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High Rollers benefit concert June 30

Saturday night, June 30, at 7 p.m., the Pagosa Wrestling Club and Pagosa Youth Wrestling will host a unique benefit in Town Park.

“Unique” for a variety of reasons, starting with the quality of food and entertainment offered ... and the price. The entertainment is free, concessions are $6 a plate, and donations are accepted but not required.

It can also be called “unique” because one of the area’s most popular bands, The High Rollers, will provide music that is great for listening and dancing, and the benefit doubles as the High Rollers’ CD release party, complete with musical guest Jerome Desoteux.

Desoteux, a professional touring musician from France and contributor to many of the musical tracks on the new album, played with the High Rollers at a festival in France last spring and was enthusiastic about helping promote the band’s new CD.

The new CD, entitled “Altitude,” contains 16 tracks, including 14 original songs written by Andy Janowsky. The production quality matches or exceeds the band’s first CD, “Ride, Ride, Ride,” and the new CD showcases band members’ creativity, as each member is required to create and improvise the instrumental parts and harmonies to match the lyrics and melody created by songwriter, vocalist and bass player Andy Janowsky.

“Altitude” contains songs that inspire emotions both from the lyrics and the strong musical arrangements the band has worked on since December. Some songs make you smile and want to get up and dance; others capture the bittersweet emotions of loss experienced by all, as people, neighborhoods and even cultures come and go. In general, the music produced will appeal to all who enjoy high energy music and reflective lyrics rooted in the crossover sounds of country music and classic rock and roll. As an added bonus, the lyrics are bound to strike a chord with people who love life in the Rocky Mountains, as the lead song of the CD, “I’m Colorado” and the title of the album, “Altitude,” suggest.

The benefit is paid for by concession sales, an auction of baked goods, and donations. The primary use of benefit funds is travel for club members, though equipment and uniforms are also a consideration.

Commenting on the need for travel funds Dan Janowsky, local wrestling coach, has this to say: “Location in Pagosa is our best ally and worst enemy all at the same time. We have the benefit of altitude, hills to run and conditioning, and that’s a plus, but everything is so far away and travel costs continue to go up.

“We used to think that being from a rural area gave us an edge over the ‘city boys.’ That was back when there was lots of manual labor being done and mountain towns bred blue collar farm/ranch/woodsmen — perfect transition into all sports, but especially a sport like wrestling.

“Today technology has reduced the number of those types of jobs, ranches have become subdivisions, and even electronic entertainment has replaced a lot of the outdoor activity that kids around here used to enjoy. It has made it so we’ve lost a lot of the potential advantage that our environment gives us.

“Suddenly the city kids have the edge — they’ve got offseason training facilities and clubs galore. Training in a club with a high profile former athlete has become a fad. The competitions and training centers are located in the cities, and those kids are getting high quality experience within twenty to thirty minutes of their home. Here we usually have to travel three or four hours one way and spend a fair amount of money to get some of the things they have easy access to.

“We want to offer our kids the same opportunities that any kid, anywhere has but that requires something extra. We want a young person in this town to feel like they are small town in one sense, but, well traveled at the same time, and we have had some amazing success stories because of this philosophy.

“Michael Martinez, a graduate of Pagosa Springs High School in 2004 is the perfect example of this. He qualified to compete in the Olympic Trials this past spring, and was able to compete nationally and internationally in part because of the generosity and support of this community when he was a youth wrestler. He is not our only example; Joe DuCharme is currently wrestling for the University of Iowa, and Daren Hockett is an assistant wrestling coach at Mesa State College. Both benefitted from the same type of support. We think we have the means to produce more athletes like this, but it takes more resources than our opponents have to spend.

“The best thing about this event, we think, is that it is win/win. The entertainment and concessions are first rate, and you only give what you are in the position or mood to give. Folks in this community are asked for donations constantly, and they are very generous. We want our fund-raiser to give as well as get, and we’re extremely fortunate to have a connection with the High Rollers and an alumnus like Mike Branch, who puts together some barbecue that is outstanding. In the end, if we break even and a lot of people have a good time, we’re happy. Not the best attitude for raising a pile of money, perhaps, but it seems to work well enough for now, at least. Even if you are not a wrestling enthusiast, you and your family are likely to want things to do over the weekend. We’d like you to come have a night out on us. So long as the weather holds, and June is usually pretty dry, we can guarantee satisfaction.”

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