9th annual Fiddles at Rock Ledge follows strategy that’s led to two straight sellouts

       In the first few years of Fiddles, Vittles & Vino, now in its ninth year at Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site, different experiments were tried. These included pony rides, bands at the cabin, more bands in general, longer hours, a farmers market and even culinary seminars.

Husband-wife duo Laura Wortman and Kagey Parrish form the Honey Dewdrops, one of four bands at the July 28 Fiddles, Vittles & Vino.
Neal Golden photo – used with permission

       But over time, the bluegrass festival's planners came to the conclusion that less was more… except when it came to food and drink, the amounts of which have actually increased over time.
       “We've pared it down to where we think we have a great venue,” summarized ranch manager Andy Morris.
       For this year's Fiddles, Sunday, July 28 from 2 to 8 p.m., the format will be much the same as in the past few years, with four bands, two stages and food/ drink samples available at close to 50 booths representing restaurants, breweries, wineries or beverage suppliers.
       The “Vittles & Vino” side is handled by Club Nine, a volunteer group of area chefs that supports the ranch and helped found the event in 2005. “Everything is going like we planned,” James Africano, Club Nine president and head chef at the Vermejo Park Ranch in New Mexico. “We've continued to raise awareness of the ranch, which was our main idea.”
       Festival ticket prices are up this year, from $40 to $45, although the lower price is available as an “earlybird” rate until July 21, according to the Fiddles website (fiddlesvittlesandvino.com). Purchases can be made there or at the ranch on the days it's open (Wednesday to Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.).
       Morris said the increase is a combination of higher band costs, a reassessment of value (compared with other Rocky Mountain-region festivals), the event's purpose of raising money for the ranch, and the simple factor of “supply and demand” - Fiddles & Vittles having sold out its 1,200 tickets each of the past two years.
       The number of tickets is limited to keep the event from getting too crowded, Morris noted.
       The “hottest” band this year is Front Country, a San Franciso Bay area six-piece. They were judged the top band at both the Rockygrass event in Lyons last year and the Telluride Bluegrass Festival this year.
       The only other band to accomplish that feat and play at Fiddles was the Spring Creek Bluegrass Band in 2008.
       Mark Gardner, who lines up the performers for Fiddles events, also feels lucky with another band on this year's bill - I Draw Slow, from Dublin, Ireland. “There's no way we could ever bring a band from Ireland to our little festival,” he said. However, they're playing at this year's Rockygrass and were up for another Colorado gig.
       The other two bands this year will be the Honey Dewdrops, a Virginia-based husband-wife duo; and a local trio, Jody Adams and the String Dudes.
       Adams is well known to Rock Ledge attendees, having played at Fiddles in 2006 and 2009 with his Palmer Divide band; he also performs free to help the annual Hollyberry House Folk Art Festival that raises money for Rock Ledge.

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