Garfield County Fair negotiating with Michael Martin Murphey’s West Fest |

Garfield County Fair negotiating with Michael Martin Murphey’s West Fest

John Colson
Post Independent staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

Preparations are under way for the 2010 Garfield County Fair, held each year in August, including the possibility that Michael Martin Murphey’s West Fest extravaganza will be a big part of the event.

The county fair officials have been negotiating for some time with Wildfire Productions, named after Murphey’s most famous song, and are close to an agreement that would bring the event to Rifle, at a cost that currently stands at $150,000.

But the county has held off on final approval for the contract, out of concerns for unexpected costs that might crop up separate from the contract amount.

At a meeting of the Board of County Commissioners on March 15, Commissioner Mike Samson told officials from the city, “We’re looking for enthusiastic support from Rifle … since this is going to benefit the city of Rifle greatly.”

Samson pointed to expectations that the city will be in charge of “a lot of ground work by a lot of people,” ranging from overtime pay for police officers to provide security, to picking up the trash generated by the event.

Rifle City Council members Alan Lambert and Jay Miller told the commissioners that the city could afford to pay $20,000 toward the West Fest’s cost, and that the Rifle Chamber of Commerce had agreed to chip in $5,000.

The cost of West Fest, said Jimmy Smith, chair of the Garfield County Fair Board, is more than the Fair Board has ever spent on a single contract for entertainment.

But, he noted, West Fest is not simply an entertainer with a stage show, which in the past few years have been paid between $15,000 and $30,000.

Instead, it is a large-scale complex of different “villages,” such as a “Cowboy Village,” a “Native American Village,” and a “Mountain Man Village,” each complete with characters true to the culture and era of the Old West and vendors offering goods for sale.

West Fest was staged for several years at the Copper Mountain ski area, and has moved around to other venues, including one year at Snowmass Village.

But Murphey, a well-known songwriter and entertainer who founded West Fest as a way to preserve memories and images of the Old West, took a few years off to get back to the music business.

Now, Smith said, Murphey is once more looking for a place to hold the event annually.

“And for the name alone, he sees Rifle as a perfect fit for the type of event that West Fest is,” Smith said.

Fair organizers have noted that West Fest, in some venues, has drawn 12,000 people a day through the gates, and Rifle is hoping it will draw from a wider geographic area and potential audience than the Garfield County Fair typically sees.

“The commissioners have obviously seen the benefit for the tourism impact,” Smith said of the apparent support the commissioners have for the idea.

But, he said, “It’s not finalized” until a few issues are ironed out to the satisfaction of the commissioners.

The matter is to be discussed again at a meeting on March 29 at the commissioners chambers in Glenwood Springs.

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