Colorado Riverfront Concert Series

Time to dance the night away at river series

Leon Russell. Firefall. Nanci Griffith. Los Lonely Boys. Those are just four of the dozens of musical acts that have performed through the years during the annual Colorado Riverfront Concert Series.

On any given night of a show at the James M. Robb Colorado River State Park in Fruita, a ticket holder could see 1,000 or more people sipping wine, sharing a picnic or dancing the night away on the grassy lawn near the stage in the shadow of Colorado National Monument.

The series was created nearly 15 years ago when a Fruita woman, who wished to remain anonymous, left money for the establishment of a free, multi-year concert series to benefit and raise awareness for the Colorado Riverfront Commission’s goal to build a public trail from Palisade to Fruita, said Colorado Riverfront Foundation chairman Bill Prakken. (The foundation is the financial entity of the commission.)

As the series enters its 15th season, however, the foundation announced that the donor’s gift has run out.

In an effort to fundraise for the series’ future, the foundation made a few changes this summer that may increase interest both from a sponsorship and attendance standpoint. The hope is to raise the nearly $60,000 needed to stage the four-concert series annually.

“We want to attempt to continue the free concert series,” Prakken said.

Of course, if the foundation can raise more than $60,000, the number of shows could increase or it may be possible to book bigger acts, said Ron Wilson of Sandstone Concerts, the man who has booked the talent and helped stage the events for the past 10-plus years.

The changes ticket-holders may notice are related to venue logistics and how to actually get tickets. In addition, the foundation is staging a paid fundraising concert with Grammy Award-winner Bruce Hornsby & the Noisemakers at 8 p.m., Tuesday, July 16, at James M. Robb Colorado River State Park in Fruita, the same venue for the Riverfront Concert Series.

Tickets are $45 and available at City Market stores, sandstoneconcerts.com or 243-TIXS (8497).

On a recent tour of the park, Wilson had an extra hop in his step when talking about specific venue changes for both the Hornsby show and this year’s series, which starts Thursday, Aug. 1.

First, the bathroom area will be relocated to the back of the venue and will increase in size. The move gets the bathrooms away from the food and beverage sales area and expands the backstage area for artists.

Giving bands private toilets may not seem like much, but it potentially could draw new musicians to the outdoor venue, Wilson said.

“That’s smart,” Wilson added.

An attendant will staff the public bathroom area.

Second, the food vendors will include regulars Enstrom Candies and Pablo’s Pizza, plus food truck newcomers Duncan’s Gourmet Street Food and Craving.

Water and soft drinks will be for sale, as well as Talon Winery and Two Rivers Winery wine, with a full line of domestic and imported beer and two local brews from Fruita’s Cooper Club Brewing Co.

People can bring lawn chairs but no beverage containers, empty or sealed.

Ticketing also has changed this year. For the first 14 years of the concert series, tickets were free with a limited number allowed per individual, but the process had to change when Gene Taylor’s closed. It was a major ticket outlet.

Now, an individual can get an unlimited number of tickets at $2 each from City Market stores and TicketsWest.com. Those 4 and younger don’t need tickets. The new charge is from a processing fee.

Also, in previous years concerts often were on weekday nights because the venue is within a state park and park officials didn’t want to interfere with weekend users, Wilson said. This year, however, the four free shows are on Thursday or Friday nights, allowing people to make a weekend of it, either by camping at the park or worrying less about getting back home for work the next day.

Although Prakken and Wilson acknowledged the series is no longer “free,” they hope people will attend with venue improvements and a minimal charge in comparison to the quality of the show.

This year, the foundation received sponsorships from Family Health West, ANB Bank, Alpine Bank, Daub & Associates, Enstrom Candies and Safari Ltd. Prakken said he hopes local businesses continue to support the series.

“We are committed to make it happen next year and hopefully it will,” Prakken said.

The foundation has made money in the past through donations at the venue and through drink and beverage sales, but the estimated few thousand dollars raised annually isn’t enough to keep the series afloat, he added.

The series began on the condition that it be free, per the request of the anonymous donor. The foundation kept those wishes, thinking, at least at the beginning, that the series would likely just end when the money ran out, Wilson said.

However, Wilson acknowledged the series has become something positive for the area, the venue and the Riverfront Commission. He said he shares the foundation’s hope the shows go on.

“There is a unique relationship between the Riverfront Foundation and this park,” Wilson said. “This is a world-class park. This concert series is a real good economic generator for the park and this series.”

For Mawdsley’s interview with Bruce Hornsby, visit gjsentinel.com/entertainment/articles/something-about-bruce.



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