Mountain Fair’s hometown flair lives on
CARBONDALE – If there’s a particular sound that reminds Hilary (Hendricks) Preston of her childhood growing up at Mountain Fair – Carbondale’s homespun arts, music and all-around community festival – it’s hammering.
That was the sound that always told her it must be Mountain Fair week.
“The gazebo (stage) used to be built every year just for the fair,” recalled Preston, now 35, of those early Mountain Fairs in the late 1970s and early ’80s before the Ben H. Reed Memorial Gazebo was built.
“That’s one of the first memories I have,” she said, recalling that her dad, Brad Hendricks, along with Reed and dozens of other community volunteers would work to build the stage from the ground up. Reed was killed in a car accident and the now-permanent gazebo was erected in his memory in the mid-1980s.
“So, the sound of hammers always makes me excited for Mountain Fair,” said Preston, a Carbondale native who along with her sisters, Harmony and Heidi, were part of a happy band of children running amok around Sopris Park during the fair.
It’s part of a scene that plays out yet again this weekend with the 38th annual Carbondale Mountain Fair, opening Friday at 4 p.m. and continuing Saturday and Sunday in Sopris Park with an array of free musical entertainment, arts and crafts booths, international food, competitions such as the traditional woodsplitting and limbo contests, and children’s activities galore.
“I remember it being a real free time as a kid,” adds Heidi Hendricks. “It was the one time of the year when I thought nobody was watching me. We were just this pack of kids running free.”
The Hendricks girls, who help organize the popular pie judging contest on Saturday morning at Mountain Fair, all have kids of their own now – another generation that will establish their own special Mountain Fair memories.
As much as the decidedly non-corporate, non-chamber sponsored music and arts festival draws visitors from all over, it’s also a homecoming of sorts for anyone who’s ever been a part of the magic that is Mountain Fair.
The fair serves as the primary fundraiser for the Carbondale Council on Arts and Humanities, and still relies on hundreds of community volunteers to pull it off each year.
“People make the trip from all over the country to come back to Mountain Fair,” Heidi said. “It’s all about that these days. And, for how much it’s changed, I like how much it hasn’t changed.”
Like the pie contest.
“It’s just a fun event, and really is what the fair is all about,” she said. “It’s also good to have a little bit of involvement in the fair. It’s our little way that we can contribute to the fair.”
You might say Meagan Goodwin, one half of the musical duo known as The Tippetts, first performed at Mountain Fair in 1986, even though she wasn’t even born yet. Her mom, Theresa Goodwin, was playing with one of the bands that year, and was pregnant with Meagan at the time.
This year, she and fellow “Tippett” Shanti Gruber will oversee a new addition to Mountain Fair, the Jam Tent.
“It’s really going to be an interactive thing, where the community can come and get involved with the music,” Goodwin said. “There are usually only one or two local music acts on the main stage now, so we wanted to give everyone a chance to come and play and be involved in Mountain Fair too.”
The Jam Tent, situated next to the ditch on the 7th Street side of Sopris Park, will feature a bluegrass-flavored jam at noon Saturday and again at 4 p.m. Sunday, with an acoustic jam at 3:45 p.m. Saturday and an Old-Tyme Jam at 11 a.m. Sunday.
“We’re encouraging everybody of all abilities and who play all kinds of instruments to come by,” Goodwin said.
She added, however, “We don’t want to discourage drums, but we don’t want it to be a drum circle either.”
Gruber, a Glenwood Springs native who is now the music and choral director at Glenwood Springs High School, said the Jam Tent will be a fun way to expand Mountain Fair’s music scene.
“I grew up more with Strawberry Days as a child, but my vision of Mountain Fair has always been the music,” she said. “It’s always been more of a homey feel, and more family oriented, like a little fairy land where everyone’s kind of on the same page and so peaceful.”
Gruber has also been helping out with the children’s Earthbeat Choir camp this summer. The Earthbeat Choir performs at 10 a.m. Sunday on the Gazebo stage.
“It’s part of that pulse, where everybody in the community gets to come and shine at the fair,” she said.
Mountain Fair is also known for bringing in top up-and-coming national touring bands, including some that have gone on to greater fame. Leftover Salmon and the String Cheese Incident both made appearances at Mountain Fair in the early 1990s, just before they took off.
In fact, Vince Herman of Leftover Salmon makes his return to the Mountain Fair stage to help open things Friday night, when his latest band Great American Taxi takes the stage at 7 p.m. Herman is joined in the band by noted Boulder musicians Jim Lewin, Chad Staehly, Chris Sheldon and Edwin Hurwitz. More about them at http://www.greatamericantaxi.net.
Other notable bands on tap for the Mountain Fair weekend include:
• Round Mountain, 11 a.m. Saturday – Based in Santa Fe, N.M., their background ranges from Balkan and West African styles to traditional Appalachian music, from classical to funk. More about them at http://www.roundmountainmusic.com.
• Brave Combo, 5 p.m. Saturday – From Austin, a groundbreaking world music act, a hot jazz quintet, a rollicking rock’n’roll bar band, a Tex-Mex conjunto, a sizzling blues band, a saucy cocktail combo, a deadly serious novelty act (polka meets classic rock), a Latin orchestra, and just a great dance band. More about them at http://www.brave.com/bo
• The Hillbilly Hellcats, 7 p.m. Saturday – Rockabilly old school style. More at http://www.myspace.com/hillbillyhellcats
• The Sybarite 5, 11:30 a.m. Sunday – “The Sybarite Chamber Players are a New York-based group of gifted young string musicians who have gained a reputation for juxtaposing the likes of Stravinsky with Radiohead, or Dvoak with Led Zeppelin,” according to Strings Magazine. More at http://www.sybarite5.org
• Spring Creek, 1 p.m. Sunday – Winners of the 2007 Telluride Bluegrass Band contest. More at http://www.springcreekbluegrassband.com.
• Boulder Acoustic Society, 2:45 p.m. Sunday – The new wave of acoustic roots music. More at http://www.boulderacousticsociety.net.
• Spiritual Rez, 5 p.m. Sunday – Seven-piece, horn-laden, reggae funk dance party. More at http://www.spiritualrez.com.
• Juno What!, 7 p.m. Sunday – ’70s style funk from Motet members. This is guaranteed to be a closer that makes memories of 2009 special. More about them at http://www.myspace.com/junowhatband.
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Imagine Glenwood and The City of Glenwood Springs is slated to host a virtual town hall at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, March 11.