“It was so much fun, she says. “I’ve had so many people comment that they thought it was our best concert yet. They had everybody up and moving. Everybody!”
As for solo artist Rob Drabkin: “He has a beautiful voice. He sounds like Dave Matthews,” she adds.
The Ridgway Summer Concert Series, formerly known as Pickin’ in the Park, is in its fourth year of providing free music in downtown Hartwell Park during the month of July. Once a predominantly bluegrass- and Americana-focused series, the concerts have now diversified to include a wider variety of music.
“This year we have four different bands and four different genres,” says Kraft. The shift “came from our community; that’s what they were asking for.”
And that’s what they seem to be responding to, with a noticeable increase in community participation from year to year, both from sponsors and concertgoers. This Thursday’s concert is the series’ bluegrass and Americana installment, with jam band Great American Taxi taking the stage following the opening act, the Pueblo-based Haunted Windchimes.
Perhaps best known for its founder, singer, guitarist and mandolin player Vince Herman of Leftover Salmon, Great American Taxi is also headed up by keyboard player and singer Chad Staehly. Since its founding in 2005, the band has become one of the most popular country-, rock- and bluegrass-influenced jam bands in the nation, creating music referred to as “Americana Without Borders.”
Traditional folk and blues band The Haunted Windchimes has a sound sometimes dubbed vintage because of its rural-1930s American music vibe. Their music is marked by vocal harmonies and instrumental mastery from harmonica, mandolin, guitar and standup bass. The Haunted Windchimes will play late-night show at the Sherbino Theater following the concert in the park, as with all the Ridgway Summer Concert Series opening acts. Beer sponsor for this week’s show is Colorado Boy Brewery.
Next Thursday, July 21, Lake Street Dive out of New York City will play the park. “They’re soul and rock with kind of a Motown influence,” says Kraft. That show will be opened by Truckstop Honeymoon, with beer will be provided by Ska Brewing of Durango.
“The last show, on the 28th, is Euforquestra,” she continues. “They played Ridgway a few times before, at the Sherbino. They are so tight, really strong in the horns – just really professional. I love what they do.” Sticky Mulligan opens that show, with New Belgium Brewing providing the beer.
According to Kraft, music promoter Rob Miller of Paonia’s Pickin’ Productions approached the Town of Ridgway four years ago with the idea of the summer concert series. He was already producing Paonia’s Pickin’ in the Park series during the month of August and thought it would be nice to link up the two towns by putting on a series of concerts in Ridgway during July.
“We do [our concerts] separately, but use the same promoter,” says Kraft, noting that Paonia’s concerts still bring in mainly bluegrass and Americana music.
“What he does is he works with other promoters and gets bands as they are [already] coming through” Colorado.” The opening acts are typically bands already based in Colorado.
Paonia’s KVNF Community Radio has partnered with Miller to live broadcast all the concerts from both towns, to help promote the live music over the airwaves.
To pay for the concert series, Ridgway puts on two fundraisers: Love Your Valley Festival in May and a community Block Party in June. They also raise money selling T-shirts, beer (donated by regional breweries) and raffle tickets, not to mention cash and in-kind donations from businesses and individuals. “All those funds pay for the concert series and that’s what keeps it free,” says Kraft.
This year’s raffle ticket winner will win a cruiser bike donated by Ridgway’s Peak to Peak Bicycles. According to Kraft, it has not been decided yet when the raffle drawing will take place, but, she emphasizes, “It’s a beautiful bike.”
All concerts are family friendly, with plenty of activities for kiddos. Ridgway’s “Fun Lady,” Shannon McCarthy sets up the park gazebo with costumes, arts and crafts and games, to keep children busy throughout the event. Before the headliner takes the stage, costumed kids parade through the crowd.
“They do face painting and all kinds of stuff,” says Kraft.
Food vendors include Texas Barbecue, Gypsy Crepes and Land & Ocean restaurant. All shows begin at 6 p.m. and take place rain or shine, so concertgoers should dress and gear up accordingly.
Kraft herself will, of course, be at the concerts, as the go-to person for all the events. The position was a natural progression for her.
“Many years ago I started doing a children’s harvest festival – a carnival for kids in the fall. I did that for many years,” before it evolved into an autumn festival featuring local musicians. “Then I got approached by Rob [Miller]” to help with Pickin’ in the Park. “It was a natural progression, that’s how it became me. I love it!”
For more information on this year’s concert series or to become a sponsor, visit ridgwayconcertseries.com or call Pam Kraft at 626-5308, ext. 11.
2011 Ridgway Summer Concert Series Sponsors
Cash: The Weaver Family, Orvis Hot Springs, Mountain Market, Colorado Yurt Company, Alpine Bank, Rio Grande Scenic Railroad. In kind: Box Canyon Lodge, Chipeta Sun Lodge, Black Canyon Equipment Rentals, Peak to Peak Bicycles, Kvnf Community Radio, The Watch, Fishbone Graphics, Ridgway Sun, Richard Durnan Photography. Breweries: Ouray Brewery, Colorado Boy, Ska Brewing, New Belgium.