Sunlight bluegrass festival not locals’ pick |

Sunlight bluegrass festival not locals’ pick

Post Independent Photo/Jim Noelker

Jodi Andrew sat at a sunny picnic table at her music festival Saturday afternoon, fretting and trying to figure out what’s wrong.

The pickers, fiddlers, strummers and singers at the Sunlight Mountain Bluegrass Festival can hold their own at other festivals around the United States, and they don’t play only “bluegrass.”

The temperature up at Sunlight Mountain Resort is five to 10 degrees cooler than down in town. And a snow-making machine spits out a gigantic cloud of cooling mist for folks to park under if they get hot.

The sound is sharp from the stage well beyond the crowd.

There isn’t a backstage area, so performers will answer questions about their music, or explain their technique.

The rest rooms are inside, and they are clean, and cool.

“If we had the locals here, the festival would be doing just fine,” Andrew said between swigs of ice water in a plastic Coors cup. “I wonder where all the local people are.”

Saturday was the middle day of the inaugural Sunlight Mountain Bluegrass Festival, which continues today from 11 a.m. to 6 or 7 p.m. Tickets for Sunday are $25 at the gate. For details, call 945-7491.

The festival stage is set up on the Sunlight deck, which faces the base ski run, and on Saturday the crowd extended up the hill for about 50 yards.

The place was crowded with food booths, a beer booth, and a tent for CD sales, bluegrass magazine subscriptions, T-shirts and caps and psychic readings.

In the lodge breezeway, where lift tickets are sold in the winter, venders showed and sold guitars and mandolins. The upper and lower parking lots were full of out-of-town festival campers.

The festival includes music workshops at the Brettleberg, Sunlight’s base lodge, and the Sunlight Inn. The workshops were full, and after Friday night’s concert, the picking continued into the night.

“The place looked like a musical village,” Andrew said. “Music was everywhere.”

As the stage crew started setting up the next act, Jim Hurst and Missy Raines, Andrews said a festival like hers typically relies on a 50-50 split between local support and out of towners, including musicians who come to listen and learn.

She had compliments for Sunlight, which helped plan and promote the event, and the volunteers who are helping to run it.

“Everyone is really hopping,” Andrew said.

Some of those hoppers were Sunlight Ski Patrol members, who provided security and medical support.

“Mostly, we’re walking around, and if someone looks ill, we ask them if they’re drinking enough water. Hopefully, we can head off problems before they happen,” said ski patrol member Mike Ferguson. “This is a good venue, and the people are easy to work with. They aren’t running into trees at 40 miles per hour.”

Jim Williams, director of Swallow Hill Music Hall and School in Denver, chewed on a sandwich while Andrew talked about her philosophy of booking “contemporary bluegrass” bands, which can run the gamut from swing styles to blues.

“Colorado is more tolerant of a variety of styles,” Williams said as he polished off his sandwich. “Back East, they wouldn’t go for jam bands.”

Williams told Andrew she shouldn’t feel badly about the low locals turnout. “Building a festival is tough,” he said. “A lot of it is word of mouth. You’ve got to be in it for the long haul.”

Sunlight marketing director Turi Nevin said she is pleased with the festival so far. “It’s a smooth-running event,” Nevin said. “I’m seeing some locals up here.”

Meanwhile, Denver resident G. Justin Campbell settled in under the Sunlight entrance sign, shaded with towering aspen trees. Campbell is a proficient finger picker, and the guitar case at his feet was covered with stickers from festivals around the country.

Campbell, 48, is a hefty guy with a beard, and was dressed in overalls, black T-shirt, and sandals with white socks. He drives a truck for a living, but doesn’t like truck-driving songs.

Campbell said one reason he came to the festival was to do some picking with lead performer Jim Hurst. Campbell said he’s also friends with the musicians in Coal Creek, which will end the festival starting at 5 p.m. today.

Campbell complimented Andrew and her husband and co-promoter, George Gertz, for putting on a good festival.

“She’s doing it right. She’s on the right track,” he said. “It behooves Glenwood Springs to embrace this.”

Contact Lynn Burton: 945-8515, ext. 534

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