RIFLE, Colorado - A big part of the Garfield County Fair this August will be three days of western-oriented music, activities and memorabilia, in the form of Michael Martin Murphy's West Fest.
Final contractual details are still being worked out, according to Kent Long of the county's purchasing department, and the contract is on track to be signed next week.
But the board of county commissioners this week gave their approval to a deal that will make West Fest the centerpiece of the county fair for at least this year, and perhaps into the future.
As things now stand, the county will pay Murphy's company, Wildfire Productions, $155,500 for the three-day extravaganza, which is to include such offerings as "villages" of Mountain Men, Indians and Cowboys, vendors of all sorts of paraphernalia that would have been in use back in the days of the Wild West, as well as musical acts. In addition to the county's agreement, Rifle and the Rifle Chamber of Commerce are contributing a total of $25,000 to the deal, according to county fair officials.
"It's an educational and entertainment event," explained Ty Morgan, program director of Moose Country radio in Grand Junction, who is helping Murphy get the West Fest deal signed.
The list of musical performers for the three-day event, from Aug.13-15, has yet to be finalized, Morgan said.
Murphy, whose 1975 song, "Wildfire" is perhaps his best known, founded West Fest in 1986 as a celebration of Western arts and culture. Held for a decade at the Copper Mountain ski area, West Fest attracted between 20,000 and 30,000 people a day at the height of its popularity, Morgan said.
The West Fest was put in mothballs about five years ago, when Murphy decided to get back to writing and performing music, but is being revived this year.
"We want to start it small and grow it," said Morgan. "We're anticipating an average of 4,000 to 6,000 per day."
He said the offerings in the West Fest lineup will include western artists and sculptors, equestrian events (including lessons at riding a professional cutting horse).
In addition, he said, wagon rides and trail rides are now being arranged.