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DR Kev talks to Cindy Reich about his new DVD, animals, Keith Richards and other funny things.

One cannot go through life with a name like Kevin Fitzgerald and not be Irish to the core.
“My mother’s family, the Duggans, came from Ennis, County Clare, and my father’s family, the Fitzgeralds came from County Mayo”, related Kevin recently in an interview especially for the Celtic Connection. Most people instantly recognize the tall, easygoing Fitzgerald from his stint on Animal Planet’s “Animal ER”, one of the early reality series that was filmed on location at Alameda East Veterinary Hospital in Denver. Kevin’s back story is both fascinating and remarkable, but that is to be expected from someone who got their career counseling from Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones.

Growing up in Denver, Kevin started working for Barry Fey, the iconic Denver concert promoter. It was a dream job, according to Kevin. It was the late 60’s and the music was massive. “I just wanted to be around the music, Kevin said. I couldn’t play an instrument, but I would rather sing than eat. However, most people would rather hear me eat!”

“My uncle was at the 20th street gym and everyone boxed. So we could work the door for Barry and work at Ebbets Field or at the Family Dog and the same at Tulagi’s. I started working concerts and worked as a bouncer for bands that Barry had on the road. (where he met up with and worked with another bouncer for Barry Fey—by the name of Pat McCullough!) I got to go on the road with several of the bands such as The Who, Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris and others. But to be a young guy from Denver getting to go on the road with the Rolling Stones was like running away with the circus. Everyone in the Stones had their own jobs and Richard was in charge of the bouncers and ticket cutters. At the end of the 1978 tour, he said to me, “You’ve been a good guy for us over a number of tours, but this isn’t going to last forever. The public is fickle and this won’t last. You need to do something. You can’t be a bouncer when your 50 years old. He said, “You worked really hard for us and I’ll help you, but this isn’t always going to be here.”

“So when I came back from that tour my brother, who was working for U2 came and picked me up at the airport. I told him, “Man, Keith told me I should get a grip on my life!” and my brother said, “Well, he’s like the coolest cat ever—when he says something, you’d better listen!” Furthermore, as Kevin related, “My grandfather always said people will pay for a strong back, but they’ll pay way more for a strong mind.”

Kevin had applied to vet school when he graduated from college in the early 70’s and just missed getting accepted and was put on the waiting list. So he put his grandfather’s (and Keith’s) advice to work and went on to do a Master’s degree and a PhD in Endocrinology (study of hormones). If that wasn’t enough, he taught at a medical school in Hawaii and did post doctoral work at Harvard. During the summers he still worked tours as a bouncer. In 1978 he applied to veterinary school again and was accepted. Keith Richards wrote a letter of recommendation as promised and it probably hangs on some administrator’s wall!

As a veterinarian, Kevin came to national prominence as one of the stars of the Animal Planet series, “Animal ER where Kevin’s gentle nature, tousled good looks and wry sense of humor make him a perfect choice for the series and America took him to heart. Kevin was always the one to get the exotic cases like an egg-bound iguana or a Tegu lizard that wouldn’t eat. Kevin had always had an interest in reptiles and amphibians and continues to this day to do research, primarily with rattlesnakes. However Kevin has done much, much more, dedicating a large amount of time to animal issues around the world. He has documented much of this work which involves raising awareness of many critically endangered species as well as preservation of habitat and instructing native populations how to preserve their wildlife as a long term asset that can make more money than by killing it for short term gains.

While many would agree that a career as a veterinarian is extremely difficult and demanding, it probably doesn’t come close to being as difficult and demanding as becoming a successful stand-up comedian. For 26 years, Kevin’s stand up comedy has achieved a legendary status. While he has a lot of excellent life experiences to draw upon for his comedy, it would be safe to say that Kevin seems to thrive on a life that would send most rational people screaming for cover. Whether he is practicing his Irish step-dancing in green tights a lá The Jolly Green Giant at a comedy gig in Loveland (I actually fell off my chair laughing at that one!) or convulsing the audience at a Denver comedy club, Fitzgerald’s low key, deadpan humor sneaks up on you and you’re helpless to resist.

