The High Mountain Hay Fever Bluegrass Festival runs July 10-13 at the Bluff and Summit Park in Westcliff, Colorado.
A huge circus tent is set up in the town park with spectacular views of the mountains and valley nearby. In the 2010 census, the population of Westcliff was 568, up from 417 in 2000. 15 bands played this year and festival attendance was close to 4000. The Festival is a fundraiser for children of the area and helps with medical services for the town. In the last fifteen years, the event has raised almost $600,000 towards its charitable goals.
In a town of 568, you know everyone, and everyone is involved in their town. There are volunteers running shuttles that pick us up in the festival parking lot and run us up the hill to the music tent. Volunteers haul trash away, direct traffic, provide first aid services, sell tickets ,and one of them wraps the four day green wristband around my wrist and fastens it.securely. If I remove the band I will have to buy another to get back inside the grounds.
Smack dab in a beautiful piece of no where, the town and festival is big enough to attract talent and small enough to be family friendly. You can go to the merchandise tent and visit performers after their set, buy CD’s and T shirts and ball caps. There is a beer tent and country folks handle their alcohol better than most. Kids run in the grass outside the tent and even dogs are well behaved and wag their tails in perfect time with the music.
For four days, we listen to and enjoy all the banjo, guitar, mandolin, upright bass and vocal music we can handle, mostly bluegrass ,but some country and some folk.
When, as one of the musicians says on stage, talking about a song he wrote, you move from a country where seventy percent of people lived in the country and farmed, to a country where seven percent of the population feeds the other 93%, you are seeing real change.
When people don’t know where their food comes from, they tend to lose their humility and appreciation for simple pleasures.
When the country out of America, we have lost ourselves.
Bluegrass should be in every music collection, even if you don’t know where the country is and would never go there of your own free will.