A Bluff Tradition: Winter Solstice Burn

Photo (c) Josh Ewing

Blue Herons Burn on Bluff Winter Solstice

This past Wednesday, December 21st, 2016 Bluff welcomed friends from across the Four Corners for the ritual burning of two giant blue heron sculptures - one as tall as 35 feet.

The herons were constructed over the past 2 months by Bluff artist Joe Pachak with as many as 50 helpers. The towering birds were made primarily of local willow and sage and when completed, were surrounded by a soft nest of willows.

The Winter Solstice is the longest and darkest night of the year so to celebrate the coming of longer, brighter days, Bluff has started a tradition of hosting winter burnings. In the past, giant mammoths, bison, and other sculptures were burned.

The wooden sculptures are lit with atl-atls, an ancient technology used in hunting by earlier paleolithic inhabitants in the area. This year, a few young kids had the honor of throwing the first flaming spears to light the birds. Watch the video below to see favorite moments of the burn.

Photo (c) Amanda Lincoln Bouchard

After months of construction, the two herons were bid farewell with a poem and interpretive dance and then burned in a quick 20 minutes. The town and its guests danced, cheered and beat drums to celebrate the past year and usher in the new.

Bluff Artist Anthony Lott to be Community Artist in the Parks

lott-butler-ii-smBluff resident and artist Anthony Lott was selected as the 2017 Community Artist in the Parks for the National Park Service. This program will give Lott the opportunity to teach, demonstrate and share his fantastic creative ability with visitors to Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Natural Bridges National Monument and Hovenweep National Monument. lott-comb-ridge-ii-smAs the Community Artist, or artist in residence, Lott will share several hours a month between April - October with Arches, Canyonlands, Natural Bridges and Hovenweep. Lott plans to host a couple of drawing workshops in the more heavily traveled parks and spend some quiet painting time in our southern spots. Lott teaches drawing, painting, ceramics, art appreciation, and emergency medical response at Utah State University's Blanding Campus. To get a feel for his work, check out his website. To learn more about the Artist in the Parks program, you can visit the NPS page. Congratulations to Anthony Lott, and we look forward to seeing you and your sketchbook and paint in the field!Artist Anthony Lott at work during a Plein Aire competition at Natural Bridges National Monument during their 100th Anniversary celebration.  

Bluff EMT receives Utah Distinguished Service Award

Kathy Carson receives 2016 Distinguished Service Award for emergency medical services work

img_4466After 40 years of volunteer service to bring emergency medical services to Bluff, Kathy Meck Carson has received the 2016 Distinguished Service Award from the Utah Emergency Medical Services Award Committee. Kathy was a founding member of the Bluff Volunteer Fire in the 1970s and a bold pioneer to women in the fire service. She rose to Director of Bluff EMS and has since lead the EMS crew, organized training, and provided an invaluable service to our small town. Kathy was nominated by her peers on the Bluff EMS crew, many of whom have come and gone throughout the years while she stayed on to provide medical services to Bluff and its neighboring Navajo communities.  In her nomination letter her teammates described how hard she worked as a mother, kindergarten teacher and EMT: “She was able to make the shift from neighbor to teacher to medical caregiver seamlessly and while always maintaining neutrality, empathy and confidentiality.” In the past, Kathy was named the San Juan County EMT of the year and the Bluff ambulance station has been dedicated to her. Bluff EMT Dawn Dilego said of Kathy, "I've been in EMS for 10 yrs and there's so many times when you feel like you're done. it's a difficult commitment....and then I remember that Kathy has hung in there for 40yrs, and  It inspires me to carry on." We are so proud of our community member and dedicated EMS volunteer Kathy Carson. Thank you for your legendary service to Bluff!      

