crested Butte area

There are very scenic routes out of Crested Butte, but most are out-and-back dirt roads with slow speed limits, and they can be crowded in leaf-peeping season. One great drive that might prove less challenging heads up and over Kebler Pass, through one of the most renowned aspen stands in the state, and continues another 25 miles to Colorado Highway 133 at Paonia State Park. From there, you can go north to McClure Pass and Carbondale or west to Grand Mesa. Both are great for aspen-viewing.

Grand Mesa

The world’s largest flat-top mountain,15 miles east of Grand Junction, is a great destination for fall colors. Cross the mesa on the Grand Mesa Scenic Byway, a 50-mile drive from the town of Mesa on the north to Cedaredge on the south, and you’ll see fall colors pretty much the whole way. Stop at the Grand Mesa Visitor Center at the top of the mesa for more information. There are many beautiful lakes on the top of the mesa, and don’t miss the Lands End Overlook, about 10 miles west of the scenic byway via Lands End Road on the western rim of the mesa, which offers soaring views of the Grand Valley.

A view of Mount Sneffels

Finally, here’s one from a reader: “About 6 miles west of Ridgway on Highway 62, there is a pull-off where photographers assemble to photograph Mount Sneffels with magnificent color. A great panorama photograph.” Mount Sneffels is a beautiful fourteener.

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Denver weather: Sunny with above normal temperatures

6 hours 36 min ago

Sunny skies could help boost temperatures to more than 10 degrees above normal in Denver on Thursday, according to forecasters.

The high temperature is expected to be around 89 degrees, which is 12 degrees above the normal of 77 degrees on Sept. 19 in Denver, the National Weather Service said.

Winds could gust up to 21 mph Thursday, the weather service said.

Scattered storms are possible late in the afternoon, mostly over the mountains, the NWS said.

Scattered t-storms this afternoon, mainly over the mountains. Wind gusts to 50 mph & brief moderate rain possible with the storms. #cowx pic.twitter.com/BPWaVohKHD

— NWS Boulder (@NWSBoulder) September 19, 2019

There’s a slight chance of afternoon rain showers on Friday between noon and 3 p.m., forecasters said.

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The high temperature will be around 85 degrees.

The weekend is predicted to be cooler, with highs around 78 degrees on Saturday and 80 on Sunday, forecasters said.

There’s a 30% chance of rain on Saturday night, when temperatures are expected to dip to about 48 degrees.

“We’re taking action”: Aurora has become a national hub for gun control advocacy

6 hours 54 min ago

When Gabrielle Giffords, the former congresswoman who became an assassination target and then a gun control advocate, spoke to an adoring crowd of like-minded activists and policymakers Aug. 26, there was a reason she was standing in Colorado’s third-largest city.

It was the same reason that Jason Crow, one of those who introduced her, is a congressman. It was the same reason that Tom Sullivan, who sat behind her that night, is a state legislator.

Seven years after a gunman walked into a theater here and killed a dozen people, Aurora has become a hub for gun control advocacy. It sent Crow and his gun safety platform to Congress, and compelled Sullivan, whose son was killed in the shooting, into politics. It has brought Giffords here twice in a month, and will bring presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke here Thursday.

“It is what it is,” Sullivan said of Aurora’s notoriety. “We’re one of the ones that has a ‘strong’ name after them: Aurora Strong, Vegas Strong, Orlando Strong. Some of (the survivors) want to be involved. We are seeing some of them step up.”

RELATED: Gabby Giffords talks gun control in Aurora: “Be bold, be courageous”

Aurora has met an unfortunate fate unique to 21st-century America: It has seen its city name become a code word, a Twitter hashtag, a one-word reminder of the toll mass shootings have dealt to a weary nation. It shares that unwanted distinction with Newtown and Parkland and San Bernardino and many more. O’Rourke’s city met that same fate Aug. 3.

“As Beto’s hometown of El Paso recovers from a tragic mass shooting that claimed 22 lives, he plans to visit communities across this country like Aurora in order to hear directly from those who have felt the impact of the epidemic of gun violence and from whose example our country can draw inspiration and hope,” said his national press secretary, Aleigha Cavalier.

Sullivan says O’Rourke’s campaign initially reached out to him about organizing a possible town hall just days before the early August shootings in El Paso and Dayton, which only intensified O’Rourke’s focus on gun violence.

“He’s more energized to hear more about it and meet the people” affected by the Aurora shooting, Sullivan said. “Certainly with the location that it’s going to be at — that’s where the 7-20 memorial garden is, and it’s about a stone’s throw from where the theater is. He wants to be in and see the impact on the community.”

The event will be in a cafe inside the Aurora Municipal Center.

