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A surprise Fiddles, Vittles & Vino distraction occurred during the closing set by headline band Chatham County Line (far right), when ranch docents led in the ranch's two newest sheep, Frostbite and Sneakers. The duo enjoyed munching on the Orchard House lawn grass for about a half-hour while various people came up to pet them. Another kind of distraction occurred later in the set, when the American Indian teepee, set up about 100 feet from the stage, was taken down. Chatham guitar player Dave Wilson commented that this was "the first time we've played where we got to see sheep walk in front of the stage and a teepee deconstructed." Click here for a video of the "sheep" song - actually titled "Chip of a Star" - recorded exclusively for the Westside Pioneer by Travers Jordan.
Westside Pioneer photo

Fiddles, Vittles & Vino sells out for 6th time in major Rock Ledge Ranch self-fundraiser

The Chatham County Line foursome circle their single microphone during their featured set to conclude the 12th annual Fiddles, Vittles & Vino at the Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site July 31. From left are John Teer, Chandler Holt, Greg Readling and Dave Wilson.
Westside Pioneer photo
       Rain made its customary appearance, but failed to upstage the 12th annual Fiddles, Vittles & Vino at the Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site July 31. The brief, mild downpour even had the courtesy to taper off before the headline band, Chatham County Line from North Carolina, played the event-concluding set on the main stage in front of the Orchard House.
       Adding to the good news, the six-hour music and food festival sold out all its 1,200 tickets for the sixth straight year. Fiddles is a major fundraiser for the 230-acre working ranch at the south end of the Garden of the Gods. The city-owned facility gets some funding from the city, but relies on donations and self-fundraisers to cover the balance, with volunteers providing much of the manpower. Fiddles earnings are not typically made public, but the net income in the past has been reported as reaching the five-figure range.
       Fiddles originally came together in 2005 through the efforts of several area restaurateurs (under the name, Cloud 9) working with Rock Ledge's management and volunteer Living History Association (LHA). Cloud 9 continues to coordinate the food side of the event, in which 40-some restaurants, breweries, wineries or suppliers donate the food and beverages for ticket-buyers. The bands are booked by Mark Gardner, an area musician and author.
      
When Dave Wilson of Chatham County Line jokingly mentioned that big-name bands get immediate applause when they start playing their popular songs (then broke into a Chatham "hit"), several Fiddles attendees obligingly responded by applauding vociferously and even lighting their cell phones and holding them up (as seen in the background). Wilson acknowledged the response, remarking especially on the depletion of phone batteries in his group's behalf. The photo also shows a few of the dancers in the Rock Ledge Ranch twilight (with the food/drink tents in the background) during Chatham's closing set.
Rioux Jordan photo - special to the Westside Pioneer
There was one downside to this year's affair: Bob Macdonald, the Rock Ledge Ranch photographer, fell while taking a photo, tore his knee and had to be taken to the hospital, according to Ron Wright, LHA president.
       In keeping with the "formula" that Fiddles has followed in recent years, the musical acts consisted of four acoustic bands playing varieties of bluegrass, and the headline band (Chatham) performing only the concluding set. The WMD Bluegrass Band played three times and Wirewood Station and Finnders & Youngberg twice each. Another continuing tradition was that for roughly half the event, two stages (the main one in front of the ranch's Orchard House and the Pergola Stage behind it) were going simultaneously - just far enough apart that they didn't overlap each other in volume.
       For WMD, Fiddles was evidently one of the last shows for the Black Forest family band. Jon Wieland, who started the group seven years ago with his three sons, revealed from the stage that his oldest, Jackson, 18 - a mandolin/guitar player who manages WMD's musical arrangements - will be leaving this fall to attend college on a Navy ROTC scholarship. "We're probably going to call it quits after this, but it's been a fun ride," Jon Wieland told the audience.
       WMD had previously played on the Westside at the Taste of OCC fundraiser for Bancroft Park in 2014.
       Wirewood Station is a local four-piece string group that performed at Territory Days in 2014.
       Finnders & Youngberg was back for its third Fiddles encounter. Previous years were 2008 and '10, and two members, the married couple of Aaron and Erin Youngberg, were with the Billy Pilgrim Band at the '07 event. The Fort Collins group, previously called Finders & Youngberg, has interesting pronunciation quirks: The Findders part of the name stems from guitarist/songwriter Mike Finders, who pronounces his name "Finnders." Also, Aaron and Erin aren't said the same way - she introduced herself as "Ee-rin." Adding to the band's identification gymnastics, they also use the abbreviated name of "FY5"; however, their mandolin player was not on hand, so at Fiddles they were a quartet.
       Bluegrass fans heard welcome news from Steve Harris a Fiddles emcee and executive director of the music non-profit Rocky Mountain Highway. Talking in a break betweem bands, he announced that he is hosting a bluegrass program on a new radio station - at 107.3 FM and 1530 AM - which airs Sundays from 8 to 10 a.m.
       Above, left and below are Westside Pioneer photos taken during the event.
LEFT: Dancers of different generations enjoy the music of Finnders & Youngberg (who were playing on the Orchard House's Pergola Stage, not shown). RIGHT: Ticket-buyers show their delight as the gates are opened to the temporarily fenced Fiddles area inside Rock Ledge Ranch at 2:30 p.m. The live music started at 3. There had been some advance confusion, as the tickets and ranch events calendar gave a starting time of 2 p.m., but the advertising said 3. So opening at 2:30 was a late compromise.
The Warehouse Restaurant was one of more than 30 food-or-drink sampling locales during Fiddles, Vittles & Vino. Just to the right of the man with the cooking pan is Warehouse owner James Africano (in ball cap), who for years has led area restaurants in supporting the Rock Ledge fundraiser.
LEFT: A strikingly anachronistic image presented itself during Fiddles (OK, in addition to the sling chairs and sneakers), with hula-hoopers in front of an historically correct American Indian teepee. RIGHT: Members of the WMD Bluegrass Band perform on the Pergola Stage. From left are Luke Wieland, 14; Jackson Wieland, 18; Jon Wieland (their dad); his other son, Wyatt Wieland, 16; and family friend/musician Sam Wachtler.
LEFT: Finnders & Youngberg Band members gather around their single microphone during their set on the main stage. From left are Aaron Youngberg, Erin Youngberg, Mike Finders and Ryan Drickey. RIGHT: Three simultaneous ice projects by carvers Julian Drummond (left, aided by his wife Linda), P.T. Aiello (center) and Mark Painter (rear) attracted onlookers throughout the event. Drummond made a cowboy boot and hat, Aiello an angelfish and Painter two leaping fish.
During a set by Wirewood Station, Casey Cherry (center) and Herb Wetzel enjoy the fiddle-playing of Michelle Edwards. Not shown is the band's fourth member, bassist Bob Bowker, who was to their right)

Westside Pioneer article and photos
(Posted 8/1/16, updated 8/2/16; Outdoors: Rock Ledge Ranch)

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