Fiddles’ vendor numbers up 25%

       Entering its seventh year, Fiddles, Vittles & Vino is finalizing a lineup in which close to 60 vendors - a 25 percent increase from last year - will be offering food and drink samples as part of the ticket price.
       On the “fiddles” side, the annual festival at the Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site Sunday, July 31 from 2 to 9 p.m. will again present four bluegrass bands playing multiple sets, starting at 2:30 p.m. One of the highlighted bands, the Henhouse Prowlers from Chicago, was the winner of the adjudicated band competition at the 2010 Rockygrass festival in Lyons, Colo., while another, Town Mountain from North Carolina, won Rockygrass in 2005.
       Tickets are available in advance by calling 578-6777 or ordering online at fiddlesvittlesandvino.com. Prices are $30 for adults until July 24, after which they will go up to $40 (also the price at the gate).
       The music will start at 2:30 p.m. and continue till nearly 9 p.m. Through the afternoon, music will be simultaneous on two separate stages.
       The beverage (mostly beer and wine) and food sampling is scheduled to start at 3 p.m., lasting until vendors run out of goods.
       The increase in vendors this year came from “a combination of a lot of things,” according to James Africano, president of Club Nine, a group of area chefs and restaurant owners who helped found the festival in 2005 as part of an ongoing effort to support Rock Ledge as a historic working ranch. One of these was last year's decision to move Fiddles from a Saturday to a Sunday, which made it less complicated for food/drink purveyors to get involved (Sunday typically being a lighter day for restaurants than Saturday). But “the biggest thing going is that, in our seventh year, people are paying more attention to it,” Africano said. “It's becoming a tradition, embedded into the summertime culture.”
       In all, he expects 31 vendors offering samples of food (8 more than last year) and 25 to 28 beverage (up from about 20 last year). A Westside restaurant making its debut at Fiddles will be Paravicini's Italian Bistro. Others continuing will be Front Range Barbeque and Jake & Telly's.
       Both Africano and Mark Gardner, who lines up the bands for Fiddles, made similar points about the event becoming more well known. In separate interviews, each mentioned how, in the early years of Fiddles, they sometimes had trouble getting return phone calls. But now, people are calling them, asking to be a part of it.
       “It tells me we're somebody now,” Gardner said.
       For his part, this marks the fourth straight year that he's has been able to line up the previous year's Rockygrass winner for Fiddles, Vittles & Vino. The “formula” actually took shape in 2009, when, at his request, the Fiddles date was moved from its original late August time frame to the fourth weekend of July. That's the same weekend as Rockygrass, which traditionally features its previous year's winner as the opening act. So, already being in Colorado, that group (this year it's the Henhouse Prowlers from Chicago) can play at Fiddles without the festival having to pay the band's travel costs, Gardner explained.
       Together since 2004, the Prowlers have recorded three albums as well as the soundtrack to a PBS documentary (“The Ride of Our Lives”).
       The Fiddles travel budget also came out ahead with Town Mountain, a six-year band (also with three albums), which just happened to be planning a tour of western states this summer. “Their booking agent said they'd be out in this area,” Gardner said. “Otherwise, there's no way I could have gotten them.”
       The other two bands are Honey Don't, from Paonia, Colo.; and Grass It Up, a well-known Colorado Springs bluegrass band.
       The lead members of Honey Don't, guitarist Bill Powers and stand-up bass player Shelley Gray, are also part of Sweet Sunny South, which had played at the 2007 Fiddles. Based on Honey Don't's website information, the acoustic duo may be accompanied by Ryan Drickey on fiddle and Greg Schochet on mandolin and guitar.
       A six-member band, Grass It Up has been together since 2005 and has recorded two albums. They have often played at Front Range Barbeque.

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