Therefore, there was much rejoicing in the announcement and release of a superb DVD that Kevin has spent years to put together. First and foremost, it is something that can be enjoyed by the entire family—a rare enough quality these days. This DVD called “A Wild Life” is a must-have for the Christmas wish list. There are three segments, each 42 minutes long. Part One is a collection of Kevin’s comedy routines and are suitable for family viewing. Part Two is a video compilation of much of Kevin’s wildlife work that has taken him around the globe, such as footage with polar bears in the town of Churchill, Manitoba, Canada or working with rescued seals in Ireland or tracking endangered vultures in Mongolia. The third segment of the DVD is devoted to children and has some incredible games that adults will no doubt sneak out of their kids’ rooms to try for themselves. “One game, called “X-Rays” shows various x-rays and allows the kids to make the diagnosis”, said Kevin. “It’s 30 years of what I’ve cut out of dog’s stomachs. So they see the x-ray and we say that the dog was near a Christmas tree and we’re worried it might have eaten a Christmas ornament and allow the kid to make the diagnosis. They decide whether or not the dog needs surgery and we help direct them in their decision- making. Another game has 22 North American mammals and birds and their footprints. So these are footprints a kid might see in his or her neighborhood or around their house. We help them become an expert tracker. They can kind of go on an urban safari. It helps them become more connected to the world around them. The main thing is that this is something a parent can do with a kid or a big sister can do with a younger kid but both are going to be entertained”. And if anyone knows about entertainment—it is Kevin Fitzgerald.

“A Wild Life” is available at www.DRkevinfitzgerald.com/shop

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As you read this we are less than one short month away from the official launch of The Gathering Ireland 2013. The Gathering is a year long invitation to the Irish Diaspora, (all 70 million of us!) to come home and enjoy the party, to celebrate our culture and heritage and to reconnect with friends, relatives and all things Irish. It is the Irish government and communities throughout the country rolling out the red carpet for Ireland’s extended family around the globe. No effort will be spared to make sure that those who travel have the time of their lives. Plans are already set for thousands of events, spread throughout every county, from family and clan gatherings to company conventions, from sporting fixtures to a whole array of
spectacular festivals.
The Gathering is interactive and Ireland wants you to be part of it. If you have an idea on a specific event and want advice on how to organize the travel and accommodation, or any other aspect, you can talk to a dedicated ‘Gathering’ expert (see the box on the right for details). For lots more information on The Gathering please check out
www.discoverireland.com and
www.thegatheringireland.com. What are you waiting for?
The festivities proper start in Dublin on New Year’s Eve, what better time? Ireland’s capital city will play host to the rapturous two-day NYE Dublin Festival, featuring a New Year’s Eve Countdown Concert at College Green, a fabulous fireworks display on St Stephen’s Green, a Torchlit Procession through Dublin’s streets broad and narrow, five Festival Zones located around Dublin City Center and the Big Brunch which takes place in Meeting House Square on New Year’s Day. All are welcome to the festival and what a fantastic way to see in the New Year, right in the thick of things, surrounded by all the history, culture and spectacular architecture Dublin has to offer, not to mention the unrivalled wit and welcome of its citizens.
There will literally be no break in the proceedings from then until the end of December 2013. From January 1 onwards The Gathering will be in full flow, with events and festivals and all sorts of fun happening all over the country. As always discoverireland.com is the best resource if you want to find out what’s going on, either in a specific area or just to inspire your trip.
Of the bigger organized events happening early in the year, the Temple Bar Tradfest and the St Patrick’s Festival stand out.
The Tradfest makes its home in the iconic and diverse—some say Bohemian—Temple Bar district of Dublin. It takes place between January 22 and January 27. Now in it’s 8th year the Tradfest is billed as Dublin’s biggest and best festival of traditional Irish music. Over 200 different events take place during the six days and nights. There will be street performers, outdoor stages and top quality music emanating from the doorways of every hostelry. There will be organized concerts at venues such as Christ Church Cathedral and the Rotunda at Dublin City Hall. Ireland’s best musicians will be performing, including such stars as Sharon Shannon, Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill, Maura O’Connell and T with the Maggies. If you’re a trad fan this is a ‘don’t miss’ event.
The St Patrick’s Festival takes place in Dublin from Thursday March 14 through Monday March 18. Each year this extravaganza gets bigger and better, being a wonderful showcase for Irish arts and culture in general. Street theatre and performance, pageantry, spectacle, music, dance, literature, comedy, film, and family events are all enhanced by a warm and uplifting carnival atmosphere. Last year upwards of half a million people showed up for the center point of the festival, the St Patrick’s Day Parade. This year, for the first time ever and in honor of The Gathering, organizers are are inviting up to 8,000 people from around the world to march in the St Patrick’s Day Parade on March 17. It’s called the People’s Parade and it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and applications are now open!
As seasoned visitors will know, there is no bad time to visit Ireland. The climate is mild all year round and there is always something going on. In fact, in many ways, those times of year referred to as the ‘off-season’ can sometimes be the best time for your trip. Just about everything is better value (although in surveys over the last few year’s Ireland has consistently ranked top or almost top in most value-for-money categories). It’s easier to get a seat at the theatre, a table at a popular restaurant or a tee-time at a world class golf course when you travel off peak. Hotels and other accommodations are more flexible and generally have better rates. And of course the famous Irish Céad Míle Fáilte, a hundred thousand welcomes, is the same whenever you go.
There are a great many reasons to visit Ireland next year and be a part of The Gathering. Whatever your particular motivation—family, friends, connections, a sense of adventure, or you just love a party—you are welcome at any time. It’s a year long celebration.

