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Our View: A summer of opportunity

Summer rapidly is coming to an end in Routt County, but the diversity and quality of the intellectual offerings here during the past couple of months won't soon be forgotten. In fact, we're convinced this summer has set a new standard for the assortment and level of educational and cultural opportunities in Steamboat Springs.

We've long known that our county is one of the most highly educated in the country, according to U.S. Census data, but we haven't always boasted the programming to stimulate local minds. Summer 2010 might well be remembered as the season that all changed.

No matter your political persuasion or particular areas of interest, a variety of area programs and special guests have touched on issues across the artistic and political spectrums. And credit should be given where it's due: to the individual wills of Routt County residents intent on bringing engaging speakers and events to the valley. Those locals have tapped their own networks for the betterment of the entire community, and for that we are sincerely grateful.

A successful eighth season of the Seminars at Steamboat wrapped up Aug. 12 when Joseph Nye, professor of international relations and former dean of the Kennedy School at Harvard University, spoke to a standing-room-only crowd about "Smart Power: America's Global Position." Credit second-home owners like Bob and Jane Stein and Belle Sawhill for their tremendous work and contribution to the lecture series. It proved so popular this year that organizers were forced to begin issuing free admission tickets to try to control the number of folks flooding into Strings Music Pavilion for the discussions. The caliber of speakers continues to increase, a credit to the personal connections folks like the Steins, Sawhill and resident Steve Hofman have with big-name figures in the political, educational, financial and media worlds.

This weekend saw the second annual Freedom Conference. The keynote address Friday was given by Karl Rove. Other notable speakers included Ginni Thomas, Yaron Brook, Grover Nor­­quist and Sharron Angle. Regardless of your political stripes, it's exciting that Steamboat residents Rick Akin and Jennifer Schubert-Akin have quickly made the Steamboat Institute's seminal event one worthy of national attention. It also provides a relatively affordable opportunity for area residents to hear from leaders of the conservative movement.

Beyond the political realm, residents and visitors recently were treated to an incredible visit by a group of Buddhist monks who spent five days creating a sand mandala in Library Hall at Bud Werner Memorial Library. The spectacular cultural event attracted thousands of visitors to Library Hall during the week and fostered understanding and respect of a culture and religion not so prevalent in our part of the world. Credit goes to the library's Jennie Lay and Chris Painter for the organization of such a special event.

"I'm totally inspired," Lay said at the conclusion of the event Aug. 18. "This is the town that I love. … I'm happy I had the opportunity to spread this much happiness here."

It's that exact sentiment and innate desire to expand the cultural and intellectual opportunities here that has led to such a successful summer. Annual stalwarts such as Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp and its student and faculty performances; Strings Music Festival and its family-focused concerts and educational opportunities; the Free Summer Concert Series; SmartWool's Bike-In Movie; visiting authors at Off the Beaten Path Bookstore and Epilogue Book Co.; free Piknik Theatre Festival performances; the Steamboat All Arts Festival; and many others continue to make Steamboat Springs and Routt County such a special place to live. It's important that we, as a community, recognize the efforts of the residents responsible for each of these opportunities and take the time to thank them for their contributions.

Summer 2010 has proven that there's simply not a better time of year to live in Northwest Colorado.