Aurora Mayor Bob LeGare said he welcomes O’Rourke to the city but isn’t sure why he decided to hold his event in Aurora. He suspects the suburb is gaining more attention from national political figures because it’s a sizable city in a key primary state known for its immigrant outreach.

“It does make me wonder if they are trying to take advantage of the tragedy we had seven years ago,” the Republican said Wednesday, referring to the theater shooting.

The politics around guns, which can seem frustratingly static, have moved at least somewhat in Aurora. Crow and Sullivan, who both represent parts of the city, beat Republican incumbents last year after running on gun violence prevention platforms.

“Tom Sullivan did not win in 2016 on this issue,” said Jessica Price, a teacher who co-founded a branch of Moms Demand Action in Aurora, referring to a state Senate race loss Sullivan suffered two years before his 2018 state House win. “So, I think even just the shift in the movement in that two-year time period made a huge difference. And that then shifted the thinking in Aurora when we saw two high-profile politicians running on this issue and both of them winning their elections in 2018.”

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Aurora has a long history of gun violence, Price notes. That includes not only the 2012 theater shooting and the 1993 murder of four people at a Chuck E. Cheese, but also lower-profile street violence in some parts of the city. Gun violence prevention advocates talk about it all.

“Aurora has kind of become the hub of this gun violence prevention movement,” Price said. “I think it really has. We at Moms Demand Action have seen increased interest in the movement, increased numbers of volunteers, increased attendance at our meetings.”

With federal gun legislation often at a standstill in Congress, Aurora and Colorado represent, to gun control activists, proof that action can still occur. After the theater shooting, several state gun laws were passed. And this year, Sullivan led passage of Colorado’s red-flag gun legislation.

“We’re taking action and I think people are noticing that,” he said. “They’re coming down, you know, to see ‘What’s that conversation like, and how did you guys do that?’ “

With these teriyaki-style chicken skewers, meat-on-a-stick never tasted better

6 hours 54 min ago

The kitchen in my new apartment has a bias against large gadgets that promise to solve all my problems. Does an Instant Pot sound cool? Sure. Would I love to display a glistening white KitchenAid stand mixer on my counter? No doubt. But in the absence of ample space (and means), a tried and true home-cooking MVP emerges from the shadows of my utensil drawer: skewers.

A skewer binds an otherwise listless plate of meat chunks and vegetables into an entree worth serving to your boss or in-laws, making it a respectable crutch on those weeknights when we can hardly muster the willpower to impress even ourselves. The striking presentation of skewered meat — be it a kebab, yakitori, satay, heck, even a corn dog — artfully masks the little effort required of the home cook, and for that, I am grateful.

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Yakitori, a Japanese grilled chicken skewer, is my preferred means of meat-on-a-stick consumption. Not only are they delicious, but they’re ingeniously efficient: A simple, homemade tare doubles as a marinade and a glaze for these blink-and-they’re-done skewers.

Teriyaki is the most well-known style of tare, a Japanese marinade or glaze frequently paired with grilled meats, and you’ll make a version of it for the chicken. And on the subject of chicken: In this house, we go for thighs every time. Swap for the breast if you prefer, but no cut of the bird quite rivals the juiciness of the thigh. And because they won’t dry out as quickly, there’s room for error should you step away from the broiler (or the grill, if the summer’s lingering wherever you are) for a moment too long.

We’ll pair these foolproof skewers with a light and crunchy side that’s equally simple. Keep in mind that the smashed cucumber salad will get a little slimy if it’s made too far in advance, so toss it together just before you’re ready to sit down.

Chicken Yakitori with Smashed Cucumber Salad

50 minutes

2 servings

Ingredients

For the chicken:

  • 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup mirin
  • 2 tablespoons sake, sherry or dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons light brown sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 teaspoon gochujang (Korean pepper paste); optional
  • 3 scallions, 1 snapped in half and the other 2 cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 12 ounces boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into chunks

For the cucumber salad:

  • 1 large English (seedless) cucumber
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon untoasted sesame oil
  • 1 scallion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, plus more as needed
  • Toasted sesame seeds, for serving

Steps

Fill a baking dish or tall glass with water and soak the skewers for at least 30 minutes. (You can do this while you prep the meal.)

To make the tare, in a small saucepan, whisk together the soy sauce, mirin, sake (or sherry or white wine), brown sugar, garlic, gochujang and the halved scallion. Bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, so the liquid is at a very gentle simmer. Cook, stirring a couple times, until a slightly thickened, glossy sauce forms, about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Transfer half the tare to a large bowl and let it cool completely. Place the chicken in the bowl and gently pierce some of the pieces with a fork. Stir to coat the chicken pieces in the marinade and let sit for least 20 minutes and up to 1 hour in the fridge, tossing or stirring at the halfway mark.