There are a great many reasons to visit
Ireland next year and be a part of
The Gathering. Whatever your particular motivation—family, friends, connections, a sense of adventure, or you just love a party—you are welcome at any time.
It’s a year long celebration.
Talk to a Gathering expert on 1-800-SHAMROCK or by emailing gathering.us@tourismireland.com

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(Photo: The 27th Annual Winter Solabration will begin with the Grand March led by a flourish of Pipes and Drums – Will it mark the end of the world as we know it and the beginning of a new era as the old Mayan guys claimed?)

Barring any cosmic chaos in the Human time-line, Denver’s iconic cross-culture holiday festival, Winter Solabration, will continue in it’s 27th year Saturday, December 22nd at the Temple Events Center, 1595 Pearl Street in Denver. The Yuletime celebration of Christmas and Solstice customs From Europe and America are scheduled from 6 pm to Midnight. Event Founder Chris Kermiet explains below how there is little worry whether the Mayan Calendar prediction about the end of the world is right or wrong as there will be some form of joyous community gathering at the Temple Events Center.

This winter solstice — will it be the End-of-the-World-as-We-Know-It?  And the beginning of a new earth?  A new creation?
Well, yes … at least, according to the old Mayan guys.  The Mayan long count calendar runs out on 13.19.19.19.19 — December 21st, 2012.  And then starts over on December 22nd — 1.0.0.0.0 — the first day of a new era.  Or, as the Mayans believed, a whole new creation.
Some people are getting all excited about this.  And predicting the end of the world.  Certainly a new creation often involves the destruction of the old.  But not necessarily.  The Mayans didn’t predict destruction and chaos.  But many others are.
The Aztec calendar also ends in 2012, and the ancient Cherokee calendar as well.  Several preachers have predicted the arrival of the Antichrist in 2012.  (But they’ve predicted this almost annually for the last 30 years or so).
Can there be a new world?  A restart?  The hopeful part of me wants to see a new world — a new beginning.  An end to divisions and quarrels and an era of peace and unity.  Maybe an end to global pollution and climate change as well.  If an ancient Mayan God can come down and do that, I’m all for it.
The skeptical side of me thinks it’s probably not going to happen.  Although there’s a prediction about the end-of-the-world just about every year, the idea seems to take hold in the public consciousness about every 10 or 12 years.  Remember all the hullaballoo about Y2K?  All the computers would stop working, the power grid would go down, and the earth would be plunged into darkness?  Then all the millennialists got into the act and predicted the rapture, the Second Coming, the end of the world, etc., etc.  I lived through that one.  In fact, the year 2000 came and went terribly uneventfully.
The big one before that — the Harmonic Convergence — remember that one?  Do you remember where you were on August 24th, 1987?  When there was supposed to be a great shift in the earth’s planetary energy from warlike to peaceful?  Been plenty of wars since then.  Not much change, I’m afraid.
I’m not expecting much change on 1.0.0.0.0 either.  But I’m still hopeful.  At any rate, it’s a good excuse to celebrate.  The end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it just might happen!
 I’m still hopeful about our planet — but we could celebrate the beginning of a new era
on December 22nd!  Happy New World!  

