Something for everyone in Carbondale |

Something for everyone in Carbondale

Stina Sieg
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Post Independent/Kara K. Pearson

CARBONDALE, Colorado ” Mountain Fair’s “mother,” Laurie Loeb, was lounging in her backyard and sipping tea. As she described just what made her start this festival 36 years back, she was peaceful ” and wildly vital.

“My whole path in life is to bring people together,” said the smiling 68-year-old.

She sure got her wish.

In 1972, Mountain Fair was a small, almost spontaneous thing, with 20 booths, a few locals playing music and a bit of food. Nowadays, about 120,000 people show up for this mama of small-town festivals. Each time around, folks can expect more than 100 art vendors, tons of live music and a flood of exotic munchies. They also get to revel in that vibe that’s so incredibly ” well, Carbondale.

“It’s an acknowledgment for the gratitude that so many people feel for being here, living this life,” Loeb explained.

For her, the town’s pull is the natural beauty, the artistic community, the gourmet food. It’s about a love of healthy, laid-back living. It’s also about being around people who feel the same kind of passion she does. As she sees it, it’s that C-Dale dedication that keeps this fest staying special and strong.

“Whatever it is that people care about, they care hard,” she said.

That certainly keeps things interesting.

For example, local Soozie Lindbloom’s bag is solar power. During the fair, she and the rest of the Solar Energy International crew will be stationed at their bright, green and yellow bus. Lindbloom, 34, will be eagerly charging cell phones, blackberries and power tools (and anything else electrical), all with the help of that burning ball of gas in the sky. With interactive displays for adults and children, she’s hoping to convey “the importance and elegance of renewable energy.” And this weekend, she explained, is just the right audience for such a message.

“Any revolution without art is suspect,” she said, kind of laughing at how serious that sounded. “The Mountain Fair is the art part. We’d be the education part.”

Carol Craven, 65, lovingly described the fair as Carbondale’s own “little Brigadoon.” It’s wonderful, she said, to watch Sopris Park transform itself over the course of just a few days.

But it’s really the pies that’s she’s excited about.

For the last few fairs, she’s been judging the “exotic” category in the pie competition, held each year on Saturday. Started long ago, this home-spun event (which accompanies Sunday’s cake battle) was created to include a wide swath of the valley, especially the old-timers. To her, that sense of togetherness is pretty sweet.

“It is a community involvement,” she said. “And a pie is certainly a tangible expression of that involvement.”

That neighborly intimacy is just what makes this fair unique ” at least to director Amy Kimberly. At 51, she’s been to all kind of festivals in the West (Telluride Blue Grass, Taos Solar Music and on and on), but she talked like this one is a true treat.

“There’s not another fair like this, honestly,” she insisted.

On one level, it’s the green component that makes it stand out. This year, the fair will begin phasing out water bottles (they will be totally banned next year). Instead, attendees can buy reusable thermal cups and refill them with whatever beverage that tickles

their fancy. The celebration will host two young women, who will make smoothies in blenders powered by bicycles and solar energy. All the fruit will have been delivered by bike from Paonia. For youngsters, that Dr. Seuss environmentalist mascot, the Lorax, will be roaming around the festival, too.

According to Kimberly, it’s also the shear number of cool bands and artists that make this fair. Supporting them, she explained, is really supporting this home-grown gathering. Most of all, though, it’s the tidal wave of community support that really gets to her. Every year, more than 300 volunteers come together to make this thing happen. In her experience, that’s not normal for festivals ” but it is pretty wonderful.

In her words, “There’s nothing as magical as the Mountain Fair.”

Though Loeb wasn’t in the room to hear that, she probably would have been proud. It’s quite a feat that the heart of her creation can still be felt, even after all these years. Yet, somehow, that doesn’t seem to surprise Loeb.

“You know,” she had said earlier, “life is pretty amazing when you allow it to be.”

For a moment, she had made things sound just that easy.

Contact Stina Sieg: 384-9111

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