What’s a little rain?
Crowds still flock to Rock Ledge’s ‘Fiddles’ event
When an afternoon rainfall caused leaking in the tarp above the Orchard House's east stage, the Stanleytones bluegrass band didn't give up; they just moved under the
food and wine tent and kept playing, unamplified.
This was one way that wet weather tried, but failed, to wash away the second annual Fiddles, Vittles & Vino Aug. 26 at Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site.
Despite two storms that day, close to 1,000 people attended the 9 ½-hour event, which featured eight bluegrass bands and sampling opportunities from local restaurants and statewide wineries.
“When you look out and see it raining in the morning (as it did early Aug. 26), it didn't help us,” observed ranch manager Andy Morris. “But the people who came were the right people. They weren't worried about the weather. They ate, drank, listened to music, visited the different parts of the ranch and had a great time.”
Despite leaky skies, Morris estimated the event's attendance 850 to 1,000 (850 tickets were sold last year) and, thanks to reduced costs because of donated food and wine and volunteer labor, the ranch probably made money from the event, he said.
Cheryl Catalano, lead interpreter for the site, added her belief that “if it had been a sunny day, we would have sold 1,500 tickets (the total number printed). I don't think there's any other event quite like this, with the ranch, the music and the food below Pikes Peak. It was just gorgeous.”
Burton McKenzie, guitarist for the Stanleytones (which had also performed in the inaugural Fiddles last year), said the move under the tent was a spontaneous act because the band wanted to play. When they did, numerous people gathered around to listen at close range. Despite the water issues and an uncertainty about how well their un-miked vocals were being heard, the group enjoyed the proximity and the feedback from an appreciative crowd. “We're glad we came,” McKenzie summed up the day.
The featured band was Open Road, which musician/ band organizer Mark Gardner estimated as one of the top five bluegrass bands in the country. There were also pony rides, historic house tours and activities at the Homestead cabin and American Indian encampment.
The Rock Ledge staff is already planning the third annual event, which is to be Aug. 27, 2007. “I think it will just keep getting better and better,” Morris said.
Both Morris and Catalano especially lauded the help of the volunteers. She said about 60 people from the ranch's Living History Association (LHA) pitched in to help park cars, take tickets, clean up and police the entrances. “We couldn't have done it without those folks,” Morris said.
Rock Ledge Ranch is an 1880s-style working ranch owned by Colorado Springs Parks. The ranch gets some city funds, but the staff and LHA created “Fiddles” last year as a new fund-raiser to cover additional ranch costs.
One area where earnings may be pumped back into the facility is food-producing plants. Appreciative that the restaurants donated the food for the samples, Catalano said, “Someday maybe we can grow enough vegetables that we can supply the restaurants.” She is specifically looking at asparagus plants as well as raspberry bushes, both of which were grown at Rock Ledge when it was a private ranch in the 1800s.
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