Paint the town red
Find your flutes. Dig out your drums. Hit upon your horns. And then bring them to the party.
Passes are restricted, so you might as well head to Red Cliff. The funky little town – equal parts artist community, fringe society, historic mining compound and plain old family town – is gearing up for its second Red Fest.
The three-day festival kicks off Friday, and doesn’t end until the bonfire dies out in the wee hours of Sunday night/Monday morning. Not only is it one of the biggest parties going – it’s about insuring the future of music in the community by injecting some instruments (and dollars to pay for upkeep and supplies) into the lives of budding musicians in the secondary schools.
“With budget cuts and several other programs that schools have to divide their time and money into, music isn’t always the first,” said Dave Laub, musician and music teacher at Battle Mountain. “Any time we can get funding, we jump at it. Music is a really expensive program.”
“The last Red Fest, we had no idea how many people would show up,” said Pennie Salcido, Red Fest organizer and patron saint. “Since the community came in and supported it last time, why not give back to the community?”
This year, there’s more events to make it family- and dog-friendly, not just geared for adults. Think music-festival-meets-state-fair.
“Kids, families and dogs – that’s our community,” said Salcido. “And our future community is the kids.”
Mango’s is a fitting host to a festival that asks anybody and everybody to dig out those old instruments gathering dust and rusting memories in the back of the closet. People will also be allowed to make cash donations to the new music fund. The instruments will be refurbished and given to students, to be used exclusively by them for the duration of their participation in the music programs at their respective schools.
“It’s a good thing for students to be able to play the same instrument, provided it is a quality instrument,” said Laub. “Each instrument has its own qualities and quirks – things that are unique to that instrument. It’s kind of like driving a car: You can drive any one you get into, but they all handle differently.”
Food, beer, games, snowshoeing, raffles, live music, happy dogs and a flag hunt of sorts comprise the event, with a raging bonfire that won’t be allowed to wane until the last note is strummed and the beer is tapped out. And everyone is encouraged to bring a drum for the bonfire-warmed drum circle.
Two years ago Mango’s, then a fledgling restaurant and bar, was in serious financial straits. The atmosphere was gloomy as it became apparent the joint, replete with picnic-style tables, a copper-top bar and ambiance to spare was going to have to close. But Salcido had a brainstorm, so Eagle County got the chance to rally around the eatery with a festival that included gobs of local music, beer, food and revelry. The proceeds were injected into Mango’s, which has now become a fish-taco Mecca.
“It kept us in business, literally,” said Mango’s owner Eric Cregon. “We were borderline broke, bankrupt almost.”
At the time, Cregon didn’t own the restaurant. Soon after the festival, he bought in. A few months later, he bought the whole shebang. Cregon doesn’t intend on leaving, so smitten is he with the Red Cliff lifestyle, not to mention summers in the mountains. In an effort to thank the community that saved Mango’s, Cregon has donated $700 worth of T-shirts, to be sold for the new music fund. He’s also providing the staff to keep folks in tacos and beer. Though a bit under the weather, he’s shoveled the big back deck of the restaurant to make room for people, and is renting heaters for the weekend.
“Saturday is supposed to be 52 degrees, it could be a really nice day,” he said. “I’m hoping for it, anyway. Nobody else has a bonfire. It’s nice to hang out, kind of a homey feeling, rather than such conformed gas fires. And people bring their drums.”
Those who haven’t made a left turn at the Red Cliff bridge are in for an experience to remember. The town is laid out topsy turvy, and nobody has to submit paint colors to a design board. People build what they can, paint what they feel, and give each other privacy.
“At night, the town is so quiet,” mused Salcido. “The stars are twinkling, the houses are all lit up. It’s so peaceful – in the Vail Valley yet away from it. You hear the church bell ding in the distance, or random dogs barking. It’s just my style.”
In keeping with the Red Cliff theme, only local musicians from the Eagle County area were invited to perform. Little Hercules is one of the Minturn/Red Cliff success stories that comes to mind. The funk group began in Minturn and is in demand in New Orleans these days. They’re on the cusp of pushing through to the national level. Other local favorites include throw-it-the-funk-down-grass bandidos All Strung Out, Mango’s Open Mic Night regulars The Meek, funk-jazz improvisation group Flux and more.
“It’s just snowballed and snowballed,” said Salcido.
It’s a campfire you won’t want to miss.
Red Fest 2004
Schedule of events
8:30 The Meek
10:30 Little Hercules featuring Cecil P-Nut Daniels on Midi sax
10 a.m. Flag hunt
11 a.m. Student ensembles
Noon Matt Long
1 p.m. Free pet dental screening
1:30 p.m. Chris Heckmann
3 p.m. Musicians on Mango’s deck with instrument demos
4 p.m. Bad Little Doggies
6:30 p.m. SoundField
9 p.m. Flux
11:30 p.m. The Show Pigs
11 a.m. Student ensembles
Noon Karm and Schmoo
1:30 p.m. Pete and Al
3 p.m. Acoustic Possum Logic
5 p.m. Laughing Bones
7:30 p.m. All Strung Out