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Be a hero and party for the Heuga Center

Wren Wertin
Special to the Daily Hazel Miller will perfom at the Heuga celebration, which takes place from 6 p.m. Friday till midnight at the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort and Spa.
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Calling all super heroes. The time is now.

The Edwards-based Heuga Center is turning 20, and the folks who run it aren’t interested in anything but the biggest of birthday bashes. They’re bringing in Rocky Mountain Motown mama Hazel Miller to help everybody get up and, in her words, “Shake. Your. Thing.” The party kicks off at 6 p.m. Friday at the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort and Spa, and goes ’til midnight.

In addition to the entertainment, there’ll be a silent and live auction, including “Art-of-the-Box,” which allows artists to donate one-of-a-kind boxes to the auction. Given absolutely no parameters beyond simply making a box, the results are varied and original. Look for Eagle potter Kate Tenant’s raku vessel, Jacquelyn Clay’s stained glass box, a wood-inlay box by Shamrock Woodworks and a bead-and-shell piece by Sydney Sommers, to name a couple.



And then hit the dance floor, because Miller won’t take no for an answer. A Vail favorite, Miller has been invited to perform for Street Beat often. Sub-zero temperatures don’t faze her as she keeps the energy hot. Her message of hope is a fitting foil to the Heuga Center’s mission. At a concert in Vail last year, she took the crowd to task with her own “Redemption Song.”

“Don’t think you don’t need redemption,” she called out. “Because when you don’t think you need it, that’s when you need it the most.”



She’s happy to be where she is, and has no problem showing it. Fifteen years ago, Miller was high-tailing it from Kentucky to Hollywood in a U-Haul with three kids. When the truck broke down in Denver, she decided to call it home.

“I used to say I ended up here by accident, but I’ve decided it must have been karma,” she said last year.

She and her band specialize in true soul, with a funky, heavy dance beat. Miller is often branded a blues singer, but she describes her shows as R&B, danceable jazz-infusion with one or two blues songs thrown into the mix.



“I think because people see a full-figured black woman, they automatically think I sing the blues,” she said, laughing. “But I do a little bit of everything. I’ve had people write me and request information on which shows will be blues only. I just tell them, ‘I play whatever the spirit moves me to play. You’ll have to take your chances like everyone else.”

Some folks are happy to take their chances, such as James Taylor and The Temptations, both of which hired her to open for their shows. She’s a frequent guest of Big Head Todd and the Monsters.

Miller grew up in Kentucky, singing in the Catholic church and at talent shows. But being black and living in the projects, she and her family were excluded from certain church events. Eventually, they created the first Catholic gospel choir in the area.

She said, “Our choir director told us, ‘This is who you are as a people. Being Catholic is a choice. Sing the music that makes you who you are, and then add in the Catholic part later.”

The Heuga Center was founded in 1984 by Jimmy Heuga, a bronze medalist in ski racing in the 1964 Olympics. The center conducts national educational and wellness programs for people who have multiple sclerosis, empowering them to focus on their overall health and on what they can do to live productive lives. Heuga was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at the height of his racing career and revolutionized the management of the disease through a program of exercise and well-being.

The birthday bash is $75 per person, which includes drinks, hors d’oeuvres, dinner, dancing and a silent auction to support the Heuga Center’s work. For information, call toll-free 1-888-DO-IT4-MS.

Superhero attire is strongly encouraged.


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