Winter Solabration, , December 22nd, 6P-MIdnight at the Temple Events Center, 1595 Pearl Street,Denver. Features storytelling, a Mummer’s Play, the Maroon Bells Morris Dancers, Traditional Southwestern Fandango Dances with Lorenzo Trujillo, Breathless in Berthoud, the Solstice Sword Dancers, and Bryan Connolly Extreme Juggling, along with community singing, wassail, and traditional American community dances for all, and ends with the mysterious Abbot’s Bromley Horn Dance at midnight.
Parents are encouraged to bring your kids,  however, parents must be responsible for their children’s behavior.
Adult advance tickets are $27 (if purchased one week prior to the Solabration),
Adults $33. Teens/Students $19, Children (6-12) $9, under 6 free
Bring a snack or dessert potluck to share. Tickets and more information at wsolstice.org
or call 24 hour info/message machine for ticket availability at the door, 303 571-9112.

Christmas Revels Quilt

This year’s Christmas Revels—at the Boulder Theater on December 16 and December 22, at 2 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.—is set in Appalachia during the mid-1800s where English, Scotch, Irish, and Welsh settlers shared the characteristics of being fiercely independent and desiring the freedom to live as they pleased. Steep mountainsides kept outsiders out and insiders close to home. They shared music, their religious beliefs, and their love of traditional rituals and customs from their backgrounds.
This year’s Appalachian show reflects a culture that is a unique blend of European, Native American, and African elements forged in isolation over time. The Celtic traditions can be seen in the clogging, or “flatfooting,” as it is sometimes called. The old-time mountain music takes on a uniquely distinct quality with complicated fingering patterns in the stringed instruments including banjo, guitar, and of course fiddle. The tall tales and stories that are woven into the culture tell of tricky characters who solve problems with both strength and wit. Animals and people work together in the myths and stories, solving problems, and building cabins and communities on the sides of the steep mountain range known as Appalachia.
Revels, Inc. was founded by John Langstaff in 1971to link the music, dances, and seasonal rituals from an older world to a modern world that needs them. Boulder is proud to be one of only ten cities to produce a Christmas Revels show, which carries the universal theme of welcoming the return of the light. Performers in Boulder’s 12th annual Christmas Revelscome from Denver, Golden, Longmont, Louisville, Lafayette, Nederland, and Boulder, and hold daytime jobs as teachers, engineers, lawyers, community organizers, lobbyists, computer programmers, chemists, homemakers, artists, grandparents, moms and dads, and college students.
Guest artists include well-known vocalist and gospel singer Jann Oldham, storyteller and librarian Judy Volc, and Firing Line, a brilliant Appalachian band from Lyons. Other featured artists include The Flagstaff Brass Quintet, the eleven-year-old fiddler and actor Sam Jarvis, professional actress Jenn Bass as Grandmother Spider, popular baritone Cole Kiersey as the native storyteller, and Rick Romeo, our original songleader. Our Lil’ Bar Chorus, consists of 16 remarkable kids from schools throughout the community, and our Mountain Top Adult Chorus includes 38 talented teens and adults.
As is tradition with all Christmas Revels performances, the audience is included in singing fabulous favorites such as “The First Noël,” “See Amid the Winter’s Snow,” and a “Round for Peace.”The audience also participates in thedancing and singing of “Lord of the Dance,” which traditionally ends the first half of every Christmas Revels show. And, of course, no Christmas Revels is complete without the dramatic reading of “The Shortest Day,” a poem written for Revels by children’s author Susan Cooper in 1977.
The “Appalachian” Christmas Revels is replete with authentic fiddling, clogging, storytelling, and folk songs, along with a fabulous community cast and children’s chorus. It’s a show that’s filled with heart, humor, and an Appalachian soul that’s guaranteed to bring the holiday season alive. Welcome all ages and welcome Yule!

Boulder Theater, December 16 and December 22 at 2 p.m. & 7 p.m. Tickets, 303-786-7030, www.BoulderTheater.com.

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