Wine in the Pines celebrates 31 years, benefits Ability Connection Colorado | SummitDaily.com

Wine in the Pines celebrates 31 years, benefits Ability Connection Colorado

Jessica Smith
jsmith@summitdaily.com

Every October, Summit County residents know that soon it will be time to get dressed up. Not in Halloween costumes — not yet, anyway — but in fancy ball gowns and elegant evening wear. The event — Wine in the Pines, is a fundraiser for Ability Connection Colorado (formerly CP of Colorado) and the Kelly Smith Employment Center.

Over the past 31 years, Mike and Margaret Smith have watched it grow from a small gathering of Summit County locals at Keystone Ranch to the big-ticket event it is today, with more than 1,000 people in attendance. Dressed to the nines, guests stroll around the Keystone Conference Center, sampling hundreds of wines and food from Keystone's best restaurants.

"It's an honor," Mike Smith said, of the event having reached 31 years. "I think it's quite an honor to our daughter Kelly."

Kelly Smith — whom the Kelly Smith Employment Center was named for, and daughter of Mike and Margaret — was born with cerebral palsy, a permanent, lifelong condition that affects the body's movement and muscle coordination, among other complications.

Despite her disabilities, Kelly thrived and worked for years at the old Holiday Inn, managing the database. Though now her disease has progressed in a way that prevents working on the computer like she used to, her impact is wide not only for those who know her, but through the employment center, run by Ability Connection Colorado, a Denver-based organization that provides services for people with disabilities, including cerebral palsy. According to the organization's website, the center helps more than 4,000 youths and adults gain the skills they need to find successful employment.

Watching the event grow has been quite an experience for the family.

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Our first event was at the Keystone Ranch and we had probably 100 people there and it was all locals, and we raised $4,000," Mike said. "And we went from that to this. We have outgrown every single venue that Keystone has put up for us. … We have fabulous memories from each of them. The first one was especially memorable."

Wine in the Pines is a chance for people to not only support a good cause, but enjoy themselves as well.

"A lot of people in the community call this an adult senior prom," said Mike with a smile. "It's an opportunity to get dressed up and I can only encourage people when they come by to stop by the dessert table. Chef Ned is an absolute genius."

CREATIONS IN CHOCOLATE

One of the biggest questions when Wine in the Pines rolls around each year is — what is Ned going to do next?

Ned Archibald is Keystone's executive pastry chef and each year he uses around 650 pounds of chocolate to create a dessert table that guests talk about year-round. The chocolate pieces are accompanied by around 10,000 individual pastries, as well as a chocolate fountain filled with 75 pounds of Belgian semi-sweet chocolate.

"There's chocolate as far as the eye can see," Archibald said.

Some of his pieces recur every year — large solid chocolate wine bottles weighing in at around 30 pounds, for example.

Archibald estimates he's using between 650 and 700 pounds of chocolate for this year's dessert table, which adds up to almost one pound of chocolate per person, depending on attendance numbers.

This is Archibald's 19th year in his position, and he's pleased at the popular reception of his elaborate dessert creations.

"I just took over and asserted my will and started doing more and more each year," he said. "It's very seldom that you get that kind of endorsement to say, hey, go crazy, do what you want, wow them."

Each year's theme dictates the specific of Archibald's artistry. Two years ago for the Oscars theme, for example, he replicated award statues coated in 22-carat gold leaf and displayed on dark chocolate movie reels. One of his favorites was the year he sculpted a 450-pound piece of chocolate into the Statue of Liberty with a cup overflowing with grapes in lieu of a torch.

"This year, I'm accenting all my decorations on the actual event, Wine in the Pines and Keystone, and where we are in the mountains," Archibald said. So keep an eye out for chocolate mountains and pictures frames with the Wine in the Pines logo.

To achieve his decadent dessert table, Archibald relies on a staff of 10, including his assistant pastry chef of 19 years, Victor Caldera.

"He's the artist behind all my crazy ideas. He's just a fabulously talented individual that no matter what I come up with, as long as I give him a little direction, he does an amazing job," Archibald said. "He's great, my staff is great."

STAYING SAFE

In addition to enjoying themselves, Mike wanted to remind guests to think of their safety after the event.

"Every year, Colorado Mountain Express has vans there. Those vans are free for the people, if they've drank too much or feel like they've drank too much, they need to get on the Colorado Mountain Express. They can go to any place in Summit County for free. There's no reason to drive," Mike said. "There's a lot of options. There's no reason to get yourself in trouble."

Wine in the Pines

Date: October 18

Time: 6 p.m.

Location: Keystone Conference Center

Dress: Black tie or cocktail attire

More info: For more information on Wine in the Pines or to purchase tickets, visit http://www.wineinthepines.org

To learn more about Ability Connection Colorado, visit http://www.abilityconnectioncolorado.org.