Country Jam rival files plans with county

Man proposes large, free concert on same weekend as yearly festival

Bobby Willis

A proposed free-of-charge music event with ambitions to rival Country Jam USA is now under review by Mesa County planners.

Representatives of Bobby’s Birthday Bash LLC wrote in a formal application submitted to the Mesa County Planning Department on Thursday that a festival near Loma on the north side of Interstate 70, scheduled for June 23 and 25, is anticipated to be followed by another rock-themed event later in the summer.

“Following the success of these events,” the application reads, “the applicant would propose similar events in a more permanent facility, whether at this location or another in the area of Mesa County.”

Dates for the proposed rock event have not been pinned down, the application said.

The June festival is proposed on roughly 82 acres, on the north side of I-70 and west of Colorado Highway 139. The land is owned by Jann Ertl of Longmont, according to the application.

The festival is spearheaded by Bobby Willis, a man with numerous New Mexico ties who said at a press conference earlier this month that he’s lived in Loma for the past nine months. Bobby’s Birthday Bash has raised the ire of officials with Country Jam USA, which marks 20 years in Mack.

Bobby’s Birthday Bash is scheduled over the same days.

Tried to buy Jam

Joe Coleman, a Grand Junction attorney who represents Country Jam USA, said Willis approached the Country Jam last fall seeking to buy the Mack festival.

Coleman said Willis signed a confidentiality agreement prior to being provided proprietary information on the inner-workings of Country Jam for the past 20 years.

Coleman alleges Willis kept the material when he was asked to return it, after purchase talks fell through.

“When someone’s requested to return something, and doesn’t, you have to question motives,” Coleman said.

Willis denies Coleman’s claims.

“I had my own business plan in mind, and the (signed confidentiality agreement) had nothing to do with how they run their business,” Willis said in a recent phone interview.

“I was not getting information about how they run their business,” said Willis. “They don’t have anything I want.”

Willis did not respond with specifics when asked to identify his business interests and financial background. He cites concerns for his family’s safety for his non-disclosure.

“I want my daughter to be able to walk down the street,” he said, later adding, “People will kill you for $1 million.”

Willis is the owner of a pair of restaurants in New Mexico, operated under FR’s World Famous Diners LLC, according to online records with the New Mexico Secretary of State’s office. The mailing address for that entity, in Farmington, N.M., is identical to the mailing address for Bobby’s Birthday Bash LLC.

Two other entities list Willis with interests in a jewelry business and a title insurance company. A third entity based in Kirtland, N.M., Bobby Willis Enterprises Inc., is not listed in good standing, according to the records.

Willis also is affiliated with Totah Charities Foundation Inc., based in Farmington.

Willis’ representatives in early 2010 approached leaders in San Juan County, N.M., seeking the county’s support for a multi-billion development, including a hospital, in the Farmington area.

“He approached us about doing an industrial revenue bond,” said Keith Johns, executive officer for San Juan County. “From our perspective, we had conversation and did not have an agreement.”

Just over a year later, they have yet to hear from Willis, he said.

“I’m not saying he doesn’t have any intention to do it, but we never did receive an application,” Johns said.


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