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My connection to SnowyGrass, Bluegrass, and how sponsorhip makes it all possible

Promo photo of Will Thomas used by Snowy Peaks Winery

In May of 2017, I decided to go to Snowy Peaks Winery to support a friend who was playing music (Will Thomas) and to support the winery for hosting live music. They had started doing live music every Friday, and I had been booked there, as well. It's not easy for venues to start that and stick to it, because initially, it doesn't feel like it is going to "pay off". But their key to success with that was to be consistent. After a time, people got the hang of it and could trust that there would be music every Friday. I wanted to express my appreciation for that to Candice Mohr--owner and founder. I also wanted to tell her that I appreciated the little backyard festival (in Baldwin Park) they hosted the previous year, in July of 2016, called "Snowygrass".

Candice thanked me and then told me that they wouldn't be doing the festival again. I was crushed! My first connection

with Bluegrass in Estes Park was in 2003. A group of 4 friends--Garth Lewis, Tom Thomas, Greg Glasgow, and Greg Miles--had started a "pick", a bluegrass jam. I don't remember what venues they had used initially, but my husband and I owned a restaurant with a back room, and they approached us with the idea of hosting it there.


I had a fondness for Bluegrass from a friend in the Houston area, Kelly Lancaster, an award winning mandolin player. He had played on Jeff Scroggins first solo album. He even gave me a few bluegrass guitar lessons.

The typical gang at the Rock Inn pick!

At some point, we moved away for a few years, and then returned to EP. Those guys had an established Bluegrass pick at The Rock Inn every Thursday. I would watch from the side. Greg Miles would encourage me to join, and I would politely decline. But I would watch. One day, as I was coming out of the restroom, Greg walked up with a guitar in his hand, arm extended. He put it in my hand, and my hand closed around the neck. I was quite out of body as I walked onto the stage where the circle was, and sat in a chair that had been left open for me. Greg called out the changes to me. I believe we played "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere" followed by "Long Black Veil". I knew both of these songs, and indeed had performed Long Black Veil in a duo I had previously been in, singing harmony. So, even though I was pretty awkward on guitar, I could wail on Veil. After that, I never missed a Thursday night.

Back to the SnowyGrass story. With that 2016 little festival, Estes Park had finally gotten a bluegrass festival. I had nothing to do with it except hanging with my bluegrass friends in the grass and drinking wine. Okay--we snuck in some beer from the nearby liquor store. Sorry Candice. It was hot outside! It was a free festival--no fences. There were 3 bands--Ran Off the Rooster (Erin Dahlby, Jacie Ullrich, & Amy Glenney), Follow the Fox (Dylan McCarthy & Sarah Cole), and ReinTarnation (the 4 EP Bluegrass guys). There was woodfired pizza and one more food vendor. The winery had wine, of course, and fruit and cheese plates. It was hot, but very windy that day. An umbrella started to violently blow, and I remember jumping up to grab it before it hurt someone. That was the extent of my work for the festival that first year.

On that Friday in May, when Candice told me that they would not be throwing this free, mini day fest again, I felt like somehow it HAD to go on. They didn't have the staff to do it, nor financial resources. There had been no sponsors, and no admission money. I asked her how she would fees about someone else running it. She said, sure! I knew a guy at the time who liked to do events. Not a Bluegrass guy, though. In about 10-15 minutes, I realized that I had a responsibility. I felt like I owed it to my bluegrass community. I had been a caterer, so I understood planning events. This event was simple, it seemed. Ok. I accept the challenge. Game on! I had exactly 8 weeks to make it happen.

The first thing I realized was that I have NO money to invest. I have energy, skills, and intelligence, but no extra money. I also knew the community, having been a business owner in the past, and a performing musician at the time. I asked Greg Miles for advice on what sponsorship looks like and how you get it. He had been working on Friends of Folk Festival via Estes Arts District that year for the first time, as well. He said to create different levels and what those levels get. He gave me ideas. So, I hit the streets. I wasn't all sales-y, either. I just had conversations with business owners and explained what I was trying to do. They trusted me and liked the vision--even if they weren't into Bluegrass. Most were familiar with the pick on Thursdays, too. I raised about $6000 in that short time, and that covered the costs of the 2017 festival. It had 6 bands and was still free. Bonnie & the Clydes and Woodbelly played that year. So did I!

Getting ready to emcee. Wait--drums?! Well, sure. Sometimes. That's Andy Straus back there.

Eventually, I added a 2nd day--Friday, not Sunday. Finally, we added Sunday. Initially, we kept the festival free, but we had to start charging admission at some point. From 2017 on, we have held workshops that all are welcome to, even if admission to the festival is not purchased. That is part of our community outreach.

A guitar workshop with Jason Hicks of Blue Canyon Boys in 2023

Rocky Mountain Folks Festival at Stanley Park (courtesy of Nick Molle Productions)
Alison Kraus at Folks Fest at Stanley Park (Nick Molle Productions)

We started to close the road for safety, which cost a couple thousand dollars. Every year had a new improvement. We started to bring in national bands mixed in with local and regional. Last year, in 2023, we had to find a new location. That sweet little park would be ravaged by construction and destruction. It was touch and go to find an appropriate location for this vision. If we were going to change locations, it had to have camping, because that's what really makes a Bluegrass festival great. The Estes Valley Recreation District agreed to rent a portion of Stanley Park to us and allow camping--something that hadn't been done there before. It is a beautiful park with stunning views. It also costs 12 times more than Baldwin Park did! It was the first location for the Rocky Mountain Folks Festival back in the early 90's. The story is that "The Town" and the "old people" didn't like loud music and ran it out of town. To be clear, that is not the official story from Planet Bluegrass who holds that festival.

Well, besides wanting to tell the history of this festival, I wanted to say how essential sponsorship is to this festival, and how grateful I am to those who invest in it. I try to make the SnowyGrass sponsorship the one that gives the most back via marketing and perks (tickets, shirts, space for a booth, etc). Please take a minute to look at this year's sponsors. These folks support us and we support them.

Will you please consider sponsoring? If we fill those spots indicated by question marks, we will meet our goals! If you are not a business or are not in a position to sponsor, will you please consider purchasing tickets to come join in the fun? I hope this festival can continue and grow, but not too big! Here's where to get tickets:

Want info on sponsoring? Email me at There are different levels and a special offer right now. The Web Ad Sponsor sold for $1000. That may sound like a lot, but it is for an ad that links to your site on our busy website for a full year, plus comes with tickets valued at $310. You also get your logo on the poster and listed in our Business Directory. Most importantly, it supports this community event. That's only $690 for an ad placed for a year. That's $57.50 / month. That's not a lot! Since we are later in the year, that price is reduced to only $650. If you commit to that by May 9th, we can get your logo on the poster.

Thank you for reading and supporting!


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