Make the cucumber salad: Meanwhile, snap your cucumber in half, place it in a zip-top bag and seal it, pressing out as much air as possible. Using a rolling pin, smash the cucumber until it’s cracked in places and flattened a bit. Transfer the smashed cucumber onto a cutting board and cut into bite-size chunks, then transfer the chunks to a fine-mesh strainer set over a bowl. Toss the cukes with a generous pinch of salt and let drain until the chicken hits the broiler.

When you’re ready to cook the chicken, line a small baking sheet with foil and place a wire cooling rack on top. Position an oven rack near the middle of your oven and preheat the broiler on high.

Fold a chicken piece in half, pierce through both sides with a skewer and slide the piece down; follow closely with a 1-inch piece of scallion. Repeat until each skewer has 4 pieces of chicken and 3 or 4 scallion pieces snugly packed on it. Drizzle a bit more marinade over each skewer, then discard the rest of the marinade.

Arrange the skewers on the wire rack and place under the broiler for 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, toss the cucumber chunks with the rice vinegar, sesame oil, thinly sliced scallion, cilantro and crushed red pepper flakes until combined. Give everything a shake or two of sesame seeds and toss again to combine.

Using tongs, turn over the skewers and broil for 4 minutes more, until the chicken has a nice char.

Brush both sides of each skewer with some of the reserved tare. Plate them with a small bowl of the remaining tare and serve with the smashed cucumber salad.

Ingredients are too variable for a meaningful nutritional analysis.

(Yakitori marinade adapted from “The Complete Asian Cookbook” by Charmaine Soloman. Hardie Grant, 2017.)

Atari founder, governor play pong with the future of work in the artificial intelligence age

6 hours 54 min ago

The artificial intelligence revolution isn’t coming, it’s already here.

Take it from Gov. Jared Polis, a veteran of the tech startup scene introduced as Colorado’s “innovator in chief” Wednesday at a Denver Startup Week panel on the evolution of technology and its impact on everyday life.

I was just at Amazon’s new facility in Thornton,” Polis said. “Inside, where we used to see human-operated forklifts they have little intelligent robots that are carrying the crates around.”

The question now, Polis said, is how will public policy take shape around that AI technology so that it supports innovation but keeps human beings relevant in the economy going forward?

Polis sat opposite Nolan Bushnell during the session. Another serial entrepreneur, Bushnell founded Atari Corp. in 1972 and later launched Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time Theater. His Atari video game console, noted platform for the game “Pong,” birthed the video game industry. As tech gets smarter and smarter, Bushnell said, there will be fewer and fewer “mundane tasks” for people to do.

“The … creative destruction of work is going to be a constant and accelerating problem,” he said. “People cannot plan on working at the same job for more than about 10 years going forward.”

RELATED: Tech companies from elsewhere will help drive Denver Startup Week 2019

Earlier this month, Polis signed an executive order creating a new division within the Colorado Department of Labor Employment. The so-called “Office of Future of Work” will be tasked with talking to business leaders, workers, education professionals and others and making policy recommendations aimed at ensuring Colorado and its residents are in a position to adapt to changes in the tech-shaped economy and thrive.

The office will be led by department of labor executive director Joe Barela. The order did not dedicate any new funding but it leaves the door open for a budget in future years.

J.B. Holston questioned if Polis is going far enough. The dean of the Daniel Felix Ritchie School of Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Denver, Holston moderated Wednesday’s discussion. He noted that a handful of states  — most recently California — have created committees around how AI will reshape their economies.

“There is more we can do,” Holston said after Wednesday’s panel.

Holston partnered with Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., earlier this year to launch an AI strategy group.

“We need a coherent national strategy on AI that galvanizes innovation, plans for the changes to our workforce, and is clear-eyed about the challenges ahead. Colorado is well-positioned to shape those efforts,” Bennet said in a statement at the time.

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Bushnell put a fine point on the stakes for the working class when discussing one of his favorite artificial intelligence-driven technologies: autonomous vehicles. He called the technology “more important than world peace” because, he says, more people die as a result of traffic accidents than warfare. But, he added, a network of autonomous vehicles stands to put 15 million people who drive for a living out of work in the U.S.

Bushnell does see hope though. If the U.S. were to build the transportation network of his dreams — subterranean, high-speed, ultra-safe — he estimated that construction and maintenance of the infrastructure “would keep us 100% employed for the next 100 years.”

Colorado Avalanche tops ESPN’s future power rankings

6 hours 55 min ago

Move over, Detroit. Denver is about to become Hockeytown USA.