Hovenweep: December’s National Park Getaway

The Ancient Towers of Hovenweep National Monument

December's National Park Getaway destination

Courtesy of the NPS

Courtesy of the NPS

6 ancient villages in one spectacular National Monument: This December, the National Park Service is highlighting Hovenweep National Monument as the National Park Getaway! And what perfect timing, with cooler temps, quiet days and smaller crowds in this wondrous monument just across the border in Colorado.

Photo (c) NPS

Hovenweep was occupied by the Ancestral Puebloans 800 years ago, who lived in small villages perched on canyon rims. These towers and rooms at the head of canyons offered landscape wide views as well as a deep connection to the night sky and celestial happenings.  On your visit to Hovenweep, you can see how these ancient structures have weathered the test of time well, with the ancient mortar holding together gently-shaped stones still visible. Hovenweep is also popular because it is an International Dark Sky Park, where visitors come from around the world to experience the Milky Way under pristine dark skies.

Photo (c) NPS

Lucky for you, Hovenweep is only a 50-minute drive from Bluff. From the visitor's center, you can take short walks to a large village site. We invite you to learn more about what to do on your visit to Hovenweep on our page which includes a printable itinerary or check out the National Park Service's latest blog.

Bluff International Balloon Festival: 19 years of history

balloon-2016Nineteen years and running – well, flying – makes for a pretty special Bluff International Balloon Festival. And it’s not just the fun balloon names like Breezy Rider, Basketcase, and Levity. So what makes this long-standing Bluff tradition stick? Each year, 25 or so pilots travel to Bluff over Martin Luther King Holiday weekend for three days of (fingers crossed) flights. Friday & Saturday are typically held in town with the piece de resistance falling on Sunday with flights over Valley of the Gods. But the balloon festival, like almost everything, started small. In fact, Steve Simpson of Twin Rocks Trading Post remembers the first year of the festival:
“At that celebration we had but one balloon. The pilot, who had been invited to come test the waters, elected to put up in Valley of the Gods. A half dozen Bluff residents, hopeful the flyer would enjoy our town enough to return with his friends, tagged along. As the balloon probed the spires of the valley, hopping from one to another, the Bluff citizenry stood by. In their faces the excitement and anticipation shown brightly. Each was anxious to hear what the balloonist would say when he landed. “Fantastic, beautiful, extraordinary,” he exclaimed as he put down, echoing the emotions we all held for this rugged land. It was then we knew we might have a winner.”
Since then, balloons have been popping up all over Bluff on that brisk but typically sunny January weekend. Those Friday-Sunday early mornings start with warm beverages and bodies crowded in the Community Center to learn the weather from the balloon master: will it be a flying day? And because of our great weather, it usually is. Pilots launch from all around town for scenic flights over Bluff. Popular launch spots include Bluff Cemetery hill, the Community Center, the Twin Rocks Parking Lot and the Fairgrounds. Of course, the balloon pilots would be lost without their volunteer crews. Some of our sponsors return year after year to crew; and new friends and family step up every year to pay for their chance to crew and ride in one of the most beautiful balloon festivals in the southwest. Then they become the repeat sponsors because they’re hooked on the fun! Like any community event, it wouldn’t be possible without the volunteers! 2017 Balloon poster winner! The Balloon Festival is also big deal to local school children: For years, one special child gets his or her balloon drawing selected for that year’s poster and t-shirt. Inside the community center, their vividly-colored balloons decorate the walls. And most importantly our pilots take the time to go to the school to help the students build and launch paper balloons to learn the science behind the flight. From spectacular sunset glow-ins to southwest recipe cook-offs, to a chili and ice cream social, the International Balloon Festival has seen and hosted it all. Check in soon to see what we can expect for the upcoming Festival January 13-15th, 2017. The wonder of the balloon festival is that our town is surrounded by towering, majestic bluffs and buttes - from our backyard cliffs to the towers of Valley of the Gods - and yet humans have found a peaceful, gentle machine to soar even higher than our geology. The awe at the annual Bluff International Balloon Festival is the celebration of elevation and taking our spectacular views to even loftier heights.