Rock Ledge Ranch ‘Fiddles’ festival again attracts ‘Rockygrass’ champion
Fundraiser supporters would just like to get a break on the weather this year

       For the second straight year, the winner of the previous year's Rockygrass festival will be the headliner at Fiddles, Vittles & Vino Sunday, July 25 at the Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site.

A hardy crowd braves the rain during Fiddles, Vittles and Vino last July to watch Palmer Divide perform. Better weather is hoped for this year so that gate proceeds can bolster Rock Ledge Ranch fundraising.
Westside Pioneer photo

       Last year it was the High 48s, fresh off their 2008 triumph at the adjudicated bluegrass festival in Lyons, Colo., and this year it will be 49 Special, a four-member San Francisco band that won there in 2009.
       In keeping with tradition, the sixth annual Rock Ledge event will also feature food samples from 20 to 30 restaurants, tasting stations of about 15 types of wine or beer and 5 1/2 hours of music from four bands in all.
       Joining 49 Special will be three bluegrass bands headquartered in Colorado. New this year will be the Blue Canyon Boys, plus two bands who've performed at previous Fiddles - Finders and Youngberg (2008) and the Stanleytones (2006).
       According to ranch manager Andy Morris, the gates will open at 2 p.m., with the first band scheduled at 2:30 and the food and drink becoming available at 4 p.m. or sooner.
       The ticket price, including edibles and music, is $30 until July 18, after which it will go up to $40. A ticket for ages 8 to 16 is $8 now, $10 after the 18th.
       “I think it's a great festival,” Morris enthused. “It's in a beautiful setting, with wine and good music, and people get full plates of food. Who doesn't like those things?”
       The only drawback at the 2009 Fiddles was the weather. Even though hundreds still came, “we hardly had any walk-up folks last year because it was raining cats and dogs,” Morris said.
       This year there's even more reason to hope for a good turnout. Fiddles is a major fundraiser for the ranch, and because of budget cuts the city no longer subsidizes ranch operations. “It's more important now than at any point in a long time,” said James Africano president of Club Nine. “I don't want the ranch to become condos or overrun open space.”
       Club Nine is a consortium of area chefs and restaurant owners that helped start Fiddles, Vittles and Vino as a volunteer effort for the ranch in 2005 and continues to be its main sponsor. The Club Nine chefs have even funded the planting of apple trees, berry plants and asparagus, sometimes using the fresh produce for meals they make, Africano said.
       The close involvement of the chefs is also why Fiddles, Vittles and Vino is on a Sunday this year instead of Saturday, as in the past. Americano said Sunday is typically a less busy day in the culinary world. With Club Nine seeking to attract more restaurants to the fold (hoping to have more than 30 in all), scheduling Fiddles on Sunday “makes it easier to recruit,” he said.
       Mark Gardner is an area banjo player who has played at Fiddles in the past and who lines up the bands for the event. In an interview this week, he revealed his secret for luring the Rockygrass winners two years in a row. He explained that it was at his request that the Fiddles date moved last year from its original mid-August time frame to the fourth weekend in July. Why? Because that's the same weekend as Rocky-grass (July 23-25 this year), which books big-name acts. The two events don't affect each other because Rockygrass is in northern Colorado and always sells out, Gardner noted. But it also has a tradition of honoring the previous year's winner as the opening band at the following year's show. So, knowing that the winning band would already be in Colorado that weekend, Gardner could invite the group to also play at Rock Ledge - not that hard a sell because of its growing reputation - without having to pay travel and lodging expenses in addition to a performing fee. “We're getting great bands for a deal,” Gardner summed up.
       As a bonus at this year's Fiddles, another of the groups, the Blue Canyon Boys, has also been judged the top band at a major competition (the 2008 Telluride Bluegrass Festival).
       Tickets are available in advance on the website: fiddlesvittlesandvino.com, or at the gate. For more information, call Rock Ledge at 578-6777.

Westside Pioneer article