Another sellout, but rainstorm shortens music at Rock Ledge Fiddles event
The festive outdoor bluegrass affair, featuring four bands and a plethora of food and beverages donated by local restaurants and drink suppliers, is a major fundraiser for the 1880s-style working ranch off Gateway Road at 30th Street.
But for the 1,200 ticket-buyers, 13 wasn't the luckiest of numbers. The music started at 3 p.m. By about 4:15 p.m., sprinkles were beginning to fall. Within 15 minutes, it had become a first-class downpour, and audience members were raising umbrellas or scurrying for the dryness of the food tents.
Bands at both the upper and lower stages gamely tried to keep going, but as the skies kept emptying and moisture became a threat to amplified equipment, the musicians reluctantly put aside their instruments.
At this point, only two bands, Tibet and the Wooks, had played a full set - the latter on the upper stage (the Showmobile on the lawn in front of the historically restored Orchard House) and the former on the Pergola stage (the rear porch of the Orchard House).
Tibet consisted of a quartet, three of whom had been in the Black Forest-based WMD band that played at the 2016 Fiddles. The Wooks, from Kentucky, had been named best band at the 2016 RockyGrass event in Lyons, Colorado.
When the rains came in earnest, the Wooks were on the Pergola stage and Lizzy Plotkin & Natalie Spears (a Colorado string duo) in the Showmobile - both groups barely halfway through their opening 45-minute performances. The schedule had called for the Wooks to play three sets in all and the other two groups two sets each. The headline band - the Texas-based Quebe Sisters - were to play a single set of 1 1/2 hours at 7 p.m.
But with the deluge, which left standing water in various parts of the ranch, many ticket-buyers left. Others, shrugging off the dampness and the lack of music, stuck around to take advantage of the remaining culinary offerings... and the shorter lines.
Meanwhile, ranch officials reached a decision. Before the day of the event, having seen storm predictions in the forecast, they had arranged with District 11 to have Coronado High School's auditorium as a fallback venue.
So that was where the Quebe Sisters played their set (although by then the rains had stopped). The group consisted of the three fiddle-playing sisters and two support musicians (one on guitar, the other on stand-up bass). On hand were roughly 100 people who had found out about the location change.
Even such a relatively small remnant was pleasing to the Quebes, who have been playing professionally since they were pre-adolescents. "We were afraid you all had fled," grinned Sophia Quebe to the audience early in their show.
The attendees showed they weren't disappointed, whistling and applauding with regularity.
Before the rain, the event had revealed a bit more regulation than in past years, with yellow tape stretched across the fronts of each of the food/drink booths until exactly 3 p.m. At previous Fiddles events, vendors would start giving out food whenever they were ready, which was pleasing to the "early birds" who arrived when the gates opened (typically at 2:30). But with this year's restriction, lines formed outside the yellow tape and kept getting longer as the number of pre-3 p.m. arrivals grew.
According to ranch manager Andy Morris, there had been past complaints about the irregularity of the booths opening, so the goal was to make things more consistent this year. As it turned out, the fairness endeavor wasn't 100 percent successful, as some people were observed walking round with plates of food long before 3 p.m.
Rock Ledge is a Colorado Springs-owned facility that gets some taxpayer funding, but relies on donations and self-fundraisers and only has two full-time employees. The ranch's volunteer Living History Association (LHA) provides much of the manpower, including numerous adult and junior docents who don 1880s apparel during the summer season and for special events.
Fiddles originally came together in 2005 through the efforts of several area restaurateurs (under the name, Cloud 9) working with Rock Ledge's management and the LHA.
Westside Pioneer article and photos