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Lyons 46th Annual RockyGrass Festival Draws Bluegrass Enthusiasts

July 30, 2018

Dan Solem and Chase Solem, 8, both of Lafayette, float in a tube down the St. Vrain River on Sunday during the 46th annual RockyGrass festival at Planet Bluegrass in Lyons.

Stephanie Collins considers RockyGrass a summer tradition.

“Music and people and food and tubing — it’s my favorite weekend of the summer,” said Collins, who made the trek to Lyons for this weekend’s festival for the fifth time.

The three-day RockyGrass bluegrass festival , now in its 46th year, wrapped up Sunday at Planet Bluegrass.

This year’s lineup offered several unique collaborations, including a reunion of the David Grisman Quintet that formed in 1975 and a set performed by the top five female winners of the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Instrumentalist of the Year award.

Hot Rize, a bluegrass quartet that started in 1978 in the Boulder area, closed out the festival on Sunday night.

Kristin Baker, of Edwards, and her daughter, Paris Baker, are music festival veterans. Kristin Baker’s son, Summers Baker, plays in Meadow Mountain, a band that won the band camp contest at last year’s festival and played in the Wildflower Pavilion on Sunday.

While Telluride boasts Colorado’s flagship bluegrass festival, they said, they like RockyGrass for its family feel and high level of artistry.

Paris Baker said RockyGrass spotlights both older, established groups and emerging artists.

“Here they have people who are amazing, but aren’t as well known,” she said.

This year also debuted Planet Bluegrass’ new Bluegrass Farm property, allowing ticketholders to park adjacent to the festival grounds instead of in the remote lots that were used in the past.

Organizers said what didn’t change is the popular festival’s values of community and camaraderie.

Adie Rosic and Amy Santos took advantage of the festival’s policy allowing anyone to sit in an open spot on the tarps around the stage — as long as they give the spot back to the original occupants when they return.

“I love it,” said Rosic, who moved to Denver in March and had her first RockyGrass experience, attending for all three days. “It’s my first time camping in Colorado. It’s a big slumber party.”

Susan Ostrowski and her husband, who live in South Dakota, have joined their son, Dave Ostrowski, for the past five years to take in the bluegrass bands, bringing out their own guitar to play at night at their campsite.

“It’s a very relaxing weekend,” Dave Ostrowski said. “It’s a great atmosphere. You’ve got the creek, great Colorado scenery, great music and a great community of people.”

While the music is the main event for many “festivarians,” others come mainly to spend time in a beautiful setting with friends.

“It’s like a backyard BBQ with great music,” said Boulder’s Carlyn Carroll.

Carroll was hanging out by the river’s edge with several friends, including Tolley Sink. Sink, of Niwot, celebrates her 6-year-old son’s birthday each year at RockyGrass after missing the festival the year she gave birth. She said she had her festival pass, but her water broke on the first day.

“I like the experience here,” she said, noting she prefers to camp over the three days to maximize time with friends. “The great music is the bonus.”

Another friend, Boulder’s Mandy Jasper, started coming to RockyGrass 13 years ago with her husband when they were still single. Now, they bring their two girls, a 3-year-old and a 7-year-old, and split their time between watching bands up close and letting their kids play in the river.

“Everyone takes care of each other here, so our kids can play and we can be adults,” she said.

Their kids had plenty of company, with children roaming the festival in packs as they dug in the sand and splashed or tubed down the river, it’s lower than usual water level adding an extra layer of safety.

If the river wasn’t enough entertainment, options included making crafts in the family tent, joining Hacky Sack circles and trying slacklining.

Boulder’s Katheryn and Michael McGuirk made it to their 10th Rocky Grass, bringing their 7-year-old daughter, Quinn, and 4-year-old son, Myles.

“We came first for the music, then it turned out to be a great place for kids,” he said. “It’s such a fun place, out on the river, listening to music. It’s a great way to spend the day.”

Amy Bounds: 303-473-1341, boundsa@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/boundsa

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