The Avalanche is listed as the top team over the next three seasons in ESPN’s NHL future power rankings, which ranks each franchise’s roster, prospects, contracts and management.

Colorado received an overall score of 87.8 — edging out Tampa Bay (87.7) — and earned high marks in all four criteria, especially prospects (second) and contracts (second).

From ESPN’s Emily Kaplan: “Everyone in the NHL is talking about the Avalanche these days. They are loaded enough to win now, and their best players are young and cheap; case in point is Nathan MacKinnon, a top-three player in the league, playing on a ridiculous bargain at $6.3 million through 2023. Eventually, these guys will need new contracts, and that will test GM Joe Sakic’s discipline.”

In terms of cornerstone prospects, ESPN places high regard on young defensemen Cale Makar and Bowen Byram: “Could this be the top pairing of the future for Colorado? If it is, that’s going to be a great benefit to the team’s forwards — and of great detriment to the rest of the Central Division.”

Rounding out the top five, include No. 3 Vegas, No. 4 Boston and No. 5 New York Rangers.

If you enjoy the Denver Sports Omelette, tell a friend it’s easy to sign up here for our daily sports roundup. If you have any questions or suggestions, hit me up on Twitter @joenguyen or by email.

Joe Nguyen, The Denver Post

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Must-Read Jack Dempsey, The Associated PressColorado Rockies’ Nolan Arenado watches the flight of a fly ball hit off the Pittsburgh Pirates during the sixth inning of an MLB baseball game, Friday, Aug. 30, 2019, in Denver. Kiszla: Having great season for bad Rockies team, Nolan Arenado says: “I can’t play GM”

Would the star third baseman like to tackle the big job of rebuilding these Rockies? “I would love to,” Arenado says. “I have some plans.” Read more…

AAron Ontiveroz, The Denver PostMonte Morris (11) of the Denver Nuggets celebrates with Gary Harris (14), Jamal Murray (27) and Will Barton (5) after making a layup against the Portland Trail Blazers during the second quarter on Sunday, May 12, 2019. The Denver Nuggets versus the Portland Trail Blazers in game seven of the teams’ second round NBA playoff series at the Pepsi Center in Denver. Could Rockies’ TV rights help resolve Altitude Sports dispute?

Major distributors Comcast, DirecTV and DISH dropped the regional sports network earlier this month and negotiations have stalled. Read more…

Michael Woods, The Associated PressColorado State quarterback Patrick O’Brien hands off the ball against Arkansas during an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019 in Fayetteville, Ark. (AP Photo/Michael Woods) Why, from Nebraska to CSU, QB Patrick O’Brien never lost faith

A journey from California to the Cornhuskers to Fort Collins starts another chapter on Saturday when O’Brien is expected to make his first collegiate start for the Rams (1-2) against Toledo. Read more…

Quick Hits

+ Rockies Mailbag: Is Nolan Arenado frustrated with the state of the team?

+ Avs’ Nathan MacKinnon expected to “take another big step,” Sidney Crosby says

+ Broncos Briefs: Rebuilt Green Bay defense showing big improvement

+ College football games planned for eventual return at Mile High

+ An expert shares 5 tips every deer hunter should know

+ Rick Pitino settles with Louisville, ready for “new chapter”

+ Pac-12 Hotline newsletter: Colorado cashes in on Nebraska Cornhuskers visit

+ Sam Haggerty, a Mullen High School product, capitalizing on versatility in big-league chance with Mets.

+ Pirates’ Felipe Vázquez attempted to have sex with minor, police say

+ Fantasy football start/sit Week 3: How Broncos’ Josey Jewell could affect Packers’ run game.

Ask The Experts

+ Broncos Mailbag: Have a question about the team? Ask Ryan O’Halloran here.

+ Nuggets Mailbag: Have a question about the team? Ask Mike Singer here.

+ Avs Mailbag: Have a question about the team? Ask Mike Chambers here.

+ Rockies Mailbag: Have a question about the team? Ask Patrick Saunders here.

By The Numbers 8 8 Colorado prep football games to watch in Week 4

A rundown of the top prep football games coming up in Week 4 across the state. Read more…

Parting Shot Wilfredo Lee, Associated Press fileIn this Sept. 8, 2019, file photo, Miami Dolphins fans shows his displeasure with the team during the first half at an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens, in Miami Gardens, Fla. Dolphins or Marlins: Who has the worst team in Miami? It’s a close call.

The Dolphins look like the worst team in the NFL, and might even be the worst team in Miami. On the other hand, a comparison with the Marlins is one matchup the Dolphins could win. Read more…

Get in Touch

If you see something that’s cause for question or have a comment, thought or suggestion, email me at dboniface@denverpost.com or tweet me @danielboniface.